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VCU Massey Cancer Center


Statistics and anatomy

Statistics on breast cancer

Consider the following statistics related to breast cancer:

  • Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in women.
  • American Cancer Society estimates for 2004 include 215,990 new cases of invasive breast cancer being diagnosed in the U.S.
  • In 2004, it was estimated that 1,450 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Year 2004 estimates included 40,580 deaths occurring from breast cancer in the U.S. alone — including approximately 30,110 women and 470 men.
  • Breast cancer ranks second among cancer deaths in women after lung cancer.
  • Regardless of age, African American women have the highest breast cancer mortality rates.
  • According to SEER (1995 to 1997), if current rates stay the same, a woman's chance of developing breast cancer is as follows:
    • Birth to 39 – one out of 228 women
    • 40 to 59 – one out of 24 women
    • 60 to 79 – one out of 14 women
    • During her lifetime – one out of eight women

The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER)

The SEER Program, a continuing project of the National Cancer Institute, collects cancer data on a routine basis from designated population-based cancer registries in various areas of the country. Trends in cancer incidence, mortality and patient survival in the U.S., as well as many other studies, are derived from this data bank.

Goals of the SEER program are:

  • Assembling and reporting, on a periodic basis, estimates of cancer incidence and mortality in the U.S.
  • Monitoring annual cancer incidence trends to identify unusual changes in specific forms of cancer occurring in population subgroups defined by geographic, demographic and social characteristics.
  • Providing continuing information on changes over time in the extent of disease at diagnosis, trends in therapy and associated changes in patient survival.
  • Promoting studies designed to identify factors amenable to cancer control interventions, such as:
    • Environmental, occupational, socioeconomic, dietary and health-related exposures.
    • Screening practices, early detection and treatment.
    • Determinants of the length and quality of patient survival.

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Anatomy of the breast

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Each breast has 15 to 20 sections, called lobes, that are arranged like the petals of a daisy.

Each lobe has many smaller lobules, which end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can produce milk.

The lobes, lobules and bulbs are all linked by thin tubes called ducts.

These ducts lead to the nipple in the center of a dark area of skin called the areola.


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Fat fills the spaces between lobules and ducts.

There are no muscles in the breast, but muscles lie under each breast and cover the ribs.

Each breast also contains blood vessels and vessels that carry lymph. The lymph vessels lead to small bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes, clusters of which are found under the arm, above the collarbone and in the chest, as well as in many other parts of the body.

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