Approximately one woman in eight will develop breast cancer in the United States over their lifetimes and it's estimated there will be 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2019, according to breastcancer.org.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women regardless of race or ethnicity, excluding certain types of skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 41,000 women and 460 men in the United States die each year from breast cancer.
Symptoms of breast cancer vary greatly, but there are some specific changes to the breast that should cause concern.
"People should watch for discharge from the nipple, changes in the skin. It could begin to have the texture of an orange peel, thick marks or indentations in your skin, redness or heat. It's really important to just be aware of what your breasts look like and notice if there are any changes," said Tamara Henderson, registered nurse and diagnostic breast navigator at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System.
Other symptoms include a lump or mass in the breast, swelling of all or part of the breast, breast pain and nipple retraction.
A basic definition of breast cancer is a disease where cells in the breast grow out of control, but there are several different classifications of the disease, including ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, inflammatory breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer.
With ductal cell carcinoma in situ, the cancer hasn't spread outside the ducts into the surrounding breast tissue. It is an early stage of cancer that is very treatable, but if not detected it can spread into surrounding tissue.
Invasive ductal cell carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer. It's responsible for 70% to 80% of all breast cancer diagnoses, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. website. In this type of cancer, abnormal cells that formed in the milk ducts have spread to other parts of the breast tissue and maybe to other parts of the body.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer means the three most common receptors fueling cancer growth aren't there. Those receptors are HER-2/neu gene, estrogen and progesterone. With this type of breast cancer, treatment can be trickier. Since the tumor cells don't have the common receptors, drugs that target other types of breast cancer are ineffective but chemotherapy is still an effective option.
Inflammatory breast cancer is fast-growing and aggressive. Cancer cells quickly infiltrate the lymph vessels of the breast and the skin. There is usually no lump or distinct tumor that can be felt. Symptoms occur when the lymph vessels are blocked by the cancer cells.
Taking steps to lower the risk for breast cancer can save lives.
Tips for lowering the risk of breast cancer from the National Foundation for Breast Cancer, Inc. include:
exercising three hours a week or 30 minutes a day, which boosts the immune system.
eating a nutritious, low-fat diet (30 grams or less) with plenty of fruits, green and orange vegetables. A high-fat diet can increase the risk because fat triggers the production of estrogen.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Even one drink per day has been shown to slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. Having more than one drink a day has been shown to be a significant risk factor.
For women who've been using birth control pills for more than five years, there is an increased risk of breast cancer, but the risk is relatively small.
Hormone replacement therapy has been linked to breast cancer and was added to the carcinogenic list by the American Cancer Society in the early 2000s. Women with known risk factors should not be placed on HRT to control menopausal symptoms but instead should seek safer alternatives.