Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Updated March 18, 2021

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Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment essay

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In this paper, breast cancer is going to be researched. The general information, etiology, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, complication and prognosis of breast cancer are shown in the following paper.

Breast cancer is a disease and a type of cancer that cells in the breast grow abnormally. When cells divide out of control due to some factors, the tumor will form in the breast, which can be touched physically and seen from mammogram, that is Breast X-ray. Not all tumors in the breast will develop to cancer. Some of tumors are benign, which is not cancerous and will not spread to other part of body. It cannot threat people’s life.

However, other malignant tumors are cancerous and it will spread from breast to surrounding tissue through blood vessels and lymph vessels without proper treatment. When the cancer spreads to the other part of human body, it is known as metastasized. Not only women would get breast cancer, men would get too. The statistics shows that about 12% of women would get breast cancer and 0.1% of men get breast cancer in the U.S. in their life time (U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics, 2020). And the breast cancer will have high probability to develop as age. 80% of breast cancer is found within women who was more than 50 years old. (Breast Cancer, n.d.)

Breast is mainly composed of lobules and ducts. Lobules are milk-producing glands and ducts are tubes that carry milk to nipple. There are different types of breast cancer, the most common two are Invasive ductal carcinoma, which cancer cells grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue, and Invasive lobular carcinoma, which cancer cells spread from the lobules to the closed breast tissues (What Is Breast Cancer?, 2018). Other cancer like Sarcoma that happens in breast’s connective tissue and Paget’s disease that happen in the nipple are less common.


Breast cancer mainly starts due to the abnormal change, which is mutation in DNA. When there is something wrong with DNA, the genes will mutate, then the cells will divide differently to form tumor that causes cancer. The change and mutation of DNA can relate to inheritance or people’s lifestyle.

When DNA in parents contains information that let breast cells develop to breast cancer, and this part of DNA is passed from your parents to you, you will have a high probability to get breast cancer, because this gene is what you have inside of your body when you were born. And more people will get cancer when they are younger with inherited mutational genes.

Proto-oncogenes are genes that make cells work properly and if proto-oncogene mutates, it will turn to a gene called oncogene and work abnormally to make cells grow out of control. Tumor suppression genes are genes that control the life cycle and growth of cells, it also fixes the mistakes of DNA. If tumor suppression genes mutate, cells will grow out of control and affect other normal cells, finally will lead to cancer. BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are common tumor suppressor genes. When one of these genes mutate, it cannot control cells life cycle anymore, the cancer will happen with high probability. And the mutation in BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes can be passed from parents to children (team T. a., 2019).

Most breast cancer is developed during people’s lifetime instead of getting the mutational DNA from parents. The genes that are mutated during the life are caused by some risk factors. The examples of these risk factors are exposing in radiation and some chemicals that cause cancer, taking hormones or hormones change, unstable diet, unstable sleep, not enough exercise and too much alcohol or smoking, etc. The way that how these factors lead to breast cancer or other types of cancer is still not known.

Sign / Symptoms

The symptoms of breast cancer are depended on people, some people will have obvious symptoms and some people do not have too much symptoms and even do not notice it until they are diagnosed in the hospital. The common symptoms of breast cancer are a lump that can be touched in the breast or near the underarm and the pain in the breast. But the lump or the pain in the breast do not mean it must be breast cancer, it can be affected by getting period, taking medicines, or pregnancy. The other symptoms are changing size or shape of the breast, part of breast become thick and swelled, breast skin or the nipple area feels inflamed and textured, the nipple cannot raise and it secretes not only milk, but also blood.


The breast cancer always be diagnosed with some tests. Breast ultrasound is one of the tests and it is a machine that is used to make pictures of inside breast by using sound waves. When a lump grows in the breast, diagnostic mammogram is used to make pictures of more detailed inside breast with X-ray. Magnetic resonance imaging is another machine that use a magnet linked to a computer (How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?, 2018) and scan the body to make pictures of the inside breast. Doctor can also use biopsy to take a sample or fluid in the breast and check the cells or compound under a microscope. After breast cancer is diagnosed, doctor will do a test to check if the cancer spread to other part of body from breast or not and determine the stage of the breast cancer.


The treatments of breast cancer will be decided upon the type and stage. The main treatments are including surgery, which involves part of body, and radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which involve the whole body. Surgery is a treatment that surgically remove tumor and surrounding tissues in the breast or surgically remove the whole breast.

