What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is cancer that forms in cells of the breast and is one of the most common types of cancer affecting the Indian population. With its steadily climbing incidence rates, breast cancer is now the most commonly occurring type of cancer among women in India.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, 1 in everyone 22 women is likely to develop breast cancer within her lifetime. There are different types of breast cancers but the one which originates in the milk ducts is the most common type of breast cancer.

Similar to other types of cancer, breast cancer also begins with cancerous cells that multiply abnormally in the mammary glands and develop into a tumour. They then begin to attack lymph nodes or are carried off to different parts of the body – metastasis.

The human breasts consist of lobules (glands that make breast milk), ducts (small tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple), fatty and connective tissues, blood vessels and lymph vessels. The milk-producing ducts and glands are the two most likely areas to develop cancerous cells.

In some rarer cases, breast cancer can begin in fatty tissues, also known as stromal tissues. Breast cancer may also occur in surrounding lymph nodes, especially those of the underarm. The early stages of breast cancer may not have any symptoms but as the tumour grows in size, it tends to evidence certain symptoms. These include – lumps or thickening in the breast or underarm, change in the size or shape of the breast, nipple discharge or nipple turning inward, redness or scaling of the skin or nipple, ridges or pitting of the breast etc.

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