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How Long Can You Have Breast Cancer Without Knowing

What Causes Inflammatory Breast Cancer

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Inflammatory breast cancer develops when cancer cells block lymph vessels. These tubes, which are hollow, allow lymph fluid to drain out of the breast.

In most cases of IBC, cancer cells spread outward from lymph vessels. When cancer metastasizes, it affects the skin and other organs and is more difficult to treat.

Treatment Of Breast Cancer In Cats

The first stage of treatment requires surgical removal. Whilst its theoretically possible to remove just the lump, if its small, the malignancy of breast cancer in cats means that vets normally recommend a mastectomy- removal of the breasts.

This can be removal of a single breast with the lump in it, removal of all of the breasts on one side or removal of all the mammary tissue . A strip mastectomy is the most common route, balancing the difficulty of the surgery and recovery time with the biggest benefits for the cat.

Unfortunately, even with all the breast tissue and associated lymph nodes removed, the cancer is usually still present. Microscopic cancer cells are often already in the lymphatic system or blood vessels, and its impossible to remove them all. Therefore, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may also be required.

Your veterinarian will likely consult with a veterinary oncologist to find the best option for your cat. The type of chemotherapy depends on the tumor and the patient, but doxorubicin is a common chemotherapeutic drug choice for mammary cancer in cats. The sooner this chemotherapy is started, the better the prognosis.

How Can You Detect Ovarian Cancer Early

If you are BRCA positive, you should see a gynecologist and have regular pelvic exams. Its critical to see your healthcare provider regularly.

If you are symptomatic or at increased risk for ovarian cancer, there are some tests that your healthcare provider may order:

  • The CA-125 blood test looks for blood protein that increases in people with cancer. If it is elevated, dont worry it is not specific for ovarian cancer. It can grow with other conditions like endometriosis, pregnancy, fibroids, pancreatitis, ovarian cysts, liver cirrhosis and your menses.
  • A transvaginal ultrasound is a pelvic ultrasound where an oblong probe is inserted into your vagina to examine your ovaries and surrounding tissue. A TVUS is the first-line of imaging for possible pelvic issues.
  • Other imaging options may include computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.

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Treatment Of Stage Iii Breast Cancers

Sometimes large breast cancers invade into muscles or attach to major arteries, veins or nerve trunks, which makes them impossible to surgically remove completely.

So, for these patients, the treatment usually starts with radiation or chemo to try to shrink it first, before surgery. But even a large tumor that has not attached itself onto muscle can, sometimes, be completely removed. There is no direct relationship between tumor size and whether or not it may be treated surgically or not.

Obviously, Stage 3 breast cancers that surgeons can completely remove do tend to have a significantly better prognosis than inoperable stage 3 breast cancers. However, some breast tumors, particularly those that are ER-positive, respond very well to chemotherapy. So well, in fact, that they actually downstage.

So, it is difficult to predict the overall prognosis for stage 3 breast cancer, as it will vary from individual to individual. If the response to chemotherapy is favorable, the overall survival rate is around 72%.

Some Cancers Cause No Symptoms At All

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Sometimes, people with cancer dont experience any signs or symptoms at all. Others only have issues when the cancer has spread throughout their body.

For instance, ovarian cancer usually doesnt cause any noticeable problems until it spreads to other organs. By the time this cancer causes signs or symptoms, its usually very advanced and difficult to cure.

Its possible to spot cancers before you have any symptoms. Checkups and screening tests may be able to detect certain cancers in your body before they start affecting you.

Ask your doctor if you should have any special tests. If you have a family history of a certain cancer or have been exposed to specific risk factors, your physician may perform more aggressive testing.

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Symptoms Of Mammary Cancer

Breast cancer in cats is usually first characterized by lumps or nodules in the breast tissue. After the cancer has progressed more, you may notice additional symptoms.

The first sign of mammary cancer in cats is lumps or nodules in the breast tissue. You might be stroking your cat or watching them roll around on the floor, and notice a lump on their underside.

Often these lumps feel like peas or marbles under the skin, but they arent always as neat as this and can be varying shapes and textures. The lump may ulcerate, leading to blood, wounds or discharge from the undercarriage. The nipples may also swell and discharge.

Depending on how far the breast cancer has progressed you may notice pain, fever, and inappetence. If the tumor has spread to the chest, you may notice a cough.

