What Causes Breast Cancer and How Can It Be Detected?

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast. It occurs when certain breast cells begin to grow abnormally, dividing more quickly than healthy cells and forming a lump or mass. These cells can spread (metastasize) through the breast to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. The exact cause of these genetic changes is often unknown, but it is believed to be related to a combination of environmental, lifestyle, and genetic factors.

The most common type of breast cancer is adenocarcinoma, which originates in the cells of the milk ducts or lobules. Although a lump in the breast is a common symptom of breast cancer, not all breast cancers have obvious symptoms. Other signs may include bloody discharge from the nipple, changes in the shape or texture of the nipple or breast, and bothersome signs and symptoms during menopause. If you have a significant family history of breast cancer or other types of cancer, your doctor may recommend a blood test to help identify specific BRCA mutations or other genes that are transmitted from parent to child.

Any lump or change in the breast should be examined by a health professional to determine if it is benign or malignant (cancer) and if it could affect your future risk of cancer. Mammograms used to evaluate an abnormal breast symptom are called diagnostic mammograms. Staging involves testing to determine if the cancer has spread within the breast or to other parts of the body. If the disease has spread beyond the breasts and lymph nodes, surgery is usually not recommended and the main treatment is medical therapy.Connect with others like you for support and answers to your questions in the Mayo Clinic Connect breast cancer support group, a community of patients.

Tonya Sharrai
Tonya Sharrai

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