What Is Breast Cancer Staging
To determine the stage of your cancer, doctors look at how large your tumor is, where it is, and if it has spread. They also look at your medical history, physical exams, diagnostic tests, and tests of your tumor and lymph nodes.
- Early-stage breast cancer includes stages 0, I, II and IIIA .
- In stage 0, there are abnormal cells in the ducts or lobes of the breast. They have not broken through the wall of the duct or spread.
- In stages I, II, and IIIA, there is a tumor. It may have spread to lymph nodes under the arm, but it has not spread anywhere else.
How Often Should You Check Your Breasts
Check your breasts as regularly as you like so you get to know what ânormalâ is for you. âDo it as often as you need to ensure you feel confident that if there were any changes, youâd pick them up quickly,â says Dr Wild.
However, Mr Dimitri J Hadjiminas, Consultant Breast & Endocrine Surgeon at The Harley Street Clinic, says you should check your breasts at least once a month and at the same time in your menstrual cycle.
âBe mindful your breasts will change during your monthly cycle, pregnancy, and menopause,â adds Dr Wild.
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How To Make Breast Self
Make it routine. The more you examine your breasts, the more you will learn about them and the easier it will become for you to tell if something has changed. Try to get in the habit of doing a breast self-examination once a month to familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel. Examine yourself several days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. If you are no longer having periods, choose a day that’s easy to remember, such as the first or last day of the month.
Get to know your breasts’ different neighborhoods. The upper, outer area near your armpit tends to have the most prominent lumps and bumps. The lower half of your breast can feel like a sandy or pebbly beach. The area under the nipple can feel like a collection of large grains. Another part might feel like a lumpy bowl of oatmeal.
Start a journal where you record the findings of your breast self-exams. This can be like a small map of your breasts, with notes about where you feel lumps or irregularities. Especially in the beginning, this may help you remember, from month to month, what is normal for your breasts. It is not unusual for lumps to appear at certain times of the month, but then disappear, as your body changes with the menstrual cycle .
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Who Gets Breast Cancer
All women can get breast cancer. Although the causes of breast cancer are still unknown, there are some factors that may increase a woman’s chances of getting the disease:
- Getting older – Most women are diagnosed when they are 50 years of age or older
- Having a first menstrual period at a young age
- Starting menopause at an older age
- Never giving birth, or giving birth to a first child after age 30
- Not breastfeeding
- Having had breast cancer or some non-cancerous breast diseases
- Having a close family member who has had breast cancer, especially at an early age
- Having certain gene mutations such as BRCA 1 or BRCA 2
- Being overweight or obese
- Exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation to the chest area early in life
- Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy
Even if women have one or more of these risk factors, it does not mean they will get breast cancer. Also, many women who get breast cancer do not have any risk factors. This is why screening is important for all women.
Women with a personal or family history of breast cancer may want to consider genetic counseling to find out if they are at greater risk for getting the disease.
While very rare, it is possible for men to get breast cancer. 2,3,4
Breast Cancer Screening And Diagnostic Tests
What are the current screening guidelines for breast cancer?
The American Cancer Society screening recommendations for women with average breast cancer risk are:
- Women between 40 to 44 years old should consider beginning annual mammograms
- Women between 45 to 54 should get annual mammograms
- Women age 55 or older should switch to mammograms every two years, or have the choice to continue annual screening.
For women with high breast cancer risk, the American Cancer Society recommends:
- Beginning annual screening mammograms at age 30
- Screening with magnetic resonance imaging in addition to annual mammograms
Laura Kruper, M.D., co-director of City of Hope’s breast cancer program , talks about current breast cancer screening guidelines for women at normal and high risk for the disease.
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Lab Tests With Breast Tissue
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor may order special lab tests on the removed breast tissue:
It may take several weeks to get the results of these tests. While the wait can be hard, your doctor must go over these test results thoroughly to determine the best cancer treatment option.
How To Check Your Breasts
Theres no special way to check your breasts and you do not need any training.
Checking your breasts is as easy as TLC:
- Touch your breasts: can you feel anything new or unusual?
