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How Does Breast Cancer Affect The Body

What Are The Stages Of Breast Cancer

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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.

Looking For More Of An Introduction

If you would like more of an introduction, explore these related items. Please note that these links will take you to other sections on Cancer.Net:

  • ASCO AnswersFact Sheet: Read a 1-page fact sheet that offers an introduction to metastatic breast cancer. This free fact sheet is available as a PDF, so it is easy to print.
  • ASCO AnswersGuide:Get this free 52-page booklet that helps you better understand breast cancer. The booklet is available as a PDF, so it is easy to print.
  • Cancer.Net Patient Education Video: View a short video led by an ASCO expert in metastatic breast cancer that provides basic information and areas of research.

Factors Associated With The Disease And Treatment Process

The reported increase in the cancer survival rate of women has been attributed to the development of breast cancer treatments . The treatment modalities are surgery and hormonal therapy . According to the classification of influencing factors in this study, treatment complications are a shared point between these modalities. Womens subjective perceptions of their bodies during the treatment process had devastating physical and mental influences on women. Treatments, such as bilateral prophylactic mastectomy, had negative impacts on womens sexuality . Chemotherapy played a crucial role in patients increasing concerns about weight loss , hair loss , skin redness , nausea and fatigue , and sexual dysfunction, such as vaginal dryness .

After mastectomy, women can encounter a variety of psychological, sexual, and physical issues because the breast is recognized as a symbol of female identity . Following the loss of this important organ, the femininity of women is lessened . As body image is a description of the body which enables communication with others , mastectomy naturally disturbs patients body image. Studies by Mock and Shimozuma confirm these findings.

In addition, factors such as the duration of diagnosis , surgery , chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and adjuvant treatment , are associated with changes in body image. Surgery type and treatment duration can also weaken or improve body image .

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Coping With Side Effects That Impact Body Image

There are many things you can do to manage the most common side effects of breast cancer treatment that affect your physical appearance. Keep in mind that what works for someone else may not work for you different people may find a sense of empowerment in different ways. Do what makes you comfortable. You may choose to:

  • Use a wig, hat, or scarf to cover hair loss
  • Embrace baldness or other visual side effects of having cancer as a symbol of what you have gone through
  • Have reconstructive surgery to rebuild the breast if mastectomy is part of your treatment
  • Go flat after mastectomy
  • Get a tattoo to make any scars into something meaningful for you

Treatment-related weight gain can also affect body image. If youve gained weight after chemotherapy or other treatments and are having a hard time losing weight, talk with your health care team. A registered dietician can help, too.

Eating well, being active, and getting enough rest are also good for your overall health and sense of well-being.

Using complementary therapies can also help if you are struggling with body image issues after treatment. These practices can reduce stress and improve the quality of your life. Examples include:

  • Guided imagery

Feelings That Can Come Up During Radiation Therapy

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Fatigue is common with radiation therapy and may affect your mood. As treatments continue, fatigue can increase. This fatigue is due to treatment itself, but it can also be related to having to go to radiation therapy appointments every day for several weeks. If you must travel far for treatment, you might feel more tired and drained than you normally would. Just the stress of daily travel and treatment can be exhausting.

Treatment-related fatigue feels very different from regular tiredness. It can come on quickly and exhaust you. Even after a good nights sleep, you may not feel rested.

Radiation therapy may cause changes in the shape, texture, and size of your breast or in the skin, and this can be distressing. Know that your and nurses can offer you treatments to help soothe skin irritation and prevent certain side effects. Treating them early may help you feel better physically and, in turn, emotionally.

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The Impact Of Breast Cancer Treatment On Your Long

The late effects associated with breast cancer treatments. Antonio Wolff, M.D., medical oncologist at the Johns Hopkins Sydney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, encourages a relationship with a primary care doctor who is knowledgeable about these effects on breast cancer survivors and their long-term health care.

These long-term and late side effects may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain and numbness
  • Dental issues

Cancer The Blood And Circulation

This page tells you about the blood and circulation and how cancer may affect them.

There is information about

The blood flows throughout the body. It:

  • carries food and oxygen to all the cells of the body
  • carries away waste products that the body needs to get rid of

Without a blood supply, cells and body tissues die.

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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.

Immune And Excretory System:

Lynette brave battle with not one but two different types of breast cancer

When breast cancer reaches a later stage, it spreads to other lymph nodes as well. Underarms are the primary area that have an effect because these are in close proximity to it. A person may notice tenderness and swelling under the arms. The lymph nodes have an effect because of the lymphatic system. The system is responsible for transferring healthy lump throughout the body, and as a result, it is spread cancer cells to the body as well. In most cases, it affects the lung and liver throughout. The same can be in consideration through a chronic cough or other breathing difficulties.

