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10 Key Questions Breast Cancer

Will I Need Chemotherapy

Pharmacology – Breast Cancer for nursing RN PN (MADE EASY)

Typically chemotherapy is a consideration for patients with high-risk breast cancers. Some factors that may indicate the need for chemotherapy are:

  • Lymph node involvement.
  • Tumors that are higher-grade, ER/PR-negative, HER2-negative or triple-negative .
  • Tumors that are HER2-positive.
  • Breast cancers in younger patients, especially those below the age of 40.

If you need chemotherapy, it will be given as an outpatient treatment every two to three weeks, delivered either directly into a vein or through a port.

What Are The Potential Side Effects Of This Treatment

Many people who undergo radiation therapy for breast cancer have some breast pain and skin irritation. The affected skin may eventually become red and swollen like a sunburn. These conditions typically begin within a few weeks of starting treatment and go away on their own within six months after treatment ends. For some patients, these symptoms may not occur until several months or years after treatment. Other common side effects include fatigue, especially in the later weeks of treatment and for some time afterward, and firmness or shrinkage of the breast. Women who have had radiation therapy to the lymph nodes in the underarm area may develop lymphedema, a condition in which fluid collects in the arm, causing it to swell.

Should I Have Breast Reconstruction And When

This is another question that has a multi-layered answer. It involves both medical and personal considerations. Some women opt not to have reconstruction. Others believe it benefits their appearance and psychological recovery.

This is another question that has a multi-layered answer. It involves both medical and personal considerations. Some women opt not to have reconstruction. Others believe it benefits their appearance and psychological recovery.

If youre having one or both breasts removed and are considering reconstruction, the stage of your cancer may dictate the timing of the reconstructive surgery. For patients with early-stage breast cancer, Dr. Abraham says immediate reconstruction is reasonable. With a Stage III cancer, you should discuss with your oncologist and surgeon whether immediate reconstruction is advisable.

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Can I Have A Mammogram While Pregnant Or Nursing

Mammograms with protective shielding over your abdomen are considered safe during pregnancy since they use low levels of radiation. Still, most doctors err on the side of caution and check out suspicious lumps via an ultrasound, which doesnt use radiation . MRIs without contrast can also be safely used to detect breast tumors during pregnancy. If youre nursing? You can get a mammogram as long as you nurse or pump one hour beforehand.

What If I Dont Want Cancer Treatment

Evidence Summary: Breast Cancer: Medication Use to Reduce Risk

All treatments carry some sort of risk. A decision to decline treatment has its own risks, too. Breast cancer patients may refuse their doctors treatment recommendations in whole or in part. Palliative care, designed to help control severe side effects such as pain, nausea or other symptoms, may help patients manage their quality of life in the meantime.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A mass that is painless, hard, and has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded. It is important that any new mass, lump, or change in your breast be checked by a health care provider.

Other possible signs of breast cancer that should be checked by a health care provider include:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk

Sometimes breast cancer can spread to underarm lymph nodes and cause a lump or swelling there, even before a tumor in the breast tissue is large enough to be felt. You should tell your health care provider about any swelling in your lymph nodes.

Does Hair Dye Cause Cancer

In short: Were not sure. A recent study linked breast cancer with permanent hair dye, as well as hair-straightening treatments, especially among African American women, who were more likely to use both. But doctors say they need more info. Some details in this study havent been fully parsed out, and weve seen other studies showing no link, says Marleen Meyers, M.D., a medical oncologist at NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center in New York City. Plus, the participants in the study each had a sister with breast cancer, so family history was already a factor. If youre worried, know that using semi-permanent or temporary hair colors posed little to no increase in risk.

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Targeted Cancer Drug Therapy

Your doctor will check your cancer cells for proteins called HER2 receptors. But these are rarely found in male breast cancer. If your cancer cells have a lot of these receptors, your doctor will prescribe a targeted drug treatment for you.

The most common targeted drug for breast cancer is trastuzumab .

Screening For Breast Cancer

Having chemotherapy for breast cancer – patient guide

Women aged between 50 and 74 are invited to access free screening mammograms every two years via the BreastScreen Australia Program.

Women aged 40-49 and 75 and over are also eligible to receive free mammograms, however they do not receive an invitation to attend.

It is recommended that women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, aged between 40 and 49 or over 75 discuss options with their GP, or contact BreastScreen Australia on 13 20 50.

Also Check: Is Chemotherapy Always Necessary For Breast Cancer

After My Breast Cancer Surgery Will I Need Radiation Or Chemotherapy Or Both

The stage of breast cancer helps determine which treatment regimen the oncologist will recommend. After breast-sparing surgery, radiation treatments may be used to help destroy remaining breast cancer cells. Radiation therapy for breast cancer is typically given after surgery to lower the chance of a cancer recurrence. Adjuvant breast cancer chemotherapy may be used after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells not killed during surgery.

What Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Considered a rare disease, inflammatory breast cancer typically forms in the soft tissues, blocking lymph vessels in the breast skin. That’s why the breast often becomes firm, tender, itchy, red and warm, from the increase in blood flow and a build-up of white blood cells. IBC differs from other forms of breast cancer, especially in symptoms, prognosis and treatment.

The term inflammatory is not meant to reflect what’s happening inside the breast, only in how the breast appears. When an infection or injury causes the breasts to become inflamed, they often become tender, swollen, red and itchy, but the underlying cause is not inflammation.

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What Is The Stage Of My Cancer

Cancer staging is a standardized way of classifying the severity of a patients cancer. There are various systems that use number or letter codes to designate the cancers status and how far it may have spread.

You may have heard of Stages 0 through IV, which reflect a tumors size and the extent of metastasis. A higher stage means a larger tumor and wider distribution of cancer cells.

Your doctor uses staging to plan your treatment, gauge your prognosis and communicate with other cancer specialists. What stage your cancer is in also will help determine whether youre eligible for clinical trials which offer newer treatment options.

What Is My Estrogen Receptor And Progesterone Receptor Status

Empowering Women To Win Against Breast Cancer

Your bodys hormones such as estrogen and progesterone may play a role in how your breast cancer progresses.

Normal cells are equipped with receptors that allow them to receive information from circulating hormones, similar to the way your phone picks up satellite signals. Cancer cells may also have hormone receptors, letting them tap into your bodys normal cell growth-regulating system.

Your ER/PR status is determined by testing a sample of breast cancer cells removed during a biopsy. If your breast cancer cells have estrogen and progesterone receptors if theyre ER/PR-positive then theyre capable of detecting estrogens signal and using it to fuel growth. If the cancer cells lack these receptors meaning theyre ER-/PR-negative they cant hear the growth-signaling message.

About 70% of those with breast cancer have positive ER/PR hormone status.

While being ER/PR-positive sounds bad, theres actually a benefit. Doctors can take advantage of the receptors presence. They can use an anti-estrogen drug that blocks the receptors and blocks estrogens growth signal. Or they can use other drugs like aromatase inhibitors that lower your bodys estrogen levels to deprive the cancer cells of fuel.

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Questions To Ask When Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

  • 10 Questions to Ask When Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Once diagnosed with breast cancer, youll likely have many questions about your diagnosis, treatment and recovery. To get the conversation started, below are 10 questions to ask your care team.

  • What kind of breast cancer do I have and at what stage?
  • Has cancer spread to my lymph nodes?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • Who will be a part of my cancer care team and what does each person do?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Are there more tests and procedures needed to determine my treatment plan?
  • What is the goal of my treatment?
  • What can I do myself to get ready for treatment?
  • Can I get a second opinion?
  • Who can I go to for support?
  • Answers to these questions will help you prepare for your treatment and recovery. And there are sure to be many questions along the way. Keep a list and the lines of communication open with your care team. They are here to help with your questions and concerns both large and small.

    Are There Cancer Cells In The Lymph Or Blood Vessels

    Breasts contain blood vessels and other tiny tubes called lymph vessels. If breast cancer cells spread into these vessels, its called lympho-vascular invasion. This increases the chances of the breast cancer spreading to somewhere else in the body.

    People with lympho-vascular invasion may be offered treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

    Read Also: How Fast Does Breast Cancer Grow

    What Is The Chance I Could Die In The Next 5 Years

    The average 5-year survival rate for all people with breast cancer is 89%. The 10-year rate is 83%, and the 15-year rate is 78%. If the cancer is located only in the breast , the 5-year survival rate is 99%. More than 70% of breast cancers are diagnosed at an Early Stage.

    All survival statistics are primarily based on the stage of breast cancer when diagnosed. Some of the other important factors are also listed below that affect survival.

    Stage 0 breast cancer can be also described as a pre-cancer. If you have DCIS you can be quite confident you will do well. DCIS does not spread to other organs. What can be concerning is when an invasive cancer grows back in the area of a prior lumpectomy for DCIS. This type of local recurrence does carry a risk to your life. Luckily, this does not happen frequently. Also, be aware that those who have had DCIS in the past are at a higher risk for developing an entirely new, invasive breast cancer. Take our video lesson on Non-Invasive DCIS to learn more.

    Stage I invasive breast cancer has an excellent survival rate. The chance of dying of Stage I breast cancer within five years of diagnosis is 1 to 5% if you pursue recommended treatments.

    Stage II breast cancer is also considered an early stage of breast cancer. There is a slightly increased risk to your life versus a Stage I breast cancer. Altogether, the risk of Stage II breast cancer threatening your life in the next 5 years is about 15%.

    Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Breast Cancer

    Breast Cancer Survivor Stories And Their Advice

    Its important to be able to have frank, open discussions with your cancer care team. They want to answer all of your questions so that you can make informed treatment and life decisions.

