NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Breast Cancer - page 10

NCCN Guidelines for Patients™: Breast Cancer
Version 2.2011
2.3 Causes of breast cancer
The cause of breast cancer is not known. However, a
number of things increase your risk for breast cancer.
Being a woman and older age are the most common risk
factors. Other risk factors include:
• Someone in your family has had breast cancer,
especially at a young age
• Your menstrual periods started at an early age
• You entered menopause at a late age
• You’ve taken hormone replacement therapy for
a long time
• You had your first baby late in life
Women with a strong family history of breast cancer
may wish to discuss their risk of getting breast cancer
with their doctor and consider starting breast cancer risk
reduction treatment. For more information on reducing
your risk for breast cancer, see the NCCN Guidelines for
Breast Cancer Risk Reduction, available at
These guidelines were written for your doctor, so he or
she will likely be able to answer your questions about the
information on risk reduction.
Breast cancer begins in the cells of the breast. The
cancer cells keep growing and dividing forming a tumor
(Figure 4). Tumors usually first appear in the breast ducts
or lobules. Some cancer cells may cross into the blood
and lymph vessels in the breast and spread to other parts
of the body. Breast cancer usually metastasizes first to
the lymph nodes. When the breast cancer cells enter the
axillary lymph nodes, they can continue to grow there,
often causing swelling. Cancer cells may also be carried
by lymph to the supraclavicular or internal mammary
lymph nodes.
Part 2: About my cancer
Figure 4. Lymph nodes near a breast with cancer
Illustration Copyright © 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved.
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