‘i Felt A Pea On My Ribs’
I had done monthly self-breast exams since I was in my early 20s. I felt a tiny hard little bump the size of a small pea. I could only feel it because it was over my rib at the bottom of my left breast. In retrospect, my bra may have hurt a little in that area before I found the lump. I have had many lumps, bumps, and cysts biopsied, but this pea was definitely different. I scheduled my annual mammogram along with a biopsy. I received the breast cancer diagnosis within a week, just shy of my 55th birthday. Turns out, there was another in the other breast that didnt show up on a mammogram. I also discovered I was a BRCA 1 mutation carrier. I needed aggressive chemo followed by a double mastectomy. Had I not done the exam that evening, everything would be quite different.
Cynthia Bailey, MD, president and CEO of;Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology, Inc., Sebastopol, California
You’re Experiencing Abnormal Tenderness Or Pain
You might experience some tenderness around your period, and that’s totally normal. If you’re experiencing persistent or severe pain, though, and you know it’s not due to your menstrual cycle, the American Cancer Society says it should be checked out. Even though breast cancers don’t normally cause pain and tenderness, it’s still a possibility.
I Kicked Cancer To The Curb And Wrote A Book To Help Others
A full day of mammograms, a biopsy and a trip to the emergency room for uncontrolled bleeding was the start of my cancer journey. Then came September 12, 2006 a follow-up visit to the doctor. Its cancer, is all I heard before I saw stars. The next two weeks was a marathon of trips in and out of New York City for testsconsultations, scans, chemo, and blood work. After surgery and 42 radiation treatments, I danced around the maypole on May 1st, 2007. All tests showed all was well! The experience motivated me to write a book for friends and caregivers, For Family and Friends: 39 Things to Make a Cancer Patient Smile.Susan Reif
Myth: If I Dont Have A Family History Of Breast Cancer I Wont Get Itfact: Most People Diagnosed With Breast Cancer Have No Known Family History
Many people think of breast cancer as an inherited disease. But only about 510% of breast cancers are believed to be hereditary, meaning theyre caused by abnormal changes in certain genes passed from parent to child.1 The vast majority of people who get breast cancer have no family history, suggesting that other factors must be at work, such as environment and lifestyle.
But doctors often cant explain why one person gets breast cancer and another doesnt. The biggest risk factors are simply being a woman and growing older. Over time, healthy breast cells can develop mutations on their own, eventually turning into cancer cells.
Still, if you have a strong family history of breast cancer on either your mothers or your fathers side, this is an important risk factor that should be taken seriously. If there are one or more cases of breast cancer in close blood relatives, especially before age 50, and/or other cancers such as ovarian and prostate cancer in your family, share this information with your doctor.
Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer can have a number of symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.
Most breast lumps aren’t cancerous, but it’s always best to have them checked by your doctor. You should also see your GP if you notice any of the following:
- a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- discharge from either of your nipples;
- a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
- dimpling on the skin of your breasts
- a rash on or around your nipple
- a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
Breast pain alone isn’t a symptom of breast cancer.
Learn more about the symptoms of breast cancer
After examining your breasts, your GP may refer you to a specialist breast cancer clinic for further tests.;This might include a mammography ;or a biopsy.
My Dog Helped Me Realize I Had Breast Cancer
I learned I had breast cancer from my dog, Zoe. Id just had a breast exam from my OB/GYN and nothing was detected. It wasnt until two weeks later, when my little 15-pound dog climbed on top of me and starting pawing at the upper left-hand section of my breast, that I realized something was up. I listened to my intuition and started palpating where the dog was touching me and thats when I found the lump. I made an appointment with the radiologist and they confirmed via a sonogram that the lump was, in fact, breast cancer. I knew in my soul that I would survive my diagnosis. One night after a visit with my breast surgeon, I was sitting in my car and I had this overwhelming feeling of calmness and healing. It was a deep knowing that I would be okay. I clung onto to those feelings even, when I was scared and they pulled me through.Christine Egan
What Advice Do You Have For Newly Diagnosed Cancer Survivors
Hang in there. It sounds so simple, but hang in there. Thats what Im doing. And I would stress an open dialogue with your physician and your caregivers. That way, everybodys talking to each other. Everybodys clear about whats going on.;
Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts aims to debunk common misconceptions about chemotherapy and encourages survivors and caregivers to speak openly with their doctors. As part of the campaign, a video booth has been traveling around the country encouraging survivors and caregivers to record their personal stories of uncovering myths and facts during their cancer experience. Those videos will be on the website, says Maura, spokesperson for the campaign, so it will be a really beautiful personal collage of stories.
This article was published in;Coping® with Cancer magazine,;
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Breast Examination After Treatment For Breast Cancer
The incision line may be thick, raised, red and possibly tender for several months after surgery. Remember to examine the entire incision line.
If there is redness in areas away from the scar, contact your physician. It is not unusual to experience brief discomforts and sensations in the breast or nipple area .
At first, you may not know how to interpret what you feel, but soon you will become familiar with what is now normal for you.
After breast reconstruction
Following breast reconstruction, breast examination for the reconstructed breast is done exactly the same way as for the natural breast. If an implant was used for the reconstruction, press firmly inward at the edges of the implant to feel the ribs beneath. If your own tissue was used for the reconstruction, understand that you may feel some numbness and tightness in your breast. In time, some feeling in your breasts may return.