- Look for changes: does anything look different to you?
- Check any new or unusual changes with a GP
Everyone will have their own way of touching and looking for changes.
Get used to checking regularly and be aware of anything thats new or different for you.
Check your whole breast area, including up to your collarbone and armpits.
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What Screening Tests Are Done For Breast Cancer
Breast cancer screening means checking the breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of sickness. Three main tests are used to screen the breasts for cancer. Talk to your health care provider about which tests are right for you, and when you should have them.
At this time, guidelines suggest that the best way to find breast cancer is with a mammogram. Clinical breast exams or self-exams alone are not enough to detect breast cancer. Women who choose to have clinical breast exams and to perform breast self-exams should also get regular mammograms.7
Imaging Tests Have Risks And Costs
The biggest risk is that imaging tests expose you to radiation. The effects of radiation add up over your lifetime and can increase your risk of cancer.
Imaging tests can also show a false positive. This means a test shows something unusual, but after more testing, is not a problem. False positives can lead to stress, more tests, and a delay in getting needed treatment.
Imaging tests can also add thousands of dollars to your treatment costs. Not all insurance companies pay for them for early-stage breast cancer.
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Positron Emission Tomography Scan
For a PET scan, a slightly radioactive form of sugar is injected into the blood and collects mainly in cancer cells.
PET/CT scan: Often a PET scan is combined with a CT scan using a special machine that can do both at the same time. This lets the doctor compare areas of higher radioactivity on the PET scan with a more detailed picture on the CT scan.
What Can I Do To Reduce My Risk
If several members of your family have had breast or ovarian cancer, or one of your family members has a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, share this information with your doctor. Your doctor may refer you for genetic counseling. In men, mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can increase the risk of breast cancer, high-grade prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
If genetic testing shows that you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, your doctor will explain what you should do to find cancer early, if you get it.
All men can lower their risk by keeping a healthy weight and exercising regularly.
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Genomic Tests To Predict Recurrence Risk
Doctors use genomic tests, also called multigene panels, to test a tumor to look for specific genes or proteins that are found in or on cancer cells. These tests help doctors better understand the unique features of a person’s breast cancer. Genomic tests can also help estimate the risk of the cancer coming back after treatment. Knowing this information helps doctors and patients make decisions about specific treatments and can help some patients avoid unwanted side effects from a treatment they may not need.
Genomic tests are different from genetic tests. Genetic tests are performed on blood or saliva and are used to determine what gene changes a person may have inherited from a parent that may increase their risk of developing breast cancer. The results of a few genetic tests can also be used to make decisions about specific treatments.
The genomic tests listed below can be done on a sample of the tumor that was already removed during biopsy or surgery. Most patients will not need an extra biopsy or more surgery for these tests.
For patients age 50 or younger who have cancer in 1 to 3 lymph nodes
Recurrence score less than 26: Chemotherapy is often recommended before hormonal therapy is given
Recurrence score of 26 or higher: Chemotherapy is usually recommended before hormonal therapy is given
For patients older than 50 who do not have cancer in any lymph nodes or who have cancer in 1 to 3 lymph nodes
How To Detect Cancer Early
This article was co-authored by Chris M. Matsko, MD. Dr. Chris M. Matsko is a retired physician based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With over 25 years of medical research experience, Dr. Matsko was awarded the Pittsburgh Cornell University Leadership Award for Excellence. He holds a BS in Nutritional Science from Cornell University and an MD from the Temple University School of Medicine in 2007. Dr. Matsko earned a Research Writing Certification from the American Medical Writers Association in 2016 and a Medical Writing & Editing Certification from the University of Chicago in 2017. This article has been viewed 56,712 times.
If youâve had family members deal with cancer or youâve been diagnosed with a precancerous condition, itâs understandable that you might want to be alert for early signs of cancer. Since the signs, severity, and growth of cancer are completely unique to each individual, itâs important to pay attention to any changes in your body. You can also talk with your doctor about doing genetic testing to determine your risk for developing a specific cancer. Being aware of your risks and monitoring potential symptoms can increase your chances of survival if the cancer is detected early.