Never Ignore A Change In Your Breast

When it comes to signs of breast cancer, its all about noticing changes . The three most common signs are:

  • A change in the look or feel of the breast
  • A change in the look or feel of the nipple
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly

In most cases, changes you or your partner notice are not cancer. But its always worth getting checked out anyway. In cases when a change in your breast is a sign of cancer, the sooner the cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better your chance of survival.

Here are some questions to help you know what changes to look for.

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Who Is At Risk For Ovarian Cancer

  • Age: Risk increases for women over age 50, but most cases are diagnosed at age 65 or above.
  • Obesity: Increases lifetime risk for ovarian cancer by about 2%.
  • Use of talcum powder in the genital area: Increases lifetime risk by about 0.5%.
  • Endometriosis: Causes cell changes throughout the reproductive organs and slightly increases the risk for ovarian cancer.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: 5 years of HRT results in 1 additional ovarian cancer diagnosis per 1,000 HRT users.
  • Smoking: Increases the risk of ovarian cancer by approximately 3%.
  • Diabetes: Increases your risk of developing ovarian cancer by 20%-25%.

What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

Understanding 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.

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Testing For Proteins And Genes

The breast cancer cells will be tested for certain proteins called estrogen and progesterone receptors. If the cancer has these proteins, it’s called a hormone receptor positive breast cancer. The cells are also tested to see if the cancer makes too much of the HER2 protein. If it does, it’s called a HER2-positive cancer. These cancers are sometimes easier to treat. If the cancer doesn’t test positive for any of these proteins, it’s called a triple-negative breast cancer.

The cells might also be tested for certain genes, which can help decide if chemo might be helpful and how likely it is that the cancer will come back. Ask your doctor to explain the tests they plan to do, and what the results might mean.

The Breast Cancer Centers At Ctca

At each of our CTCA Breast Cancer Centers, located in our hospitals in Atlanta, Chicago and Phoenix, our cancer care experts are devoted to a single mission: treating breast cancer patients with compassion and precision.

Each patients care team is led by a medical oncologist and may also include a breast surgeon, radiation oncologist, radiologist, pathologist and a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Our pathologists and oncologists are experienced and trained in tools designed to diagnose, stage and treat the many types of breast cancer, from early-stage ductal carcinoma in situ to complex diseases such as triple-negative breast cancer and IBC. Genetic counseling and genetic testing are also available for qualifying patients.

Our patient-centered care model is designed to help you keep strong during treatment. Your multidisciplinary care team may recommend various evidence-informed supportive care services, including:

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Getting A Breast Biopsy

In a breast biopsy, the doctor takes out small pieces of breast tissue to check them for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if you have breast cancer.

There are many types of biopsies. Ask your doctor what kind you will need. Each type has risks and benefits. The choice of which type to use depends on your own case.

Sometimes, surgery is needed to take out all or part of the lump to find out if its cancer. This is often done in a hospital using local anesthesia . You might also be given medicine to make you sleepy.

How Does The Doctor Know I Have Breast Cancer

Breast cancer

A change seen on your mammogram may be the first sign of breast cancer. Or you may have found a lump or other change in your breast.

The doctor will ask you questions about your health and will do a physical exam. A breast exam is done to look for changes in the nipples or the skin of your breasts. The doctor will also check the lymph nodes under your arm and above your collarbone. Swollen or hard lymph nodes might mean breast cancer has spread there.

If signs are pointing to breast cancer, more tests will be done. Here are some of the tests you may need:

Mammogram: This is an x-ray of the breast. Mammograms are mostly used to find breast cancer early. But another mammogram might be done to look more closely at the breast problem you might have.

MRI scan: MRIs use radio waves and strong magnets instead of x-rays to make detailed pictures. MRIs can be used to learn more about the size of the cancer and look for other tumors in the breast.

Breast ultrasound: For this test, a small wand is moved around on your skin. It gives off sound waves and picks up the echoes as they bounce off tissues. The echoes are made into a picture that you can see on a computer screen. Ultrasound can help the doctor see if a lump is a fluid-filled cyst , or if it’s a tumor that could be cancer.

Nipple discharge exam: If you have fluid coming from your nipple, some of it may be sent to a lab. There, it will be checked to see if there are cancer cells in it.

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Breast Cancer In Cats Diagnosis

Because most breast cancers in cats are malignant, its important to treat the condition as soon as possible to increase your cats chances of recovery.

