Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Most patients with a diagnosis of breast cancer have likely had the cancerous mass for 5 to 10 years before the diagnosis. Cancers can be easily felt in the breast when they reach a size of approximately 1 cm. A lump of this size contains approximately one billion cells, which is the result of 30 doublings of a single cancer cell. Assuming that a breast lump grows with a doubling time of 100 days, it would take approximately 10 years to reach a point where it could be felt.

Breast cancer in males occurs less at about 1/100 th that of females. Breast cancer may metastasize to almost any organ in the body if not stopped. The most common sites are skin around a lumpectomy or mastectomy scar, scalp, lymph nodes, bone, lung, liver, and brain. Alternative/complementary medicine for breast cancer may help build the immune system and fight any progression of the cancer.

Types of breast cancers

Breast tumors can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

•          Inflammatory breast cancer is characterized by a diffused inflammation and enlargement of the breast, sometimes without a mass.

•          Ductal carcinoma in situ is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. These cancer cells are found within the milk ducts but have not yet spread into the breast tissue.

•          Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of invasive breast cancer and is responsible for approximately 80% of all cancers. These type cancer cells are found in both the milk ducts and the breast tissue. Invasive ductal carcinoma may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body if not stopped.

•          Invasive lobular carcinoma is responsible for approximately 10 to 15% of all breast cancers. These type cancer cells first grow in the lobes of the breast and have the ability to spread to other parts of the breast and also to other parts of the body.


Most breast cancers are discovered as a lump by the female herself. Some females may have a history of pain with no mass; however, this presentation is less common. There also may be breast enlargement, a thickening in the breast tissue, or nipple dimpling, nipple discharge, nipple erosion or ulceration, lymph node enlargement around the breast area or under the arms. The presence of pain should not lead to a false security that it is not cancer. Approximately 10% of patients may present with breast pain and no mass.


The risk for breast cancer increases with age. Worldwide breast cancer tendency rates appear to correspond with variations in diet, especially a high fat intake diet and high alcohol intake. The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are inherited genes and account for only about 3% of breast cancers. If a woman has already had cancer in one breast, she should be aware that she has an increased risk for getting cancer in the other breast. Women with early periods (menarche), late menopause, and late first pregnancy are at increased risk. Women how have been exposed to radiation at an early age are at higher risk.

Various chemicals such as arsenic, aflatoxin, vinyle chloride, and benzene show definite evidence of causing human cancers. Other human carcinogens based on evidence from animal experiments are chloroform, dichloro-diphenyl-trichlorethane (DDT), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and formaldehyde.

Breast Cancer Glossary

•          Axillary:under the arm area.

•          Benign:not malignant; not recurrent; not cancerous.

•          Biopsy: the removal and examination of a small piece of tissue from the living body to determine if cancer cells are present.

•          Carcinogens: any substance that has the ability to cause cancer.

•          Carcinogenic: any substance that causes cancer.

•          Chemotherapy: a treatment for disease by using chemical agents.

•          Extended radical mastectomy: radical mastectomy with removal of the ipsilateral half of the sternum, a portion of the ribs, and the internal mammary lymph nodes.

•          Ipsilateral: pertaining to the same side as the affected breast.

•          Lumpectomy: a surgical excision or removal of only the palpable lesion or mass in the breast.

•          Malignancy: a cancerous growth which has the tendency to progress.

•          Mastectomy: removal of the breast.

•          Menarche: the beginning of a female’s monthly cycle.

•          Menopause: the ending of a female’s monthly cycle occurring usually around the age of 50.

•          Metastatic: the transfer of a cancer from one organ to another.

•          Modified radical mastectomy: a total mastectomy with axillary node removal but leaving the pectoral muscle.

•          Palpable: being able to touch or feel the lump.

•          Radiation: a treatment for disease using high-frequency ionizing radiation.

•          Tumor: a growth of tissue in which the division of cells is uncontrolled and progressive.

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