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How You Tell If You Have Breast Cancer

What Are The Parts Of The Breast

How to tell your kids you have breast cancer

A womans breast has three kinds of tissue

  • Fibrous tissue holds the breast tissue in place.
  • Glandular tissue is the part of the breast that makes milk, called the lobes, and the tubes that carry milk to the nipple, called ducts. Together, fibrous and glandular tissue are called fibroglandular tissue.
  • Fatty tissue fills the space between the fibrous tissue, lobes, and ducts. It gives the breasts their size and shape.

Click to see larger diagrams of the front viewimage icon and side viewimage icon of the breast, showing the parts of the breast.

When To Call The Doctor

Sometimes youll have physical side effects from your treatment that may mean you need help from your cancer care team. Learn more about the physical symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment, and when you should get help with them in the Treatments section of our website Talk to you doctor, nurse, or social worker if you have any concerns that seem too much to manage on your own. Also be sure that you know who to call or how to get help outside of normal office hours and on weekends or holidays.

For some people, having cancer and going through the stress it brings can start to make it seem that life isnt worthwhile. Please talk to your doctor or nurse right away if you have thoughts about hurting yourself. Cancer and cancer treatment can be hard to get through, and lots of people need extra help and support.

Talking To Your Younger Children

When sharing the news with children under age 10, keep things as simple as you can:

  • Let them know there is cancer in your body and that doctors will treat it. You can point to the areas of your body or use a doll, or pictures, to communicate with small children.
  • Explain to them that the cancer is not contagious and that they cannot catch it from you.
  • Very young children may have difficulty understanding that the cancer is not their fault or that your treatment is not punishment for something they did. Reassure them that whats happening has nothing to do with anything they did or thought, and let them know that you love them.
  • Tell children how their daily routines may change. For instance, On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Dad will help you get ready for school.
  • Let them know about side effects you may experience, such as hair loss or fatigue. Preparing children ahead of time can reduce any fear or anxiety they may have.
  • Schedule regular time to be together and just have fun, whether its watching a funny movie or playing a game.

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How To Handle The Warning Signs

Having any of these signs or symptoms does not mean you have breast cancer. Cysts, infections and other non-cancerous breast conditions also may cause symptoms.

However, do call your doctor right away if you have symptoms or any time you notice unusual changes in how your breasts look or feel. Dont wait and see if the changes go away. Its important to find out what is causing these changes. If you do have breast cancer, early detection can make treatment easier and more successful.

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Specific Signs Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

This is a rare but aggressive type of cancer that can appear differently to other types.

  • inversion of the nipple
  • swollen lymph nodes in the collarbone or underarm area

Inflammatory breast cancer tends to occur at a younger age than other types of cancer. Doctors sometimes misdiagnose it because it can resemble an infection, trauma, or another problem.

The same warning signs that occur with cancer can also signify other benign conditions. It is therefore important to know how to recognize which signs might indicate the presence of cancer and which do not.

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Delegate Spreading The News

The thought of breaking the news to extended family and friends can feel overwhelming and emotional. If you choose to break the news to your close family, consider appointing one or two family members to spread the news to others.

To make this process easier, consider starting a CaringBridge site. While constant questions about a health journey show that family and friends care, answering them and sharing health news over and over is exhausting. Take this task off of your plate with CaringBridge, an easy-to-use and free online Journal for sharing health messages with loved onesall in one place.

Finding Breast Cancer With Screening

The UK national breast screening programme uses breast x-rays to find breast cancer early before it causes symptoms.

The programme invites women between the ages of 50 and 70 to have a mammogram every 3 years. In England, the screening programme is currently extending the age range from 47 to 73. Women older than this can ask to carry on having screening every 3 years.

Even with the breast screening programme, some breast cancers are first spotted by women themselves. This might be because the woman is too young to have started screening. Or it may be because she stopped having screening when she reached the age of 70. Or it could be that a breast cancer starts to cause symptoms between mammograms. This is known as an interval cancer.

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Second Opinions For Breast Cancer

Detecting breast cancer can be a complicated process, so health professionals always encourage patients to undergo different tests and get a second opinion prior to beginning any treatment to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Breast tumors and other abnormalities aren’t always cancerous, so breast imaging tests, like mammograms and breast MRI’s, examine deep breast tissue and are necessary to properly diagnose cancer. A second opinion can also help patients determine the best path for treatment, as different specialists can provide different insights for treatment options. Patients should keep records of all visits and diagnoses to maintain evidence for a malpractice lawsuit if a misdiagnosis occurs.

How To Tell If Your Cancer Is Back

A Breast Cancer Diagnosis: What you need to know

According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, around one in five breast cancer survivors who have had five years of adjuvant therapy have a recurrence within 10 years of treatment.

Areas of recurrenceA recurrence of breast cancer can happen in the same place that the disease originally occurred or in other places if the cancer has metastasized. Breastcancer.org states that the most common areas for a possible recurrence of breast cancer include:

Local recurrence

  • The breast or place where the breast was previously
  • The chest
  • In or on the bones
  • On or near the lungs
  • The liver
  • The brain

Even though the term “breast cancer” makes it seem like this disease can only take place in the breasts, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. If you had breast cancer previously and have developed cancer in a different area of your body, it is likely to be another growth of the original cancer, not a different kind.

