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NCCN Guidelines for Patients


Breast Cancer - Early-Stage


, Version 1.2016

You’ve learned that you have breast

cancer. It’s common to feel shocked

and confused. Part 1 reviews some

basics that may help you learn about

breast cancer and its treatment.

Women’s breasts

Before learning about breast cancer, it is helpful to

know about breasts. The ring of darker skin seen on

the outside of the breast is called the areola. The

raised tip in the middle of the areola is called the

nipple. In young girls, there are small ducts under the

nipple that branch into fatty tissue like early growth

from a seedling. These immature ducts are supported

by connective tissue called stroma.

Increases in female hormones among girls during

puberty cause their breasts to change. The stroma

increases, the ducts grow and branch out like tree

limbs, and lobules form at the end of the ducts like

leaves at the end 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

ducts that connect to the nipple.

See Figure 1.1

for a

look inside women’s breasts.

Lymph is a clear fluid that gives cells water and food

and helps to fight germs. It drains from breast tissue

into lymph vessels within the stroma.

See Figure 1.2


Then, it travels to the breast’s lymph nodes, most

of which are in your armpit. Lymph nodes are small

structures that filter and remove germs from lymph.

Nodes near the armpit are called axillary lymph



Breast cancer


6 Women’s breasts

8 Breast cancer

10 Cancer stage

10 Treatment options

14 Review