NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Stage IV Breast Cancer - page 8

6
NCCN Guidelines for Patients
®
Stage IV Breast Cancer, Version 1.2014
1
Breast cancer
basics
6
Risk factors for mesothelioma
7
Webpages | Review
You’ve learned that you have breast
cancer. It’s common to feel shocked
and confused. Part 1 reviews some
basics about breast cancer that may
help you start to cope. These basics
may also help you start planning for
treatment.
Women’s breasts
Before puberty, breasts have a ring of darker skin
called the areola. In the middle of the areola is the
raised tip of the breast called the nipple. Under the
nipple, small milk ducts branch into fatty tissue like
early growth from a seedling. These immature ducts
are supported by connective tissue called stroma.
Among girls, increases in female hormones during
puberty cause their breasts to change. The stroma
increases, the ducts grow and branch out like tree
limbs, and lobules form at the ends of the ducts like
leaves at the ends of twigs. Lobules are small sacs
that make breast milk after a baby is born. Breast milk
drains from the millions of leaf-like lobules into the
milk ducts that connect to the nipple.
See Figure 1
for
a look inside women’s breasts.
Breast cancer
Breast cancer is a disease of cells—the building
blocks of tissue in the body. Almost all breast cancers
are carcinomas. Carcinomas are cancers that start in
cells that line the inner (ducts, lungs, or gut) or outer
(skin) surfaces of the body. In the breast, carcinomas
start in the cells lining either the ducts or lobules, but
most breast cancers start in ductal cells.
Cells have a control center called the nucleus.
The nucleus contains special molecules called
chromosomes. Within chromosomes are coded
instructions, called genes, for building new cells and
Women’s breasts
6 Br ast cancer
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