Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women today. The American Cancer Society reported that in 2001 an estimated 200, 000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in woman in the U. S. Although, not widely known, men can be stricken with breast cancer also. However, the numbers are much lower than occurrences in women.

For example, 1, 500 men were reported to have contracted breast cancer in 2001. The key to surviving breast cancer is early detection and treatment. When breast cancer is found early and confined to the breast, the survival rate is close to 100%. Beginning at t he age of 20 years old, every women should being to practice monthly self breast exams.

As a woman ages, the risk of cancer also increases. Doctor visits are important too. After the age of 40, a woman should have a mammogram every two years and practice self exams every month. As with all cancers they start with cells in the body that begin to change. The following explains the stages of breast cancer: Stage 0 - Cancer cells are present in either the lining of a lobule or a duct but they have not spread to the surrounding fatty tissue. This area is restricted and begins under the arm pit area or slightly lower, towards the side of the breast.

Stage 1 - Cancer has spread from the lobules or ducts to nearby tissue in the breast, and the tumor is generally 3/4 inches or less in diameter; the lymph nodes are not involved. Stage 2 - Cancer has spread from the lobules or ducts to nearby tissue in the breast, and tumor may be 2 inches in diameter; sometimes the lymph nodes may be involved. Stage 3 - Known as locally advanced cancer; tumor may be larger than 2 inches in diameter, and cancer may or may not have spread to lymph nodes or other tissues near the breast. Stage 4 - Known as metastatic; cancer has spread from the breast and lymph nodes under the arm to other parts of the body, such as bone, liver, lung or brain. Medical treatment will vary upon the stage the breast cancer is discovered.

In Stage 0 it is virtually impossible to know healthy cells are changing into cancerous cells. In Stage 1 (and all subsequent stages), if a woman finds a hard lump, she should IMMEDIATELY go to her doctor. A biopsy will be done. This type of test is done in a hospital, takes a short amount of times, and after two hours or so, the woman can leave. This biopsy consists of a needle injected into the tumor and cells extracted for analyzing.

The results of the test determines any future treatment. The tumor can be non-cancerous which would then require no treatment. From Stages 2 thru 4, each medical treatment is different. As the stages become more life-threatening the treatments become more aggressive. Treatment will vary from chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal drugs and many others. Many woman require part or all of their breast (or breasts) removed.

Fortunately, reconstructive surgery is sometimes possible and helps a woman feel better; breast surgery can be psychologically very difficult for a patient. The American Cancer Society and much celebrity promotions, through television and other media, have promoted more awareness and education to the public. Many more women are having mammograms, doing self-exams and seeing their doctors more. Awareness creates knowledge and knowledge creates power to realize how important is it to take care of yourself..