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breast cancer
cancer of the breast
type of cancer
survival rates
Breast Cancer
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Breast lumps are very common. Although most of them turns up to be benign, symptomatic cancer of the breast usually presents as a lump, different from the normal nodularity present in a woman's breast.

Breast cancer is not a new disease.

Of course most breast cancer present initially only as a lump, and it is usually very much later that disease in other parts of the body due to spread or metastases, becomes apparent.

All the traditional ways of treating the disease have been geared to the belief that if only a breast cancer could be diagnosed early enough, then disease spread to other parts of the body would be prevented.

Although breast cancer is not a modern disease it is increasingly being diagnosed, for example in British women. About 1 in 12 women in this country are affected at some time in their life, one of the highest rates in the world.

Half of those with the disease will not die from cancer, but 15,000 do die every year in Britain and 25,000 women are newly diagnosed.

Breast cancer is by far the most common type of cancer in women, accounting for 20% of all new cases and it is the leading cause of female cancer death in the United Kingdom. Few cases occur in early age and the majority are in older women. But for women aged between 35 and 54 years, breast cancer is the commonest single cause of deaths. So not only is the individual affected, but the cost to the family and society is enormous.

National survival figures for England and Wales show that on average 64% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979 were alive five years later. This percentage is a mean of all women at all ages. But the stage or the degree of advance of the disease does greatly influence survival chances.

Basically, the earlier a breast cancer is diagnosed the better are the survival rates. Statics show that not only the is a very small lump less likely to have metastasized than a large one, but that the malignant cells themselves are often biologically at a less aggressive stage.

Causes

The causes of breast cancer is still not known. Scientists make a distinction between causes that are 'Initiators' and causes that are 'Promoters'.

Initiators are factors which at present we cannot control, such as defect in the cellular DNA system. But other factors also come into play.

Factors which are known to increase the risk of breast cancer include increasing age, carrying a first pregnancy after the age of 30 years, having had no pregnancies at all, early commencement of periods and late menopause, a strong family history, radiation and obesity.

Most women can do very little to protect themselves against these factors. High fats in the diet, prolonged used of hormone medications, smoking, alcohol and stress are still under evaluation. There is no real choice as to whether we can avoid risk factors, unlike the situation in lung cancer where smoking is clearly the major factor.


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