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A New Genetic Test for Breast Cancer Patients

Updated on February 2, 2012
Some women require radiation treatment after surgical removal of breast tumors.
Some women require radiation treatment after surgical removal of breast tumors. | Source

Anatomy of the Breast

Much of the breast consists of fat cells. In addition to fat cells, the breast contains about 15 to 20 sections called lobes each of which contains many lobules. The lobules are responsible for the production of milk. A network of ducts transports the milk from the lobules to the nipple.

Prevalence of Breast Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, a woman in the United States has a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer during her lifetime. Most cases of breast cancer begin in the lobes or in the ducts. There are two types of breast cancer. One type is invasive breast cancer which means that the cancer spreads beyond the lobe or duct in which it began and goes to other breast tissue and then to the lymph nodes under the armpit. From here it may spread to the liver, lungs, bone or brain. The other type is called carcinoma in situ, meaning that the cancer stays confined to the duct or lobe in which it began. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in American women in 2011 along with 57,650 new cases of carcinoma in situ. In addition, 39,520 women will die of breast cancer, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Lung cancer is the leading cause.

Genetic Test to Distinguish Ductal Carcinoma In Situ From Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

On December 6-10, 2011, physicians in academia and in private practice as well as medical researchers in the field of breast cancer met at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in San Antonio, Texas. An article in the December 19, 2011 issue of "Time" magazine reported that attendees at this symposium were informed of the development of a new genetic test that will enable doctors to determine if a woman with an early form of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is at risk of having the cancer become invasive. This is an important finding because women whose genetic test indicates that the DCIS is not likely to become invasive, may be able to undergo only surgery to remove the ductal tumors without a follow up regimen of radiation therapy. Women who have been diagnosed with DCIS should discuss this new genetic test with their doctor to determine if it may be applicable to their particular cancer.

Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer

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