PET/CT & Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women. It is estimated that one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Breast cancer can also affect men, although only in rare instances.

Breast cancer occurs when breast cells become abnormal and form more cells in an uncontrolled manner. A tumor, which is a mass of tissue, develops out of these extra cells and can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

99% of all breast cancer cases are carcinomas (malignant tumors that grow out of skin tissue or tissues that lines the body cavities of internal organs).

There are two major groups of breast cancer and these are:

  • Non-invasive carcinoma:

This term is given to breast cancer cases in which cancerous cells are confined within a duct and therefore do not penetrate surrounding tissues.

  • Invasive carcinoma:

This term is given to breast cancer cases in which cancerous cells grow through the basement membrane that surrounds the body ducts. Invasive carcinomas can spread into the supporting tissue (stroma) between the blood vessels, ducts, lymphatic vessels, and nerves. Approximately 95% of all breast cancer cases are forms of invasive carcinoma.

Currently, the cause of breast cancer is unknown. However, medical studies have identified a variety of conditions that increase the odds of breast cancer susceptibility:

  • Age: Most breast cancer occurs in women over the age of 50, and there is an increased risk of developing breast cancer for women who experience menopause after the age of 55.
  • Family History: Breast cancer susceptibility increases if an immediate family or other close relatives like cousins have a history of breast cancer, particularly at a young age.
  • Breast density: Breast cancer risk increases in women who are 45 years of age or older that have mammograms that show at least 75% dense breast tissue.
  • Personal Health History: Women who have had breast cancer have an increased chance of another case of breast cancer.
  • Radiation Exposure: Women whose breasts had been exposed to radiation during childhood, particularly those who had been treated with radiation for Hodgkin’s disease, are at an increased risk to breast cancer.
  • Estrogen Exposure: Breast cancer risk is often affected by the amount of time a woman’s body has been exposed to estrogen during their lifetime. Women who had started menstruated at the age of 12 or earlier have a slightly increased risk to breast cancer, as do women who experience menopause after the age of 55 as well as women who have taken hormone replacement therapy for longer than 5 years.
  • Childbearing: Women who have their first child after the age of 30 or women who have no children are at a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer.

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