Breast cancer is a malignant disease that affects both women and men and is due to the uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast. There are different types of breast cancer, based on the way cancer cells look under the microscope, and the malignant tumor tends to affect the surrounding tissue or spread to distant areas of the body. The most common types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinoma, invasive (or infiltrating) lobular carcinoma, while inflammatory breast cancer, Paget’s disease of the nipple, Phyllodes tumor, and angiosarcoma may also occur.
Due to the widespread use of screening mammograms, the number of breast cancers found early has increased. Symptoms are more common as the disease progresses, and they include breast lump or mass, swelling of all or part of a breast, skin irritation or dimpling, breast or nipple pain, nipple retraction, nipple discharge other than breast milk, and redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin.
Breast Lump or Mass as a Symptom of Cancer
“The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A mass that’s painless, hard, and has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded. They can even be painful. For this reason, it’s important to have any new breast mass, lump, or change checked by a health care provider experienced in diagnosing breast diseases,” the American Cancer Society says. “If you find changes or something unusual in one of your breasts, it’s important to see a health care provider as soon as possible. But keep in mind that most breast changes are not cancer. Just because your provider wants you to have a biopsy does not mean you have breast cancer.”
A biopsy consists of collecting a tissue sample from the breast lump or mass to be analyzed under a microscope. It is the only effective way to determine the cause of the lump, but most biopsy results are not cancerous. Non-cancerous breast lumps or masses are very common. The two main types of abnormal masses are related to fibrosis or cysts, which are benign alterations in breast tissue. Fibrosis refers to firmness in the connective tissues, while cysts consist on fluid-filled sacs, and both are affected by female hormones. In addition, a breast lump or mass may be caused by a benign breast tumor, a breast infection called mastitis, fat necrosis or duct ectasia. In the case of breast cancer, the breast lump or mass is usually painless and caused by the growth of a cancerous tumor.
Management of a Breast Cancer-Related Lump or Mass
During the biopsy, physicians not only confirm the origin of the breast lump or mass, but also the severity or aggressiveness of the disease. When a patient suffers from breast cancer, the malignant tumor tends to be aggressive, invading and damaging surrounding tissue. To address this, physicians need to treat the breast cancer itself. There are different treatment options, which depend on numerous factors such as the patient’s age, height and weight, and overall health, as well as the type of cancer, and its aggressiveness and severity. It is important that patients and physicians discuss all options and possible treatment side effects, and it may be helpful for patients to seek a second opinion.
Local treatments, which are more common in earlier stages of the disease, are meant to treat the tumor without affecting the rest of the body, and include surgery and radiation therapy. Systemic treatment includes chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and bone-directed therapy. “Breast cancer can also be treated using drugs, which can be given by mouth or directly into the bloodstream. These are called systemic therapies because they can reach cancer cells anywhere in the body,” the American Cancer Society says. In many cases, women are treated with more than one type of therapy.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.