Signs That Warrant An Immediate Trip To A Doctor
Some common cancer signs that should result in a visit to the emergency room or to a doctor as soon as possible include:
- coughing up mucus tinged with blood
- blood in stools or urine
- lump in the breast, testicles, under the arm, or anywhere that it didnt exist before
- unexplained but noticeable weight loss
- severe unexplained pain in the head, neck, chest, abdomen, or pelvis
These and other signs and symptoms will be evaluated. Screenings, such as blood and urine tests and imaging tests, will be used if your doctor thinks its appropriate.
These tests are done both to help make a diagnosis as well as rule out various causes of your signs and symptoms.
When seeing a doctor, be prepared to share the following information:
- your personal medical history, including all symptoms you have experienced, as well as when they began
- family history of cancer or other chronic conditions
- list of all medications and supplements you take
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.
Breast Cancer And Your Sexuality
Having breast cancer and its treatment can affect the way you feel about your body, who you are, your relationships, the way you express yourself sexually and your sexual feelings . These changes can be very upsetting.
Your medical team should discuss these issues with you before and during your treatment. If you feel you would like to discuss things further, ask your doctor for a referral to a counsellor or speak to a cancer nurse on the Cancer Council Information and Support Service . The Cancer Council Victoria booklet called Sexuality, intimacy and cancer may also be helpful to read.
Cancer Council Victoria also provides cancer patients with a psychosexual counselling service, for those with concerns about body image, intimacy, sexual confidence or relationships after cancer. The free sessions are held with an experienced medical practitioner with a speciality in psychosexual oncology.
You May Like: Can Breast Cancer Cause Fatigue
What Are The Signs Of Breast Cancer
A woman who has breast cancer may have no problems, or she may find a painless lump in her breast. If women examine their breasts monthly, they can help find lumps or other changes that a doctor should examine.
Most breast lumps are not cancer, but all lumps should be checked out by a doctor to be sure. Breast lumps that are not cancer may be scar tissue or cysts or they can be due to normal breast changes associated with hormone changes or aging.
Girls who are beginning puberty might notice a lump underneath the nipple when their breasts start developing. Usually, this is a normal. You can ask a parent or your doctor about it to be sure.
Myth #: Metastatic Breast Cancer Is Curable
Whether metastatic breast cancer is someones first diagnosis or a recurrence after treatment for earlier-stage breast cancer, it cant be cured. However, treatments can keep it under control, often for months at a time. People with MBC report fielding questions from family and friends such as, When will you finish your treatments? or Wont you be glad when youre done with all of this? The reality is they will be in treatment for the rest of their lives.
A typical pattern is to take a treatment regimen as long as it keeps the cancer under control and the side effects are tolerable. If it stops working, a patient can switch to another option. There may be periods of time when the cancer is well-controlled and a person can take a break. But people with MBC need to be in treatment for the rest of their lives.
As Breastcancer.org Community member Vlnprh of Wisconsin comments: The vast majority of people have no idea what MBC treatment involves. They somehow think that you will undergo something similar to early-stage patients surgery, radiation, chemo, whatever and then be done. They want to see you as a pink-tutu-wearing cheerleader jumping up and down declaring that you have beaten this disease
Amarantha of France writes: The one I get over and over is, How long will you be on this chemo? I mean doesn’t it end sometime? Yes, it ends when it stops working and then we go on to another treatment lather, rinse, repeat I guess until we run out of options.
Recommended Reading: Is Breast Cancer Surgery Dangerous
What Causes Breast Cancer
Many different things can affect your chances of getting breast cancer.
Theres no single cause. It results from a combination of the way we live our lives, our genes and our environment.
We cant predict who will get breast cancer. And we cant confidently say what might have caused someones breast cancer.
There are, however, some things you can do to lower your chances of getting it.
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
Recommended Reading: Does Breast Augmentation Cause Cancer
Who Should Have A Regular Screening Mammogram
The biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. BreastScreen Australia targets women aged 50 to 74, as 75% of all breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50.
- Screening mammograms are often less reliable for women under 40 years of age. The density of breast tissue in younger women often makes it difficult to detect cancers on mammograms.
- All women aged 40 to 49 years who have no breast symptoms also have free access to the BreastScreen Australia program should they choose to a have a screening mammogram.
- All women aged 50 to 74 years are encouraged to have a free mammogram every two years through BreastScreen Australia.
- Women aged 75 and over who have no breast symptoms also have free access to the BreastScreen Australia program. They should discuss whether to have a mammogram with their doctor.
Your Breast Looks Like It Has Been Bruised
If your breast is starting to have a bruised appearance with no other reason for the discoloration, the Mayo Clinic says it could be a sign of inflammatory breast cancersomething that can easily be confused with an infection. And for things you can do to improve your overall well-being, check out 100 Easy Ways to Be a Healthier Woman.
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 Investigations Are Necessary For Staging Breast Cancer
Breast cancer staging almost always involves a bone scan, as breast cancer is highly prone to metastasize to the bones.
During this test, medics inject a small amount of a radioactive substance into the bloodstream, where it eventually collects in the bones. A radiation scanner is then able to detect accumulations of tracer substance in the bones.
If breast cancer spreads beyond the breast, 25% of the time it goes into bones first.