If your vet diagnoses your cat with a mammary carcinoma or other type of breast cancer, youll want to start treatment straight away. Most mammary tumors in cats are malignant, and the sooner theyre treated, the better your cats prognosis.

Your vet may recommend blood work and a fine needle aspirate to biopsy the mass. They hope to harvest some cancer cells to send to a laboratory, where they can get a better idea for what type of tumor it is and whether it is cancerous. This can help to guide treatment. Your vet will likely recommend x-rays as well, as this can help to establish how far along the cancer is, and whether metastases have spread to the chest.

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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Ductal Carcinoma In Situ

Microcalcifications can flag the presence of ductal carcinoma in situ . In DCIS, the cells lining the milk ducts have turned cancerous. This means you are at high risk of developing an invasive breast cancer – one that spreads through the breast tissue – if the DCIS isnt treated. The DCIS areas in the breast need to be surgically removed. In most cases DCIS is completely curable. Some increased risk still remains even when the area of DCIS has been removed, so you will need regular care after your treatment.

Bone Weakening And Fracture

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Secondary breast cancer in the bone may mean the affected bones are weakened, which can increase the risk of a fracture.

If a bone has fractured you may need surgery to try to repair the fracture. You may also be given drug treatment to stop this happening in the future. You may have radiotherapy after the surgery.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Symptoms of IBC usually take just 3-6 months to develop. Your symptoms may include:

  • A red or purple color or a rash spread over one-third of the breast
  • Pitting, thickening, or dimpling of skin on the breast, so that it looks like an orange peel, a condition calledpeau dorange
  • Inverted or retracted nipple
  • Pain, swelling, itchiness, burning, or tenderness
  • Sensations of warmth or heaviness within the breast
  • Increase in the size of one breast only
  • Swollen lymph nodes near the collarbone or under the arm

When Should I Call My Doctor If I Am Concerned About Inflammatory Breast Cancer

If you notice any changes to your breast, even if you do not feel a lump, you should contact your doctor immediately. With further testing, your doctor can determine whether IBC may be a concern.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/27/2018.


  • American Cancer Society. Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Accessed 11/1/2018.
  • Breastcancer.org. Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Accessed 11/1/2018.
  • The IBC Network Foundation. What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer? Accessed 11/1/2018.
  • National Breast Cancer Foundation. Inflammatory Breast Cancer . Accessed 11/1/2018.
  • National Cancer Institute. Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Accessed 11/1/2018.

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‘it Felt Like There Was A Marble In My Breast’

I had fibrous breasts, so even on a good day, my breasts felt like a bag of frozen peas. I had been receiving Bright Pinks Breast Health reminder texts to check my breasts, so I was pretty familiar with how my breasts felt. However one day I felt a lump in my left breast near my nipple, which seemed to be the size of a marble or gumball. This lump felt different. It was hard, but had a bit of a give to it.

“From the moment I felt the lump, I knew I had breast cancer. I went in that day for an appointment with my gynecologist, who ordered a mammogram for later that afternoon. After that, I had a core needle biopsy, but the tests all came back negative. I never felt relieved or satisfied with that result.

“At a later breast check, I felt the lump had grown, so I insisted my gynecologist help me find a surgeon to remove the lump. It was removed and I was told it was stage 2, aggressive triple negative breast cancer. I also discovered I was BRCA-1 positive, meaning I had the breast cancer gene. I cant stress it enough, listen to your body!

Erin Scheithe, DC Education Ambassador for Bright Pink, Washington, D.C.

Stage Iv Breast Cancers May Be Recurrences Following Initial Treatment

How Long Can You Have Cancer Without Knowing About It?

Up to 5% of initial breast cancer diagnoses are of the most advanced or metastatic stage. However, this number has significantly reduced with the implementation of widespread breast cancer screening programs.

Metastatic breast cancer can appear to be a rapid deterioration of a disease that has been present for some time undetected.

But metastatic breast cancer can also be the result of a recurrence of breast cancer after successful initial treatment. Sometimes the terms local and regional recurrence indicate a return of breast cancer to the original tumor site or elsewhere in the breast or contralateral breast.

If the cancer returns in other areas of the body it is a distant metastasis or distant recurrence.

For more detail on Stage IV survival rates, recurrence rates and treatment please see our new post HERE.

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