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What is Mammary Carcinoma?

Article Details
  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Mammary carcinoma, also known as breast cancer, is cancer of the breasts or the lymph nodes under the armpits. Though it can affect both genders, breast cancer is considered the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in women, and is also considered the second deadliest female cancer. Experts have identified several types of mammary carcinoma, some more invasive than others. The prognosis for this type of cancer can depend largely on its stage at the time of diagnosis, as well as the treatment options chosen.

Human breast cancer can pass through several stages. When cancer is detected in its early stages, treatment is usually more effective. The earliest stage of breast cancer is most commonly known as mammary carcinoma in situ, meaning that the cancer has not yet spread beyond its point of origin.

Localized invasive carcinomas of the breast may have spread to the rest of the breast tissue, without spreading beyond the breast. Regional invasive carcinoma is diagnosed when the tumors have spread beyond the breast, to the nearby lymph nodes or chest wall. Metastatic or distant invasive breast cancer is diagnosed when the cancer has spread to the lymphatic system and, from there, to the brain, bones, lungs, liver, skin, or scalp.

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Carcinomas of the breast may begin in the milk ducts, or in the glands responsible for producing breast milk. Ductal carcinoma usually remains confined to the ducts, but can become invasive if it spreads to surrounding breast tissue. Lobular carcinoma, which usually begins in the glands that produce breast milk, is less common and often considered less likely to become invasive. Inflammatory mammary carcinoma, which is considered a more rare type, generally occurs when cancer cells accumulate in the lymph nodes near the breast and block the normal flow of lymph. Paget's disease, a type of mammary carcinoma that usually affects the nipple, may become invasive as well.

Many cases of breast cancer are diagnosed when the patient discovers a breast lump or tumor through self-examination in the home. Further symptoms of mammary carcinoma can include peeling skin on the nipple, bloody discharge from the nipple, or inversion of the nipple. Breasts affected by cancer may take on a pitted or dimpled appearance, and may become inflamed or swollen. Pain and tenderness may occur. Cancerous breasts sometimes change in size or contour.

The symptoms of mammary carcinoma can be difficult to detect in their early stages, even when women regularly perform home breast examinations. Mammography is often credited for declines in breast cancer deaths among women in developed countries. Mammograms can help doctors detect changes in breast tissue before the symptoms can appear obvious even to the patient herself. Mammography is often recommended yearly for women aged 40 and older.

Breast cancer treatment usually involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Even with treatment, one in 20 women diagnosed with mammary carcinoma are expected to succumb to the disease.

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