Recommended Reading: When Should You Get Checked For Breast Cancer
Relationships With Friends And Family
It’s not always easy to talk about cancer, either for you or your family and friends. You may sense that some people feel awkward around you or avoid you.
Being open about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put them at ease. However, don’t be afraid to tell them that you need some time to yourself, if that’s what you need.
Want to know more?
- Healthtalkonline: How breast cancer affects families
Your Areolas Have Gotten Thicker
You probably have a pretty good idea of how your areolas usually look and feel at this pointthey’ve been on your body for quite some time, after allso if you notice any thickening, it’s something to check out. This can also take place in the breast skin as well, says the American Cancer Society.
Also Check: What Is Radiation Treatment For Breast Cancer
Stage Iii Breast Cancer Locally Advanced
A stage 3 breast cancer is sometimes referred to as a locally advanced breast cancer.
Stage III breast cancers are actually a heterogeneous group of cancers but account for about 7% of all initial breast cancer diagnosis.
Basically, a stage III breast cancer is one in which there is:-
- a primary tumor of greater than 5cm in diameter with no apparent metastasis
- OR the tumor is between 2cm and 5cm in diameter with evidence of rather significant metastasis.
Another way of looking at it is that stage III breast cancers either have a large but operable breast tumor . Or sometimes Stage III breast cancers present with a medium-size breast tumor which is more difficult to fully treat and cure with surgery alone.
What Are The Stages Of Breast Cancer
There are two different staging systems for breast cancer. One is called anatomic staging while the other is prognostic staging. The anatomic staging is defined by the areas of the body where the breast cancer is found and helps to define appropriate treatment. The prognostic staging helps medical professionals communicate how likely a patient is to be cured of the cancer assuming that all appropriate treatment is given.
The anatomic staging system is as follows:
Stage 0 breast disease is when the disease is localized to the milk ducts .
Stage I breast cancer is smaller than 2 cm across and hasn’t spread anywhere including no involvement in the lymph nodes.
Stage II breast cancer is one of the following:
- The tumor is less than 2 cm across but has spread to the underarm lymph nodes .
- The tumor is between 2 and 5 cm .
- The tumor is larger than 5 cm and has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm .
Stage III breast cancer is also called “locally advanced breast cancer.” The tumor is any size with cancerous lymph nodes that adhere to one another or to surrounding tissue . Stage IIIB breast cancer is a tumor of any size that has spread to the skin, chest wall, or internal mammary lymph nodes .
Stage IV breast cancer is defined as a tumor, regardless of size, that has spread to areas away from the breast, such as bones, lungs, liver or brain.
You May Like: What Is Genetic Counseling For Breast Cancer
Other Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
Other factors that seem to increase risk include:
- not having children or having children after the age of 30
- early age at first period
- later age of natural menopause
- alcohol intake
- obesity or gaining a lot of weight after menopause
- using the contraceptive pill the risk is higher while taking the pill and for about ten years after stopping use
- using hormone replacement therapy also known as hormone therapy the risk increases the longer you take it, but disappears within about two years of stopping use.
Having some of these risk factors does not mean that you will get breast cancer. Most women with breast cancer have no known risk factors, aside from getting older. More research needs to be done before we can be definite about risk factors.
In men, the main risk factor is abnormal enlargement of the breasts due to drug, chemical or hormone treatments. Men with Klinefelters syndrome can also be at risk. A mans risk increases where there is a family history of male breast cancer or a strong family history of breast cancer.
How Much Do Tamoxifen And Raloxifene Lower The Risk Of Breast Cancer
Multiple studies have shown that both tamoxifen and raloxifene can reduce the risk of developing estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer in healthy postmenopausal women who are at high risk of developing the disease. Tamoxifen lowered the risk by 50 percent. Raloxifene lowered the risk by 38 percent. Overall, the combined results of these studies showed that taking tamoxifen or raloxifene daily for five years reduced the risk of developing breast cancer by at least one-third. In one trial directly comparing tamoxifen with raloxifene, raloxifene was found to be slightly less effective than tamoxifen for preventing breast cancer.
Both tamoxifen and raloxifene have been approved for use to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in women at high risk of the disease. Tamoxifen is approved for use in both premenopausal women and postmenopausal women . Raloxifene is approved for use only in postmenopausal women.
Less common but more serious side effects of tamoxifen and raloxifene include blood clots to the lungs or legs. Other serious side effects of tamoxifen are an increased risk for cataracts and endometrial cancers. Other common, less serious shared side effects of tamoxifen and raloxifene include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
Why Is Breast Cancer Awareness So Important
Every October, you likely see a wealth of information about breast cancer. And that is a good thing. Awareness surrounding breast cancer is incredibly important as early detection, often through screening, can catch the disease when it is most treatable.
According to the American Cancer Society , breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. The average risk of a woman in the U.S. developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 12%, or a 1 in 8 chance. The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 2.6%, or a 1 in 38 chance.
Patients are experiencing better outcomes as a result of early diagnosis, state-of-the-art treatment options, and less extensive surgery, said Catherine Tuite, MD, Section Chief of Breast Radiology and Associate Professor of Diagnostic Imaging at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
Today, there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S., including women still being treated and those who have finished treatment. A heightened awareness of the disease has unquestionably led to a greater number of women being screened for breast cancer, said Tuite. Patients are experiencing better outcomes as a result of early diagnosis, state-of-the-art treatment options and less extensive surgery.