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Saint Joseph Breast Center Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women, other than skin cancer. The cause of breast cancer is not known, however, certain risk factors have been identified. Read an article from our health library about breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Screenings

It is important to have breast cancer screenings on a regular basis-this is something you should discuss with your gynecologist. Breast cancer caught early is very treatable, which is why breast cancer screenings are so important.

Breast Cancer Causes

However, most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no specific risk factors. Only five to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary in nature. Mutation of the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes is the most common genetic cause of breast cancer. That is why breast cancer screening is so critical.

Risk Factors
Note - Research has shown that most women with known risk factors do not get breast cancer and that many women who get breast cancer have none of the risk factors listed below.

  • Caucasian women, age 50 or older
  • Personal or family history of breast cancer
  • Changes in breast tissue
  • Changes in certain genes
  • Increased exposure to estrogen over a lifetime through:
    • Early onset of menstruation
    • Late onset of menopause
    • No childbearing or late childbearing
    • Absence of breast feeding
    • Taking hormone replacement therapy for extended periods of time
    • Tobacco use
    • Increased breast density
    • Radiation therapy before the age of 30
    • Overuse of alcohol
    • Physical Inactivity

Make sure you schedule your breast cancer screenings after age 40 on a regular basis, and make sure you discuss when you should first start having breast cancer screenings with your doctor.

Breast Cancer and DCIS

Breast cancer is caused by a mutation (change) in genes. The cells that have been changed multiply uncontrollably in the milk glands and/or ducts. When this process is confined to the lining of the milk ducts, it is referred to as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or preinvasive cancer. At this stage, the cancer cells do not have an access to the blood or lymphatic vessels and, therefore, cannot spread to other parts of the breast or body.

DCIS Treatment

DCIS is usually as asymptomatic disease diagnosed by screening mammography. Patients who are diagnosed at this stage have an excellent prognosis. Treatment for this type of cancer usually consists of lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy. A lumpectomy is removal of the diseased tissue and a wide margin around it. A patient can also choose to have mastectomy without subsequent radiation treatment.

Chemotherapy is not used to treat DCIS.

If DCIS is not treated, a substantial number of these cases will progress to invasive cancer. That is why breast cancer screenings are so important.


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