breast cancer

breast cancer
a malignant tumour of the breast, usually a carcinoma, rarely a sarcoma. It is unusual in men but is the most common form of cancer in women, in some cases involving both breasts. Cumulative exposure to higher oestrogen levels is implicated as a causal factor: breast cancer is most strongly associated with early menarche and late menopause, childlessness, and late age at the birth of the first child, and hence with an increase in the total number of menstrual cycles in a woman's life. Approximately 5% of cases are due to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.
The classic sign is a lump in the breast, usually painless; bleeding or discharge from the nipple may occur infrequently. Sometimes the first thing to be noticed is a lump in the axilla (armpit), which is caused by spread of the cancer to the drainage lymph nodes. The tumour may also spread to the bones, lungs, and liver. Current treatment of a localized tumour is usually by surgery (see lumpectomy, mastectomy), with or without radiotherapy; cytotoxic drugs and hormone therapy are used as adjuvant therapy and for widespread (metastatic) disease. Anti-oestrogenic agents used include tamoxifen and (more recently) aromatase inhibitors and trastuzumab (Herceptin).

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