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What Part Of The Body Does Breast Cancer Usually Affect

Breast cancer usually affects the breast. However, according to Mayo Clinic, while breast cancer starts within some breast cells and spreads to the rest of the breast, it may eventually affect other parts of the body.

Womens Health holds that there are two main types of breast cancer: lobular carcinoma, which begins in the milk-producing glands, and ductal carcinoma, which begins in the milk ducts.

Conditions that increase the risk of getting cancer include being female, having a family history of breast cancer, exposure to radiation, obesity, never having been pregnant, being a first-time mother and more than 35 years old, and having received postmenopausal hormone treatment.

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 Can Psychological Treatment Help Women Adjust

Licensed psychologists and other mental health professionals with experience in breast cancer treatment can help a great deal. Their primary goal is to help women learn how to cope with the physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes associated with cancer as well as with medical treatments that can be painful and traumatic.

For some women, the focus may be on how to explain their illness to their children or how to deal with a partners response. For others, it may be on how to choose the right hospital or medical treatment. For still others, it may be on how to control stress, anxiety, or depression.

Breast cancer patients themselves arent the only ones who can benefit from psychological treatment. Partners can also be suffering. In one study, for example, men whose partners were diagnosed with breast cancer were nearly 40% more likely than other men to be hospitalized for severe depression and other mood disorders.3

Psychologists can help spouses manage the challenge of offering both emotional and practical support while dealing with their own feelings. Children, parents, and friends involved in caretaking can also benefit from psychological interventions.

Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

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Although a lump in the breast is a common symptom of breast cancer, not all breast cancers have obvious symptoms. For example, some lumps may be too small to be felt, but can be detected with a screening mammogram or other tests. There are also some benign conditions that can cause lumps in the breast, such as cysts and fibroadenomas .

Most breast changes are not caused by cancer. However, it is important to see your doctor if you notice any new lumps or other unusual breast changes as soon as possible. Early detection gives the best chance of survival if you are diagnosed with breast cancer.

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What Are The Risk Factors For Breast Cancer

Like many conditions, risk factors for breast cancer fall into the categories of things you can control and things that you cannot control. Risk factors affect your chances of getting a disease, but having a risk factor does not mean that you are guaranteed to get a certain disease.

Controllable risk factors for breast cancer

  • Alcohol consumption. The risk of breast cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. For instance, women who consume two or three alcoholic beverages daily have an approximately 20% higher risk of getting breast cancer than women who do not drink at all.
  • Body weight. Being obese is a risk factor for breast cancer. It is important to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
  • Breast implants. Having silicone breast implants and resulting scar tissue make it harder to distinguish problems on regular mammograms. It is best to have a few more images to improve the examination. There is also a rare cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma that is associated with the implants.
  • Choosing not to breastfeed. Not breastfeeding can raise the risk.
  • Using hormone-based prescriptions. This includes using hormone replacement therapy during menopause for more than five years and taking certain types of birth control pills.

Non-controllable risk factors for breast cancer

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.

Immunotherapyboosts your immune system to help it find and destroy breast cancer cells. Some of these treatments take the brakes off your immune cells so they can attack the cancer.

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Concentration And Memory Problems

After treatment for breast cancer, some women have difficulties concentrating and remembering things. Doctors call this cognitive impairment.

It is also sometimes called chemo brain or chemo fog. But these changes can also happen with other cancer treatments, such as hormonal therapy.

An early menopause may result in similar symptoms, or make them worse.

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Breast Examination After Treatment For Breast Cancer

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After surgery

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

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How Does Uterine Cancer Affect The Body

Uterine cancer develops in the cells that line the uterus. Normally, the uterine lining builds up and sloughs off with each menstrual cycle. Sometimes, however, for reasons that are not yet fully understood, the endometrium does not shed as it should and instead becomes increasingly thicker over time. This precancerous condition is known as endometrial hyperplasia. If the abnormal cells continue to grow rapidly out of control, they may accumulate and form tumors.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms

Metastatic breast cancer symptoms depend on the part of the body to which the cancer has spread and its stage. Sometimes, metastatic disease may not cause any symptoms.

  • If the breast or chest wall is affected, symptoms may include pain, nipple discharge, or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
  • If the bones are affected, symptoms may include pain, fractures, constipation or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
  • If tumors form in the lungs, symptoms may include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, chest wall pain or extreme fatigue.
  • If the liver is affected, symptoms may include nausea, extreme fatigue, increased abdominal girth, swelling of the feet and hands due to fluid collection and yellowing or itchy skin.
  • If breast cancer spreads to the brain or spinal cord and forms tumors, symptoms may include pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with speech, difficulty with movement or seizures.

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