Cells in the body normally divide at a steady, even pace. New cells are formed to take the place of old and injured cells. Sometimes, however, when cells divide and multiply rapidly, they form a lump also called a tumor. Nearly 80% of finding on a mammogram are not cancer. They are usually benign tumors, a cyst or some other non-cancerous condition. A tumor is defined as cancer only when it can invade nearby tissues and organs and damage them.
Types of Breast Cancer
Your diagnosis will tell you the name of the condition you have. It is important to remember that the majority of lumps will be a benign (non-cancerous) condition.
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, this may be described as non-invasive, primary or secondary cancer.
Non-invasive cancers are cancerous changes that are contained within the breast ducts or lobules; for example Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) or Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS).
Primary cancer, also known as invasive cancer, is a tumor that grows outside the ducts and lobules into the surrounding breast tissue.
Secondary breast cancer, or metastatic breast cancer, is when cells from the breast tumor spread to other parts of the body, starting with the axillary lymph nodes under the armpit, and then form tumors in other locations such as the bone or the brain.
Before deciding on treatment, your doctor will also look at the stage of your cancer – what size it is and how much it has spread, and the grade – how different the cancer cells are from normal breast cells and how fast they are growing.
Signs & Symptoms of Breast Cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A mass that is painless, hard, and has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded and can even be painful.
Other possible signs of breast cancer include:
• Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
• Skin irritation or dimpling
• Breast or nipple pain
• Nipple retraction (turning inward)
• Redness, scan-lines, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
• A nipple discharge other than breast milk