After radiation therapy
After radiation therapy, you may notice some changes in the breast tissue. The breast may look red or sunburned and may become irritated or inflamed. Once therapy is stopped, the redness will disappear and the breast will become less inflamed or irritated. At times, the skin can become more inflamed for a few days after treatment and then gradually improve after a few weeks. The pores in the skin over the breast also may become larger than usual.
What to do
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.
Also Check: What Are Some Symptoms For Breast Cancer
Subtle Signs You May Have Breast Cancer
Finding a lump isn’t the only signal you need to be on the look out for.
When a woman is examining herself for breast cancer, there’s typically only one thing she’s on the lookout for: a lump. Unfortunately, that tell-tale sign is just one of the many that can lead to a diagnosis.
While a lump is still the most commonly-reported symptom, a 2016 study from Cancer Research UK found one in six women who are diagnosed with breast cancer report a totally different issue to their doctors. The problem is not everyone books an appointment as quickly as they should once something comes up. “These women are more likely to delay going to the doctor compared to women with breast lump alone,” says study author Monica Koo, PhD. “It’s crucial that women are aware that a lump is not the only symptom of breast cancer. If they’re worried about any breast symptoms, the best thing to do is to get it checked by a doctor as soon as possible.”
And according to 2020 data from Breastcancer.org, one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime, which makes knowing all the signs of the disease all the more important. To make sure you catch a symptomas subtle as it may beas early as possible, take a look at these lesser-known signs you may have breast cancer. And for more potential problems you should be aware of as you age, check out 30 Health Issues Every Woman Over 30 Should Start Looking Out For.
What Is Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast. It starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control.
Breast;cancer cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. Breast cancer is most common in women, but;men can get breast cancer, too.
Breast cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body and grow there, too. When cancer cells do this, its called metastasis.
Cancer is always named based on the place where it starts. So even if breast cancer spreads to the bones , its still called breast cancer. Its not called bone cancer unless it starts from cells in the bone.
Also Check: How Do Doctors Treat Breast Cancer
Undergoing Medical Screening For Breast Cancer
My Oncologist Snapped Me Back Into Survival Mode
I went for a routine yearly mammogram and the film was picture, textbook, perfect breast cancerno doubt, no need for a second opinion. It was touch and go with my chemo treatments if I was to survive, or willing to continue with treatments. After four chemo infusions I was so ill I wanted to stop, but my oncologist talked me down and after I completed the sixth and final chemo appointment, I knew I was a survivor. The following seven weeks of radiation were a cakewalk in comparison! I advocate for yearly mammograms for a positive outcome like mine! Haralee Weintraub
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What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Breast pain can be a symptom of cancer. If you have any symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.
Some warning signs of breast cancer are
- New lump in the breast or underarm .
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer.
If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
Questions To Ask The Doctor
- Do you know the stage of the cancer?
- If not, how and when will you find out the stage of the cancer?
- Would you explain to me what the stage means in my case?
- Based on the stage of the cancer, how long do you think Ill live?
- Do you know if my cancer has any of these proteins: estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, or the HER2 protein?
- What does it mean if my cancer has any of these proteins?
- What will happen next?
There are many ways to treat breast cancer.
Surgery and radiation are used to treat cancer in a specific part of the body . They do not affect the rest of the body.
Chemotherapy, hormone treatment,;targeted therapy, and immunotherapy drugs go through the whole body. They can reach cancer cells almost anywhere in the body.
Doctors often use more than one;treatment for breast cancer. The treatment plan thats best for you will depend on:
- The cancer’s stage and grade
- If the cancer has specific proteins, like the HER2 protein or hormone receptors
- The chance that a type of treatment will cure the cancer or help in some way
- Your age
- Other health problems you have
- Your feelings about the treatment and the side effects that come with it
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Myth: Consuming Too Much Sugar Causes Breast Cancerfact: There Is No Evidence That Sugar In The Diet Causes Breast Cancer
Not just with breast cancer but with all types of cancer, theres a common myth that sugar can feed the cancer and speed up its growth. All cells, whether cancerous or healthy, use the sugar in the blood as fuel. While its true that cancer cells consume sugar more quickly than normal cells, there isnt any evidence that excessive sugar consumption causes cancer.
There was a study in mice that suggested excess sugar consumption might raise the risk of breast cancer,3 but more research is needed to establish any link in animals as well as in people.
That said, we do know that eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, and being overweight is an established risk factor for breast cancer. In addition, some studies have linked diabetes with a higher risk of breast cancer especially more aggressive, later-stage cancers. Researchers arent sure if the link is due to that fact that people with diabetes tend to be overweight, or that they have higher blood sugar levels.
For health reasons, its always a good idea to cut down on desserts, candy, cakes, sweetened beverages, and processed foods that contain sugar. Reading labels is important, as many foods can have hidden added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup.
Invasive Breast Cancer Symptoms
Most breast cancers start in the ducts, or the tubes that carry milk to the nipple, or in the lobules, the little clusters of sacs where breast milk is made. Invasive breast cancer refers to breast cancer that spreads from the original site to other areas of the breast, the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. In these cancers that form in the ducts or lobules, invasive ductal carcinoma ;or invasive lobular carcinoma , the cancer spreads from the ducts or lobules to other tissue. Depending on the stage, you may notice symptoms.
Invasive breast cancer symptoms may include:
- A lump or mass in the breast
- Swelling of all or part of the breast, even if no lump is felt
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- A lump or swelling in the underarm lymph nodes
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