Begins in the DNA
As with all other cancers, breast cancer begins in the DNA. Cancer is a disease caused by uncontrolled cell division leading to the creation of large numbers of cancerous cells, often taking the form of tumors. Our DNA controls the behavior of our cells, including how often our cells divide, and thus when DNA in a cell changes, also known as a mutation, the risk of cancer can increase.
There are many genes that have been linked to the onset of breast cancer. Changes in these genes can increase the likelihood a person develops cancer. Some genes control tumors, often by recognizing when cells are dividing improperly, and if these genes don’t function as they should cancer is more likely to develop. Other genes, when activated at the wrong time, can cause uncontrolled cell division and directly cause cancer. Mutations in either kind of gene can be inherited from a parent or appear spontaneously during a persons lifetime (the most common cause of cancer). Breast cancer has been linked to several particular genes, which is why it is possible to test DNA and look for particular mutations that make breast cancer more likely and allow for preventative treatment.
Change in DNA and breast cancer
There are many factors that can cause DNA to change, and in breast cancer . A common external cause of mutations is radiation, which damages the structure of the DNA and can cause oncogenic (cancer-causing) changes in cell behavior. There are many other environmental factors that can change your risk of breast cancer, such as how often you exercise or what your diet consists of, though the way in which these factors can change DNA is not entirely understood.
Rapid division of cells
Regardless of the cause, breast cancer begins when a mutation is present in a breast tissue cell that causes it to divide uncontrollably. The rapid division of this cell leads to the formation of a mass, often known as the primary tumor. This often presents as a hard lump in the breast tissue. At this point, the cancer has not spread to the lymph system and is only present within the tumor. Complete removal of the tumor will most likely cure the cancer.
Early intervention is extremely important because as the cancer cells increase in number the likelihood the the cancer will spread, or metastasize, will increase. When cancer cells break off the primary tumor they can enter the lymphatic system and spread throughout the body. These secondary tumors can appear in distant parts of the body and makes the cancer much harder to treat.