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In The Shower Or Bath
It may be easier to check your breasts while youre in the shower or bath, as your hands are wet. This makes it easier to slide your hand over your breasts.
An easy way to check your breasts is to:
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How Do You Check Yourself For Breast Cancer How Do You Decrease Your Risk
Each year, more than 40,000 women die of breast cancer. You can check yourself for breast cancer with just your hands and the right technique. In fact, applying these selfed groomed skills can decrease your risk. Although there is no cure for this horrendous disease, modern medicine offers an abundance of treatment options that can be lifesaving. Of course, as with any cancer treatment, starting early is key.
Each year in October, we observe National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. With fall getting underway, now is a great time to review some tips on how to detect breast cancer early and keep you and your loved ones healthy.
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What Can I Do To 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.
How Is Breast Cancer Detected And Diagnosed
If you notice changes in your breast, experiencing breast pain, or as part of a routine breast screening, your doctor may use tests to look for breast cancer. An integral part of diagnosing breast cancer begins with your doctor asking questions about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors, and family history of disease.
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Is There A Particular Time Of The Month I Should Do Breast Self
Women should do a breast self-exam once a month, every month. Women who are still menstruating should perform a breast self-exam after their period. Women who have stopped menstruating and those who have very irregular periods can pick a day each month. Choose a day that is consistent and easy to remember, like the first day of the month, the last day of the month or your favorite number.
What To Do If You Notice Something Askew
Don’t panic. Changes in breast tissue, including lumps and dimpling, are often benign . In fact, eight out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. Changes may occur from hormonal fluctuations, cysts, calcification or another benign breast condition. You should make an appointment with your doctor for further evaluation to rule out breast cancer or another health condition that requires treatment.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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Why Should I Do Breast Self
Monthly breast self-exams can help you detect changes that may be signs of infection or breast cancer . When breast cancer is detected early, the chances for survival are much better.
Self-exams are important for breast health. But they should not replace exams and screening tests recommended by doctors. You should still see your primary care provider and/or gynecologist regularly.
How To Check Yourself For Breast Cancer At Home
Lumps, dimpling and more: What to look for during a breast self-exam, plus how often you should check.
Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among women. Knowing how to check yourself for it can aid in early detection.
About one in eight women in the US will develop breast cancer during her lifetime and aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Although death rates from breast cancer have thankfully declined over the last several years, itâs still important to check yourself for breast cancer.
Because even in a world with high-tech doctorâs offices and plenty of ways to talk to a doctor online, taking care of yourself starts with you. By setting aside just five minutes every month to do a self exam, you can increase the likelihood of early detection if you do have cancer. The earlier you detect cancer, the earlier a doctor can treat it. And when it comes to breast cancer, early treatment is the key to a good prognosis.
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Imaging Tests To Look For Breast Cancer Spread
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you might need more imaging tests. Your doctor will talk with you about which of these tests you may need.
Imaging tests use x-rays, magnetic fields, sound waves, or radioactive substances to create pictures of the inside of your body. Imaging tests might be done for a number of reasons including:
- To look at suspicious areas that might be cancer
- To learn how far cancer might have spread
- To help determine if treatment is working
- To look for possible signs of cancer coming back after treatment
Know What Is Normal For You
It’s important to know what is normal for you. Your breasts will go through many normal changes during your life. For example, they are affected by changes in your hormones during your menstrual cycle, pregnancy and breast-feeding and menopause.
- Your menstrual cycle: Each month, when you are having periods, your breasts often change. They can become bigger, tender and lumpy usually before a period starts and return to normal once the period is over. Some women, however, may have tender, lumpy breasts throughout their cycle.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding: The changes that occur during your menstrual cycle continue during pregnancy. While breast-feeding, your breasts may be very enlarged, firm and tender this is normal at this time. However, you should continue to check your breasts and discuss any unusual changes with your GP.
- Menopause: After the menopause your breasts will feel softer and they may get bigger or smaller. If there is a change in only one breast, you should discuss this with your doctor. HRT hormone replacement therapy may cause your breasts to feel firmer and quite tender.
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