    Here are some questions that you can use to help better understand your cancer and your treatment options. Dont be afraid to take notes and tell the doctors or nurses when you dont understand what theyre saying. You might want to bring another person with you when you see your doctor and have them take notes to help you remember what was said.

    Not all of these questions will apply to you, but they should help get you started. Be sure to write down some questions of your own. For instance, you might want more information about recovery times or you may want to ask about nearby or online support groups where you can talk with other women going through similar situations. You may also want to ask if you qualify for any clinical trials.

    Keep in mind that doctors arent the only ones who can give you information. Other health care professionals, such as nurses and social workers, can answer some of your questions. To find out more about speaking with your health care team, see The Doctor-Patient Relationship.

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    Should I Consider Genetic Testing

    Genetic testing may help determine if cancer resulted from an inherited gene mutation. Genetic counseling may help patients understand the risks, benefits and limitations of genetic testing in certain situations. A genetic counselor, doctor or other health care professional trained in genetics may help patients and their families understand the test results and other findings, such as a genetic risk factor for another disease like diabetes or heart conditions.

    If I Have Chemotherapy Will I Need To Take Other Medications Like Trastuzumab

    If your breast cancer is HER2-positive, its recommended that you take trastuzumab for one year, Dr. Abraham says. This ensures that the HER2 growth receptor on any remaining cancer cells stays shut off. Trastuzumab is not chemotherapy. The hair you lost during chemotherapy will regrow and your energy level will improve while youre taking trastuzumab.

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    Will My Implants Give Me Breast Cancer

    Implants and cancer made big headlines in 2019 when the FDA announced that theres a low, but increased, risk of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, associated with a specific type of textured breast implants, thee BIOCELL Textured Breast Implant, from pharmaceutical brand Allergan, which voluntarily recalled these products. However, the current recommendation is not to remove textured implants from patients, says Dr. Meyers. The risk of developing the cancer is small, and the surgery to remove them is extensive. If you have them, regularly monitor your breasts for swelling and pain, and get an MRI without contrast every three or four years.

    Will I Need Surgery And What Kind Should I Have

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    This is an important question but the answer may be less than definitive. It will vary from patient to patient and you may have more than one choice.

    According to the American Cancer Society, most women with breast cancer have some type of surgery. But some breast cancers cant initially be surgically removed. In other cases, whether to operate and the type of surgery may depend on the cancers stage, the tumors size and location, the size of your breast and your personal preference.

    In women whose breast cancers are operable, the choices are breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy. Mastectomy is the removal of most or all breast tissue and possibly nearby lymph nodes. Within each of those two broad categories are further options. Talk with your oncologist and breast surgeon. If you have any doubts, you may choose to seek a second opinion.

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    How Can I Lower My Chances Of Getting Breast Cancer

    Research is being done on ways to prevent breast cancer. Although there is no known way to completely prevent breast cancer, there are ways to lower your risk. These include:

    • Drinking less alcohol
    • Getting regular exercise
    • Staying at a healthy weight
    • Talking to your health care provider about hormone replacement therapy, if you take it

    Regular check-ups and screening tests can find breast cancer at an earlier stage, when treatment works best. The most important action women can take is to have routine breast cancer screenings.

    Questions To Ask The Cancer Surgeon

  • Why are you recommending this procedure? Are there other options?
  • What are the risks? How do they compare with the benefits?
  • How do I get ready for surgery?
  • What type of anesthesia will I have?
  • What happens during and right after surgery?
  • Who do I talk to about breast reconstruction?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • What are the potential complications of surgery?
  • When can I go back to work and resume normal activities?
  • What is lymphedema, and am I at risk?
  • Before surgery, your surgeon should give you:

    • Specific instructions to follow in the days before surgery
    • An overview of the surgical procedures
    • Information about recovery and follow-up care

    After surgery, call your doctor right away if you see signs of swelling, a buildup of fluid, redness, or other symptoms of infection.

    Also Check: Probability Of Breast Cancer Recurrence

    What Type Of Breast Cancer Do I Have

    Breast cancers arent all the same. Doctors classify them in a number of different ways. The most basic place to start is where the cancer cells originate. Their origin is a key factor in whether or not your cancer may spread and helps dictate the kind of treatment youll get.

    Most breast cancers 70% to 80% start in the milk ducts. Theyre known as infiltrating or invasive ductal carcinomas, meaning that theyve broken through the milk ducts wall and have proliferated into the breasts fatty tissue. Once there, its possible for the cancer cells to further spread to other parts of the body.

    Another 10% of breast cancers start in the milk-producing glands, or lobules, and are called invasive lobular carcinomas. Theyre also capable of spreading.

    Other rarer breast cancers may involve the nipple, the breasts connective tissue or the linings of blood vessels or lymph vessels.

    Some breast cancers are non-invasive. They havent spread. Theyre contained within the milk ducts and are called ductal carcinoma in situ . Generally, the prognosis for patients with DCIS is very good, Dr. Abraham says.

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