While many websites and blogs are dedicated to raising funds and awareness of breast cancer, it is important to understand what breast cancer is. This disease affects millions of people worldwide and it affects both men and women.
Breast cancer begins in the cells of the breast and becomes a malignant tumor. While the cancer does start in the breast cells it can then invade other areas of the body, this process is known as metastasizing.
The female breast consists of milk producing glands known as lobules, ducts which carry the milk and stroma. Stroma is made up of fatty tissue and connective tissue which surrounds the lobules, ducts, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels.
It is the lymphatic system which can cause the cancer to spread. Lymph nodes are small bean shaped cells that make up the immune system cells. These are connected by lymphatic vessels. These small vessels resemble veins and their job is to carry clear fluid, lymph, away from the breast.
The majority of lymphatic vessels in the breast connect to lymph nodes which are in a woman’s armpit. Lymph nodes are also found inside the chest and just above or below the collarbone.
If the breast cancer has gotten into any of the lymph nodes this could mean that the cancer is now in a woman’s bloodstream. This process is how the breast cancer could possibly spread to other parts of the body.
This is why early detection is so important. If the cancer is found before it spreads into the lymph nodes the chances of recovery are higher and that the treatment will work more effectively.
Not all lumps in the breast are malignant and most are actually benign. Some doctors do like to have any type of lump removed and looked at more closely especially if your family history dictates this.
Many lumps in the breast turn out to have other causes such as fibrosis and cysts. These are changes which occur in the breast tissue as a woman’s age and health changes.
Fibrosis is the development of scars in the tissue while cysts are small sacs filled with fluid. Most women will notice these symptoms as they produce swollen breasts, small lumps and these conditions can be painful and tender. Plus these symptoms may increase in severity just before a woman has her menstrual period.
It is important for women to understand what breast cancer is and what signs to look for. While all women will want to get any lumps or swelling checked out no-one should panic. There are many causes for changes in the breast and breast cancer is only one of them.