An In-Depth Understanding of Breast Cancer

Written & Researched by Riya


“About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 13%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime” (U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics). With this fairly large percentage of women having to face breast cancer, it is so important to understand the science and background of what it does and how it affects people. Cancer is defined as “a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body.”


The Science Behind Cancer

Cancer happens when cells divide too much, and this is due to the mutations in cells. Genes are what allow cells to grow and divide at a certain time for a certain amount to carry out the necessary functions, but when mutations happen, cells turn cancerous. They keep dividing and slowly develop a tumor which survives just like a regular cell, getting nutrients in the body. The tumor then continuously develops blood vessels to get more nutrients so that it can grow and take over the body. Sometimes, cancer cells go through a process called metastasis, which means cancer moves from the original part of the body where it started to other parts of the body. When cancer cells start to enter the bloodstream, they move across the body, and the rate and occurrence of cancer spread varies due to the type and place of the cancer.



How Does This Pertain to Breast Cancer?

In the same way, breast cancer is when cells keep dividing at an extremely high rate in the breast. Unlike in other types of cancer, the majority of DNA mutations in breast cancer are developed in a lifetime, rather than are inherited genes (cancer.org). When it comes to breast cancer, there are different paths cells take to spread around the body like through blood vessels as said earlier. It could also mean that these cells go through lymph nodes to spread around the body. These cells would enter the lymph channels or the blood vessels, where blood and nutrients are transported between the breast tissue and other areas of the body (Vascular or Lymphatic System Invasion), and go outside the breast area to other tissues.



The Types of Breast Cancer

There are many types of breast cancer, and a couple are metastatic breast cancer, ductal carcinoma, and lobular carcinoma. Breast cancers can be either invasive or noninvasive, and ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma can be both invasive or noninvasive as well.


Metastatic breast cancer: Another word for this is Stage 4 Breast Cancer, an aggressive form of cancer that has spread throughout the body, as discussed earlier through metastasis. They often travel to the brain or lungs and organs that you often hear and learn about everyday (Breast Cancer Types).

Ductal Carcinoma: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) is the most prevalent type of breast cancer among women that starts in the lactiferous ducts, which carry milk, and spreads to other parts of the breast and eventually undergo metastasis. Noninvasive Ductal Carcinoma, called Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS) also starts in the milk duct and goes into the surroundings within the breast, and it is called Stage 0 Breast Cancer (Breast Cancer Types).


Lobular Carcinoma: Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) “starts in lobules (where breast milk is made) and then spreads into nearby breast tissue” (Breast Cancer Types). There is also noninvasive Lobular Carcinoma, like Ductal Carcinoma, known as Lobular Carcinoma in situ (LCIS), which also begins in lobules, and cells develop here. However, these cells stay in the same place, the lobules, instead of spreading (Breast Cancer Types).


Cancer occurs in many different parts of the body, with breast cancer being one of the most common cancers in the world. Knowing the organs of the body and how breast cancer occurs helps doctors understand how to prevent it and combat it in the bodily system.



Works Cited (And Other Resources to Check Out):

American Cancer Society. (n.d.). How does breast cancer form?: What causes breast cancer? American Cancer Society, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/how-does-breast-cancer-form.html.


Breastcancer.org. (2021, February 4). U.S. breast cancer statistics. Breastcancer.org, from https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics.

Cancer Care. (2021, January 7). Where does breast cancer spread? Cleveland Clinic, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/where-does-breast-cancer-spread/.


Lee, S. (n.d.). How cancer starts, grows and spreads. Canadian Cancer Society, from https://cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/what-is-cancer/how-cancer-starts-grows-and-spreads.


Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, June 4). Breast cancer. Mayo Clinic, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/breast-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352470.


Types of breast cancer: Common, rare and more varieties. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. (2021, September 22), from https://www.cancercenter.com/cancer-types/breast-cancer/types.


Vascular or lymphatic system invasion. Breastcancer.org. (2020, September 21), from https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/vasc_lymph_inv.


What is cancer? National Cancer Institute. (n.d.), from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/what-is-cancer.


What is Metastasis? Cancer.Net. (2019, December 5), from https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/cancer-basics/what-metastasis.

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