Cancer occurs when changes called mutations take place in genes that regulate cell growth. The mutations let the cells divide and multiply in an uncontrolled, chaotic way. The cells keep multiplying, producing copies that get progressively more abnormal. In most cases, the cell copies eventually form a tumor.
Breast cancer is cancer that develops in breast cells. Typically, the cancer forms in either the lobules or the ducts of the breast. Lobules are the glands that produce milk, and ducts are the pathways that bring the milk from the glands to the nipple. Cancer can also occur in the fatty tissue or the fibrous connective tissue within your breast.
The uncontrolled cancer cells often invade other healthy breast tissue and can travel to the lymph nodes under the arms. The lymph nodes are a primary pathway that helps the cancer cells move to other parts of the body. See pictures and learn more about the structure of the breast.
How common is breast cancer?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. And according to statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS), nearly 232,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2015. Invasive breast cancer is cancer that has spread from the ducts or glands to other parts of the breast. More than 40,000 women were expected to die from the disease.
Breast cancer can also be diagnosed in men. The ACS also estimated that in 2015, more than 2,000 men would be diagnosed, and more than 400 men would die from the disease. Find out more about breast cancer numbers around the world.
Types of breast cancer
There are several types of breast cancer, which are broken into two main categories: “invasive” (as mentioned above), and “noninvasive,” or in situ. While invasive cancer has spread from the breast ducts or glands to other parts of the breast, noninvasive cancer has not spread from the original tissue.
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