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Numerous elderly women suffer from breast cancer. Should they undergo a different line of treatment in comparison to their younger counterparts, owing to the less aggressive nature of cancer in old age? Read on to find out the answer.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer refers to the sudden and erratic growth of cells that originate in the breast tissue. These groups of cells that divide rapidly tend to form a lump or a mass of unwanted tissue, often referred to as a tumor, which can be either malignant or non-malignant. Malignant tumors are cancerous whereas non-cancerous tumors are benign.

Malignant tumors affect the healthy cells by penetrating them and destroying their normal functions. Portions of the malignant tumor might also break away and spread to other body parts.

The breast comprises two types of tissues, the glandular tissues and the stromal tissues. The glandular tissues comprise the milk producing lobules and the milk ducts. The stromal tissues comprise fatty acids and the fibrous connective tissue. The breast also comprises the lymphatic tissue that is responsible for removing the cellular wastes. Cancerous tumors might arise in any of these parts of the breast.

Types of Breast Cancer in Women

Some common types of breast cancers are listed below:

  • Ductal Carcinoma in Situ: It is a form of non-invasive breast cancer when abnormal cancerous cells are found in the lining of the milk ducts of the breast.
  • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma: In this type of cancer, the abnormal cancerous cells that originated in the lining of the breast milk ducts invade the surrounding tissues.
  • Triple negative breast cancer: This type of cancer is common in younger women and the cancerous cells are negative for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2/neu receptors. These cancerous cells tend to grow faster and more aggressively.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer: This type of cancer is less common and might not be accompanied by the development of a lump or a cyst. In this type of cancer, the breast appears to be red and warm and the breast skin might become thick and get a pitted appearance.
  • Metastatic Breast Cancer: This type of cancer is characterized by the spread of cancerous cells to other body parts such as the lungs, bones, or the brain.

Stages of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is classified into various stages for determining the best way to contain and subsequently eliminate the cancer. Several factors that are used for determining the stage of cancer include the size of the tumor within the breast, the number of lymph nodes affected, and the signs that indicate the invasion of breast cells on the other organs of the body. The different stages of breast cancer are listed below:

  • Stage 0 and 1: This is the earliest detection stage of breast cancer and signifies that the cancer cells are confined to a very limited area.
  • Stage 2: This is also an early detection stage of breast cancer but at this stage the cancerous cells have started to grow and spread. The cancerous cells are still confined in the breast area at this stage.
  • Stage 3: This is an advanced stage of cancer when the cancerous cells start invading the tissues near the breast.
  • Stage 4: This is also an advanced stage of cancer and by this stage cancer spreads beyond the breast to other organs of the body.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Biology of primary breast cancer in older women treated by surgery: with correlation with long-term clinical outcome and comparison with their younger counterparts”, by Syed BM, et al. Published in the March 2013 issue of the British Journal of Cancer, accessed on April 4, 2013
  • “Tumor Characteristics and Clinical Outcome of Elderly Women With Breast Cancer”, by Sami. G. Diab, et al. Published in the year 2000, Volume 92, No. 7 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, accessed on April 4, 2013.
  • Photo courtesy of tipstimes on Flickr:

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