Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
In its early stages, breast cancer may not cause any symptoms. In many cases, a tumor may be too small to be felt, but an abnormality can still be seen on a mammogram.
If a tumor can be felt, the first sign is usually a new lump in the breast that was not there before. However, not all lumps are cancer.
Each type of breast cancer can cause a variety of symptoms. Many of these symptoms are similar, but some can be different. Symptoms for the most common breast cancers include:
- a breast lump or tissue thickening that feels different than surrounding tissue and has developed recently
- breast pain
- changes to the appearance of the skin on your breasts
- a lump or swelling under your arm
If you have any of these symptoms, it doesnt necessarily mean you have breast cancer. For instance, pain in your breast or a breast lump can be caused by a benign cyst.
Still, if you find a lump in your breast or have other symptoms, you should see your doctor for further examination and testing.
Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer
To determine if your symptoms are caused by breast cancer or a benign breast condition, your doctor will do a thorough physical exam in addition to a breast exam. They may also request one or more diagnostic tests to help understand whats causing your symptoms.
Tests that can help diagnose breast cancer include:
- Mammogram. The most common way to see below the surface of your breast is with an imaging test called a mammogram. Many women ages 40 and older get annual mammograms to check for breast cancer. If your doctor suspects you may have a tumor or suspicious spot, they will also request a mammogram. If an abnormal area is seen on your mammogram, your doctor may request additional tests.
- Ultrasound. A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the tissues deep in your breast. An ultrasound can help your doctor distinguish between a solid mass, such as a tumor, and a benign cyst.
Your doctor may also suggest tests such as an MRI or a breast biopsy.
If you dont already have a primary care doctor, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
Having Certain Benign Breast Conditions
Women diagnosed with certain benign breast conditions may have a higher risk of breast cancer. Some of these conditions are more closely linked to breast cancer risk than others. Doctors often divide benign breast conditions into 3 groups, depending on how they affect this risk.
Non-proliferative lesions: These conditions dont seem to affect breast cancer risk, or if they do, the increase in risk is very small. They include:
- Fibrosis and/or simple cysts
- Other tumors
Mastitis is not a tumor and does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Proliferative lesions without atypia : In these conditions theres excessive growth of cells in the ducts or lobules of the breast, but the cells dont look very abnormal. These conditions seem to raise a womans risk of breast cancer slightly. They include:
- Usual ductal hyperplasia
- Several papillomas
- Radial scar
Proliferative lesions with atypia: In these conditions, the cells in the ducts or lobules of the breast tissue grow excessively, and some of them no longer look normal. These types of lesions include:
Breast cancer risk is about 4 to 5 times higher than normal in women with these changes. If a woman also has a family history of breast cancer and either hyperplasia or atypical hyperplasia, she has an even higher risk of breast cancer.
For more information, see Non-cancerous Breast Conditions.
Lobular carcinoma in situ
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What Happens After The Local Breast Cancer Treatment
Following local breast cancer treatment, the treatment team will determine the likelihood that the cancer will recur outside the breast. This team usually includes a medical oncologist, a specialist trained in using medicines to treat breast cancer. The medical oncologist, who works with the surgeon, may advise the use of the drugs like tamoxifen or anastrozole or possibly chemotherapy. These treatments are used in addition to, but not in place of, local breast cancer treatment with surgery and/or radiation therapy.
After treatment for breast cancer, it is especially important for a woman to continue to do a monthly breast examination. Regular examinations will help you detect local recurrences. Early signs of recurrence can be noted in the incision area itself, the opposite breast, the axilla , or supraclavicular region .
Maintaining your follow-up schedule with your physician is also necessary so problems can be detected when treatment can be most effective. Your health care provider will also be able to answer any questions you may have about breast self-examination after the following procedures.
Can Exercise Help Reduce My Risk Of Developing Breast Cancer
Exercise is a big part of a healthy lifestyle. It can also be a useful way to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer in your postmenopausal years. Women often gain weight and body fat during menopause. People with higher amounts of body fat can be at a higher risk of breast cancer. However, by reducing your body fat through exercise, you may be able to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
The general recommendation for regular exercise is about 150 minutes each week. This would mean that you work out for about 30 minutes, five days each week. However, doubling the amount of weekly exercise to 300 minutes can greatly benefit postmenopausal women. The longer duration of exercise allows for you to burn more fat and improve your heart and lung function.
The type of exercise you do can vary the main goal is get your heart rate up as you exercise. Its recommended that your heart rate is raised about 65 to 75% of your maximum heart rate during exercise. You can figure out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your current age from 220. If you are 65, for example, your maximum heart rate is 155.
