Even with recent medical advances, cancer is a very scary disease. Breast cancer is uniquely scary as it affects not only a woman’s health but her self-esteem in being a female as well. Nearly one in eight American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at some point in her life. For this population, breast cancer death rates are higher than any other cancers besides lung cancer. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in American women. Approximately 30 percent of cancers in women are breast cancers.

With statistics so high, you, or someone you are close to, will likely face such a diagnosis one day. Being informed about breast cancer facts and treatments can help make this diagnosis seem not quite as scary.

General Information

Breast cancer is simply an uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast. Breast cancer is a result of abnormal mutations in the genes that regulate cell health and growth. When more cells produce than are dying, a cancerous tumor can develop. Breast cancer begins in the lobules, the milk-producing glands, or the ducts of the breast. Rarely cancer will develop in the fat and connective tissues of the breast.

Invasive Breast Cancer

If you have invasive breast cancer, you will most likely have surgery to remove the tumor. During your surgery, your surgeon will remove one or more of the lymph nodes located underneath your arm. These lymph nodes will then be examined under a microscope by a pathologist.

Lymph Node Involvement

If they contain cancerous cells, this is known as lymph node involvement. When this happens, there is an increased likelihood that cancer will or has already spread. This is because cancerous cells are now known to be present in the lymph, which travels around the body. The more lymph nodes that contain cancerous cells, the more serious cancer can be. Knowing how many are involved can help doctors make treatment decisions.


Lymph node involvement is reported as one of the following:

  • Microscopic or minimal: A microscope is needed to find the cancerous cells, and there are only a few found in the lymph node.
  • Significant, gross, or macroscopic: cancer can be seen or felt without the use of a microscope. A lot of cancerous cells are located in the lymph node.
  • Extracapsular: cancer has spread outside the borders of the lymph node.

Lymph Nodes In The Armpit

As time goes by, cancer cells in the breast sometimes invade other healthy breast tissues and the lymph nodes in the armpit. Lymph nodes are tiny organs that help the body filter out foreign substances and connect to the circulatory system. Once in the lymph nodes, cancerous cells can spread to other areas of the body. Breast cancer is rated in stages related to how far the cancer cells have expanded beyond the original tumor growth.

What Causes Breast Cancer?

In all cases, breast cancer is caused by a genetic problem or abnormality. In about five to ten percent of cases, the gene abnormality is inherited from one’s parents. However, about 90 percent of breast cancers are caused by abnormalities that happen as the body ages and normal changes that come with growth and age.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Although no one can make themselves 100 percent immune to getting breast cancer there are several risk factors, and many of them are controllable. These risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Alcohol abuse or overuse
  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Gender
  • Family History
  • Radiation exposure
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Use of artificial hormones
  • Pregnancy History
  • Breastfeeding History
  • Menstrual History
  • Dense breast tissue
  • Night shift workers
  • DES exposure
  • Exposure to chemicals in cosmetics, sunscreen, water, plastics or foods
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Certain breast changes

Additional Information – Lymphoma Symptoms



In general, living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding unnecessary exposure to various chemicals and radiation will significantly reduce the risk of being diagnosed with any breast cancer. Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be less confusing and scary if you know what breast cancer is and what to expect. Knowing the risk factors for breast cancer can also help you reduce your risk of ever receiving this diagnosis. Whether you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or not, be sure to discuss all of your breast cancer-related concerns with your physician.