Of all cancers, breast cancer causes the second most deaths in women. More disturbing, excluding skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women. One out of three women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

Commonly, breast cancer starts in the lobules, glands for milk production, and ducts that connect the lobules to the nipple. There are two types of breast tumors:

1. In situ - Breast tumors that are cancerous but do not spread past the area of infection. These in situ tumors commonly stay in to following two areas:

       1. DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) - breast cancer confined in the ducts

       2. LCIS (lobular carcinoma in situ) - breast cancer confined in the lobules

2. Invasive - Breast tumors that started in the ducts or lobules but broken past the origin of infection and spread to the fatty tissue inside the breast.

The survival rate of individuals with invasive breast cancer is strongly influenced by the stage of the disease. The following table outlines the five-year mortality rates in relation to the stage of the breast cancer.*
Stage Description 5 yr. Mortality Rates
Local Breast cancer confined to the breasts. 4%
Regional Breast tumors have spread to the lymph nodes. 22%
Distant Cancer has metastasized (spread to distant sites). 79%

The treatment of breast cancer involves some type of surgery, lumpectomy or mastectomy, combined with other treatments like radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and monoclonal antibody therapy. Cancer patients may experience pain, fatigue, nausea, decreased immunities, and hair loss. Hormonal or chemotherapy may lead to depression and memory loss. During this time of need, families and loved ones often times take on the burden of caring for loved ones who have advance stages of breast cancer. Medical expenses to cover their end-of-life care can be overwhelming.

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*(National Cancer Society - Cancer Facts & Figures 2002)