Aerobic exercise is a great way to improve your heart and lung function, as well as burn fat. Some aerobic exercises you can try include:
Remember, there are many benefits to working more exercise into your weekly routine. Some benefits of aerobic exercise can include:
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Breast Cancer Incidence Rates Over Time
In the 1980s and 1990s, the rate of breast cancer incidence rose, largely due to increased mammography screening .
The rate of breast cancer incidence declined between 1999 and 2004 . This decline appears to be related to the drop in the use of menopausal hormone therapy after it was shown to increase the risk of breast cancer .
Mammography screening rates also fell somewhat in the early 2000s. However, studies show the decline in the rate of breast cancer incidence during this time was not likely due to the decline in screening rates .
From 2012-2016, the overall breast cancer incidence rate increased slightly . This may be due, in part, to an increase in body weight and a decline in the number of births among women in the U.S. over time .
Trends in incidence rates may be different among some groups of women.
Is Teen Breast Cancer Common
Its normal for your breasts to change as you enter your teenage years. Increases and decreases in female hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, may make your breasts tender.
Hormones can also cause you to feel thickening, and even some lumps and bumps, in your breasts as your period comes and goes each month.
Could those lumps and bumps be cancer? Its not likely. Its almost unheard of for girls ages 14 years and younger to develop breast cancer.
The chances increase slightly as girls move through their teenage years, but breast cancer in this age group is still very rare.
Between 2012 and 2016, the incidence rate for female breast cancer in 15- to 19-year-olds in the United States was
- It seems fixed to the chest wall and doesnt move around.
- It ranges in size from about the size of a pea to several inches in diameter.
- It might be painful.
Nipple discharge and having the nipple invert inward are possible symptoms of breast cancer in adult women. However, theyre not very common in teens with cancer.
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What Are The Chances Of Survival
It’s normal to wonder how long you might live. Doctors use the term “relative survival rate” to predict what percentage of people with certain stages of breast cancer will live for 5 years, compared to peers who don’t have breast cancer.
The 5-year relative survival rates for breast cancer are:
- 99% for early-stage cancers
- 86% for cancer that has spread in the area of the original tumor
- 27% for cancers that have spread to other parts of the body
These numbers are based on research done on large groups of people with breast cancer. Your survival rate could be different based on things like your age, health, and how well your cancer responds to treatment.
Differences By Race And Ethnicity
Some variations in breast cancer can be seen between racial and ethnic groups. For example,
- The median age of diagnosis is slightly younger for Black women compared to White women 63 years old).
- Black women have the highest death rate from breast cancer. This is thought to be partially because about 1 in 5 Black women with breast cancer have triple-negative breast cancer – more than any other racial/ethnic group.
- Black women have a higher chance of developing breast cancer before the age of 40 than White women.
- At every age, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race or ethnic group.
- White and Asian/Pacific Islander women are more likely to be diagnosed with localized breast cancer than Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
- Asian/Pacific Islanders have the lowest death rate from breast cancer.
- American Indian/Alaska Natives have the lowest rates of developing breast cancer.
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Breast Cancer Incidence Rates Worldwide
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide.
Its estimated more than 2 million new cases of breast cancer occurred worldwide among women in 2020 .
Breast cancer incidence rates around the world vary
In general, rates of breast cancer are higher in developed countries than in developing countries .
What Are The Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle.
- A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
- A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast.
- A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple.
- A change in the look or feel of the skin on the breast or nipple .
- Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple.
- An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
- A marble-like hardened area under the skin.
These changes may be found when performing monthly breast self-exams. By performing breast self-exams, you can become familiar with the normal monthly changes in your breasts.
Breast self-examination should be performed at the same time each month, three to five days after your menstrual period ends. If you have stopped menstruating, perform the exam on the same day of each month.
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How Do Breast Cancer Treatments Help
Doctors can pick from several treatment options. Your therapy will depend on your type of breast cancer and how far it has spread. You may get more than one treatment.
Surgery removes as much of the cancer as possible. If the cancer is small, your doctor might take out just the part of the breast where the cancer is . For a larger cancer, the surgeon might remove the whole breast or both breasts . The surgeon can also take out nearby lymph nodes.
Chemotherapy uses strong medicine that travels through your bloodstream to kill cancer cells or to stop them from dividing. You can have this treatment after surgery to get rid of any remaining cancer cells, or if your cancer has spread.
Radiation zaps cancer cells with high-energy rays. You get it after surgery to kill any leftover cancer, or to treat cancer that has spread to areas like your bones or brain.
