How does breast cancer start?

  1. I have a family hx of breast CA. Grandmother had it at 39, still alive at 83! Mom had it at 44, had 3 seperate tumors, all a different type of CA cell and in ten lymph nodes, she lived for seven years, in full remission, died in a car wreck.
    I have been going for mammograms every year since I was 29 at the strong urging of mother's oncologist. I have had one benign tumor, unpalpable by me or the doc, found by mammography and surgically removed. Also two years later a calcification removed.

    My question is this: And maybe it sounds stupid but I don't know the answer to it:
    Do cancerous tumors start out as benign ones and mutate into bad ones or are they bad to begin with?????????????? I was 37 and 39 when I had my surgeries and wonder if I dodged a bullet by going for such frequent checks or am I just paranoid and they would never have been anything major?
    Just fishing for opinions, any publications addressing such ideas, etc.
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    About KaroSnowQueen

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  3. by   kmchugh
    You have asked the 64 million dollar question. That's what everyone wants to know, about all types of cancer. And the one who finds the answer is gonna be WELL known. As you know, cancer cells are theorized to be normal cells that have lost their growth inhibition mechanism. Further theory states that many of us have such cells all the time, but our immune system gets rid of them. If these theories are correct, then the question becomes how does the one cell that grows into a tumor manage to do so unnoticed by the immune system?

    There are other theories out there, but this one seems to be at the forefront at present.

    Kevin McHugh
  4. by   passing thru
    I have also read that annual mammograms starting as young as you did is also risky. How many times do you get radiated at each mammogram? Multiply times 20-30.
    Recently there was a study printed that said mammograms are no better for finding breast Ca than monthly breast exams.
    Some women use "natural only" underarm deodorant. Some use as little as possible and as infrequently as possible...(skip it on days off). Because of all the chemicals in deodorant that are absorbed by the skin and taken up by the breast tissues considerable lymph system. Some work out and lose weight as any "foreign chemicals are deposited by the body in fat tissues..", (remember marijuana in the 70's?) the docs all said it turned up in the fat cells a year after not using. I don't know what I would do if I had a family history, except what we already know. I'd lose weight until I wasn't a # overweight, I'd eat health, cut way down on red meats--probably try to go vegetarian, restrict deodorant use, (not shave underarms and then apply deodorants),..shower at least twice daily(washing off chemicals), do shower breast exams and also nightly, not take any estrogen supplements, not smoke, not drink....remember one good thing, 50 % of your genes are from dad's side of the family. Good luck. Live your life to the fullest, you only die once...a quote from Mae West or somebody..
  5. by   colleen10

    Good question.

    First, let me say I am not a nurse, but a student nurse and based what I have covered in class I will try to offer an explanation because this is an interesting question and I would like to see if others have more or newer information on the topic.

    There are various types of cancer and I have read that some stay benign(non-cancer), some are instantly malignant (cancer) and some start out benign but over time if not treated become malignant. So, I would have to say that it depends on the type of abnormal cell and cancer.

    From what I have read the major difference between benign and malignant tumors is that benign tumors grow in a localized area, ie. the breast while malignant tumors start somewhere like the breast and then travel to other areas of the body like lymphs, brain, etc.

    So, with this being one of the major differences of the two I can see how a small benign tumor could at first grow in one spot but over time if not treated spread to other parts of the body and become malignant.

    Since your mom had breast cancer that was malignant (spread to her lymphs) I would most certainly say that you are one smart cookie for getting check-ups as regularly as you do. Never doubt the consistancies of DNA and genetics. My grandmother was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer that first started in her abdomen. After doing some research in an effort to give her the best medical treatment available the doctors discovered that her brother had the same type of rare and aggressive cancer a few years before she was diagnosed with it. Her brother didn't make it but after reviewing the treatments that he received and what worked and didn't work for him they were able to come up with a tailor made chemo plan that put her cancer into remission for the last 6 years.
  6. by   KaroSnowQueen
    Thanks for your responses so far.
    Passing thru, I have read that same research but considering that the first tumor was unpalpable although bigger than a grape, and that a calcification is often thought to be a precancerous condition, I will take the radiation risk over the one that may be brewing in my genes any day!!!! I feel like the mammos found that tumor long before I would have been able to feel them, and I didn't want to be like Mom and find them when it was way too late, (although she did live through it, she beat the odds I believe).
    colleen10, thanks for your input, I really think that a benign tumor has the capability of becoming a bad one, and although not everyone agrees with that opinion, thanks for the info, it makes me feel better about my own self care plan.
    KMcH, I'm glad to know it's not a dumb question!!!!! And how's that baby????