The body is made up of many types of cells. Normally, cells grow and divide to produce more cells only when the body needs them. This is an orderly process which keeps the body healthy. Sometimes cells keep dividing when new cells are not needed. They may form a mass of extra tissue called a growth or tumor.
Benign tumors are not a threat to life but malignant tumors are cancer. Cells in these tumors can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. The fear is that cancer cells can break away from a malignant tumor and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system. That is how breast cancer spreads and forms other tumors in the body. The spread of cancer is called metastisis. (Dollinger, Rosenbaum and Cable, 1991).
Each breast has 15 to 20 overlapping sections called lobes. There are many smaller lobules, which end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can produce milk. The lobes, lobules and bulbs are all linked by thin tubes called ducts. These ducts lead to the nipple in the center of a dark area of skin called the areola. Fat fills the spaces around the lobules and ducts. The breast does not have muscles tissue but muscles lie under each breast and cover the ribs.Order now
Each breast contains blood vessels and vessels that contain lymph. The lymph vessels lead to small bean shaped organs called lymph nodes. Clusters of lymph nodes are found near the breast under the arm, above the collarbone and in the chest. They are also found in other parts of the body. (Dollinger, Rosenbaum and Cable, 1991).
According to Dollinger, Rosenbaum and Cable (1991), the most common type of breast cancer begins in the lining of the ducts It is called ductal carcinoma.
Lobular carcinoma arises in the lobules. They explain that when breast cancer spreads outside of the breast, cancer cells are often found in the lymph nodes under the arm. If it reaches these nodes it may mean that cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, other lymph nodes or other organs. It may have spread to the bones, liver or lungs.
When cancer spreads, it is called metastatic breast cancer. The median duration of survival for women with metastatic disease is two to three years.
Malignant cells are transported via the lymphatic system. Distant metastasis occurs when the cancerous tumor cells break away from the primary tumor and spread to other sites in the body. (McEvilly and Hassey, 1998).
According to the National Cancer Institute (1999), research has shown that the following conditions place a woman at increased risk for breast cancer:
Personal history of breast cancer – Women who have had breast cancer face an increased risk of getting breast cancer again.
Genetic alterations – Changes in certain genes (BRCA1, BRCA2, and others) make women more susceptible to breast cancer. In families in which many women have had the disease, gene testing can show whether a woman has specific genetic changes known to increase the susceptibility to breast cancer.
Family history- A woman’s risk for developing breast cancer increases if her mother, sister, daughter or two or more other close relatives, such as cousins, have a history of breast cancer, especially at a young age.
Certain breast changes – Having a diagnosis of atypical hyerplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or having had two or more breast biopsies for benign conditions may increase a woman’s risk for developing cancer.
Breast density – Women age 45 and older whose mammograms show at least 75 per cent dense tissue are at increased risk. Dense breasts contain many glands and ligaments, which makes breast tumors difficult to see and the dense tissue itself is associated with developing breast cancer.
Radiation therapy – Women whose breasts were exposed to radiation during their childhood, especially those who were treated with radiation for Hodgkin’s disease, are at an increased risk.
Late childbearing – Women who had their first child after the age of 30 have a greater chance of developing breast cancer than women who had their children at a younger age.
Early menstruation – Women who started menstruating at an early age (before age 12), experienced menopause .