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What is Breast Cancer?


Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts.

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in most of the countries. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it’s far more common in women.

Substantial support for breast cancer awareness and research funding has helped created advances in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer survival rates have increased, and the number of deaths associated with this disease is steadily declining, largely due to factors such as earlier detection, a new personalized approach to treatment and a better understanding of the disease.

Breast cancer symptoms

Breast cancer may not cause any symptoms in its initial stages. A tumour may be too small to be felt in many cases, but on a mammogram, an abnormality can still be detected. Usually, the first sign is a new lump in the breast. But not all lumps are cancer.

The most common symptoms include:

  • A new breast lump that feels different from surrounding tissue
  • Pitted, red skin over your breast
  • Swelling in your breast
  • Bloody discharge from your nipple
  • Scaling, peeling, or flaking of skin on your breast or nipple
  • An unexplained or sudden change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Inversion of nipple
  • Swelling or a lump under your arm

But just because you have these symptoms doesn’t mean you certainly have breast cancer. For instance, a benign cyst can cause pain in your breast or a breast lump. Still, you should see your doctor for further examination and testing.

Types of Breast Cancer

  • Ductal carcinoma
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Paget’s disease of the breast
  • Various types of sarcomas like cystosarcoma phyllodes, angiosarcoma, etc.

Risk factors

Here are some of the factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

  • Higher chance in female
  • Increasing age
  • A personal history of breast cancer
  • A family history of breast cancer
  • Inherited cancer genes
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Obesity
  • Beginning your period before age 12
  • Starting menopause at an older age
  • Having your first child after age 30
  • Women who have never been pregnant
  • Postmenopausal hormone medications
  • Alcohol consumption

Being breast aware

The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of successful treatment. So it’s important to check your breasts regularly and see your doctor if you notice a change.


Article by

Dr. M. Banupriya

MBBS, MDRT, FIAMS, Ph.D, CCEPC (Palliative care),

Consultant Radiation Oncologist

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