Breast Cancer

Institutes & Services > Women's Health Services > Breast Care > Breast Cancer

What is Breast Cancer?

Cancer begins when the body starts to produce abnormal cells. Our bodies typically create new cells whenever they are needed, but sometimes the cells grow out of control and look unlike normal cells. They form a mass called a tumor. If the cells in the tumor are like regular healthy cells, the tumor is called benign. If the cells are unlike regular healthy cells, they are called malignant.

As in all cancers, the body site where these abnormal cells come from gives its name to the cancer. So if you have breast cancer, the abnormal cells started in your breast. Just as other cancers, these cells can invade other areas and create new tumors. This spread is called metastasis.

You’ve probably heard this statistic: One in eight women will get breast cancer.

For women, breast cancer is the second most frequent cause of death for women in the U.S., following lung cancer. Skin cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among American women. Men can get breast cancer, too, although it’s not very common.

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