Hormone therapy treats breast cancers that respond to estrogen and/or progesterone. It lowers the amount of estrogen in your body or blocks the effects of estrogen so that it can’t help your cancer grow.
Targeted therapy works against breast cancers that use proteins such as HER2 to help them grow.
Second Cancers After Breast Cancer
Breast cancer survivors can be affected by a number of health problems, but often a major concern is facing cancer again. Cancer that comes back after treatment is called a recurrence. But some cancer survivors develop a new, unrelated cancer later. This is called a second cancer.
Women whove had breast cancer can still get other cancers. Although most breast cancer survivors dont get cancer again, they are at higher risk for getting some types of cancer, including:
- A second breast cancer
- Salivary gland cancer
- Melanoma of the skin
- Acute myeloid leukemia
The most common second cancer in breast cancer survivors is another breast cancer. The new cancer can occur in the opposite breast, or in the same breast for women who were treated with breast-conserving surgery .
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Why Do I Feel A Ball In My Breast
Most breast lumps are benign, which means theyre not cancer. Benign breast lumps usually have smooth edges and can be moved slightly when you push against them. They are often found in both breasts. There are several common causes, including normal changes in breast tissue, breast infections, or injury.
What Is A Breast Made Of
Both men and women have breasts, but women have more breast tissue than men.
The female breast is made of different components, including:
- lobules, which produce breast milk
- ducts, which carry milk to the nipple
- fatty tissue and connective tissue, which surround the lobules and ducts.
All breasts contain fatty and fibrous tissue. Lobules can also be referred to as glandular tissue. The male breast has ducts but few or no lobes or lobules.
Breast tissue extends from the collarbone to lower ribs, sternum and armpit.
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Being Overweight Or Obese
Women who are overweight after their menopause have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who are not overweight. Men also have an increased risk of breast cancer if they are overweight or obese. For both men and women, the risk increases as more weight is gained.
Body mass index is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out whether you are a healthy weight. For most adults, an ideal is between 18.5 to 24.9. Being overweight means having a BMI of between 25 and 30. Obesity means being very overweight with a BMI of 30 or higher.
Try to keep a healthy weight by being physically active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer in women. The risk increases with each extra unit of alcohol per day. The number of units in a drink depends on the size of the drink, and the volume of alcohol.
The latest UK government guidelines advise drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
When Should I See My Doctor
See your doctor or healthcare professional if you notice symptoms of possible breast cancer, such as a lump, pain, itch, nipple discharge or dimpling, or if you have any concerns about your breast cancer risk.
Your doctor or healthcare professional will assess you and work out if you need further tests. If required, they can refer you to a local service and provide necessary follow-up care.
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Understanding Your Risk Of Breast Cancer
Several breast cancer risk assessment tools have been developed to help a woman estimate her chance of developing breast cancer. The best studied is the Gail model, which is available on the National Cancer Institutes website at www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool. After you enter some personal and family information, including race/ethnicity, the tool provides you with a 5-year and lifetime estimate of the risk of developing invasive breast cancer. Because it only asks for information about breast cancer in first-degree family members and does not include their ages at diagnosis, the tool works best at estimating risk in women without a strong inherited breast cancer risk. For some women, other ways of determining the risk of breast cancer may work better. For example, women with a strong family history of breast cancer risk should consider talking to a genetic counselor.
It is important to talk with your doctor about how to estimate your personal risk of breast cancer and to discuss risk-reducing or prevention options .
Types Of Breast Lumps That Teens Can Get
The most common type of breast cancer found in teens is secretory adenocarcinoma. This is generally a slow growing, nonaggressive cancer.
Though theres little chance of this type of cancer spreading to other parts of the body, spread to local lymph nodes has been noted in a few cases.
Most breast lumps in teenage girls are fibroadenomas, which are noncancerous. An overgrowth of connective tissue in the breast causes fibroadenomas.
The lump is usually hard and rubbery, and you can move it around with your fingers. Fibroadenomas account for 91 percent of all solid breast masses in girls younger than 19 years old.
Other less common breast lumps in teens include cysts, which are noncancerous fluid-filled sacs.
Banging or injuring breast tissue, possibly during a fall or while playing sports, can also cause lumps.
If you feel anything unusual in your breast, see your doctor. They will ask:
- about your familys medical history
- when you discovered the lump
- if theres nipple discharge
- if the lump hurts
If anything looks or feels suspicious, your doctor will have you undergo an ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to see into your breasts. It can help determine whether a lump is solid, which is an indication of cancer.
If its fluid-filled, that will most likely indicate a cyst. Your doctor may also insert a fine needle into the lump to draw out tissue and test it for cancer.
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