If the cancer spread to the other part of body from breast, radiation therapy that uses X-ray, and chemotherapy that uses drugs are used to kill the cancer cells of the whole body. Some people also are treated with hormone therapy medication, which stop the secretion of hormones that might help breast cancers develop, especially estrogen. And targeted therapy drugs are other treatment used to target the specific molecules that involve in breast cancer development, without hurting the normal cells.


When breast cancer spread to other part of body, cancer cells will lead to complications of different organs. Breast cancer usually spreads to bones and the cancer cells cause bones painful and make bones weaker and thinner, which is easy to break. When cancer cells expedite the process of bones resorption, the calcium amount in the blood will increase from bones and it might lead to kidney stones and irregular heart rate.

If the cancer cells spread to spine, they can cause pain in the back by compressing the spinal cord. Patients would have short breath and chest pain when the breast cancer cells go to lungs, it sometimes causes the fluid in the lungs. If cancer cells go to liver, they may block the bile ducts and patients will lose weight and feel full in stomach. Brain can also get complications which include have headache, vomiting and dizziness when breast cancer cells spread to there (Pierce, 2019).


The prognosis of breast cancer cannot be exactly accurate because of the uniqueness of each person, it depends on the type, stage, size, rate of growth of breast cancer and the age, hormones status, health situation, genes information like HER 2 status of patients. Doctors need to compare all the information of the patients and then find out the prognosis. Most of prognosis is expressed by the rate of survival rate within 5 years.

Breast cancer has 5 stages, which from light to serious are stage 0, stage I, stage II, stage III and stage IV. The data shows that patients who get stage 0 and stage I breast cancer have 100% survival rate within 5 years for both women and men, women who get stage II breast cancer would have 93% survival rate in 5 years, at the same time men would have 91% , 72% of patients with stage III breast cancer would survive, 22% of women and 20% men would have survival rate within 5 years with IV stage (What Does Prognosis Mean?, 2017).


In general, the paper is about the research of breast cancer. Breast cancer is a type of disease that breast cells grow out of control and develop to a cancerous tumor in the lobules, ducts or sometimes connective tissue of the breast. The cancer cells would spread to other part of body. Breast cancer is developed due to the mutation of DNA and the mutation can be passed from parents, which is likely to develop to breast cancer, and affect by people’s lifestyle.

When proto-oncogenes abnormally change to oncogene, which make cells work differently, or when BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 or other tumor suppression genes mutate, which cannot control cells life and death, the breast cancer will be developed. Most people get their genes mutation in their life, which is affected by some risk factors such as radiation and chemicals exposure, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, etc.

The symptoms of breast cancer would be a lump in the breast, changing size and shape of breast, pain in the breast, inflammation on the breast skin and nipple, and uncontrollable secretion of milk with blood. Breast cancer is diagnosed by image testing, using such as breast ultrasound, mammogram, and magnetic resonance imaging to make the detail image of inside the breast. Doctor sometimes also use a test called biopsy to see the sample of breast tissue that taken from patients through microscope.

The most common three treatments are surgery, which surgically remove tumor, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which kill the cancer cells in the whole body. Some patients also use hormone therapy and targeted therapy as their treatments, the treatments are depended on situation of patients. When breast cancer spread to other part of human body, they would cause complications of different organs, such as pain in bone and spine, kidney stone, weight loss, satiety, irregular heart rate, short breath, headache and vomiting, etc. Doctors always take survival rate within 5 years as prognosis.

And the study showed there is 100% of survival rate for patients with stage 0 and stage I breast cancer, 93% of survival rate for women and 91% for men with stage II breast cancer, 72% of survival rate for patients with stage III breast cancer, and 22% of survival rate for women and 20% for men with stage IV stage breast cancer. The prognosis cannot be said what exactly happen to patients due to the different situation of each person. Doctors need to look through all the information of patient and then make a prediction of prognosis.


  1. U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics. (2020, Janauary 27). BREASCTCANCER.ORG. Retrieved from https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics
  2. Breast Cancer. (n.d.). Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Retrieved from https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/types/breast
  3. What Is Breast Cancer? (2018, September 11). CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/what-is-breast-cancer.htm
  4. team, T. a. (2019, September 18). American Cancer Society . How Does Breast Cancer Start? Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/how-does-breast-cancer-form.html
  5. How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed? (2018, September 11). CDC Ceters for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/diagnosis.htm
  6. Pierce, S. (2019, July 30). Possible Complications of Advanced Breast Cancer. healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/stage-iv-breast-cancer-possible-complications#treatmentrelated-complications
  7. What Does Prognosis Mean? (2017, January 26). BREASTCANCER.ORG. Retrieved from https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/prognosis
Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment essay

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