Signs of recurrenceThe first two years after a patient is treated for breast cancer are the most critical time when it comes to cancer recurrence. Your original cancer diagnosis greatly affects the likelihood that the disease will come back. If you experience any of these signs, go to your doctor immediately:

  • A new lump or irregular firmness in the breast
  • Nipple discharge
  • Redness or inflammation of the skin on a previously cancerous breast
  • Nodules on your chest wall
  • Thickening of the skin? on or close to a mastectomy scar

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Signs Of Breast Cancer Recurrence

Despite initial treatment and success, breast cancer can sometimes come back. This is called recurrence. Recurrence happens when a small number of cells escape the initial treatment.

Symptoms of a recurrence in the same place as the first breast cancer are very similar to symptoms of the first breast cancer. They include:

  • a new breast lump
  • redness or swelling of the breast
  • a new thickening near the mastectomy scar

If breast cancer comes back regionally, it means that the cancer has returned to the lymph nodes or near to the original cancer but not exactly the same place. The symptoms may be slightly different.

Symptoms of a regional recurrence may include:

  • lumps in your lymph nodes or near the collarbone
  • chest pain
  • pain or loss of sensation in your arm or shoulder
  • swelling in your arm on the same side as the original breast cancer

If youve had a mastectomy or other surgery related to breast cancer, you might get lumps or bumps caused by scar tissue in the reconstructed breast. This isnt cancer, but you should let your doctor know about them so they can be monitored.

As with any cancer, early detection and treatment are major factors in determining the outcome. Breast cancer is easily treated and usually curable when detected in the earliest of stages.

The best way to fight breast cancer is early detection. Talk with your doctor about when you should start scheduling regular mammograms.

Outlook For Breast Cancer In Men

The outlook for breast cancer in men varies depending on how far it has spread by the time its diagnosed.

It may be possible to cure breast cancer if its found early.

A cure is much less likely if the cancer is found after it has spread beyond the breast. In these cases, treatment can relieve your symptoms and help you live longer.

Speak to your breast care nurse if youd like to know more about the outlook for your cancer.

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Imaging Tests Have Risks And Costs

The biggest risk is that imaging tests expose you to radiation. The effects of radiation add up over your lifetime and can increase your risk of cancer.

Imaging tests can also show a false positive. This means a test shows something unusual, but after more testing, is not a problem. False positives can lead to stress, more tests, and a delay in getting needed treatment.

Imaging tests can also add thousands of dollars to your treatment costs. Not all insurance companies pay for them for early-stage breast cancer.

Causes Of Breast Cancer In Men

How To Know If You Have Breast Cancer Female : Free Vector ...

Some factors that can increase the risk of breast cancer in men include:

  • increasing age

  • family history of breast cancer in first-degree relatives who have had BRCA2 breast cancer or several relatives who have had colon, prostate or ovarian cancer

  • high levels of oestrogen

  • some testicular disorders

  • Klinefelter’s syndrome – a rare condition where men have two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome .

Lifestyle factors that slightly increase the risk of breast cancer in men and women include:

  • drinking alcohol
  • lack of physical activity.

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Men Have Breast Tissue

We tend to think of breasts as a female thing, but men do have some breast tissue in their pectoral area and behind their nipples, Dr. OHea says. They dont have as much estrogen as women so the tissue doesnt develop the way it does in women. But it can develop breast cancer in the same way as female breast cancer, he explains. What people often call man boobs are not breast tissue but rather fatty deposits that accumulate in the chest area. Having larger man boobs does not increase your risk of getting breast cancer, he adds.

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Your Armpit Lymph Nodes Are Swollen

Most people are always looking for bumps in their breasts, but don’t forget to check your lymph nodes for swelling, too. “Many patients who end up diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes have no symptoms in the breast, no changes in the structure of the breast, but they come in for a consult because they feel something under their arm,” says Alvarez. “This may mean that cancer from the breast has traveled to the lymph nodes, and now there is lymph node invasion.”

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What If You Have Early

If you have early-stage breast cancer but no symptoms to suggest the cancer has spread, you should not get an imaging test to look for cancer in other places in your body. The chance that your cancer has spread is very small. Studies show that breast cancer spreads to the liver and bones in fewer than 6 out of 100 people. And this is usually in patients with stage III breast cancer.

Ovarian Ablation Or Suppression

How do you tell your teenager you have cancer?

In women who haven’t experienced the menopause, oestrogen is produced by the ovaries. Ovarian ablation or suppression stops the ovaries working and producing oestrogen.

Ablation can be carried out using surgery or radiotherapy. It stops the ovaries working permanently and means you’ll experience the menopause early.

Ovarian suppression involves using a medication called goserelin, which is a luteinising hormone-releasing hormone agonist . Your periods will stop while you’re taking it, although they should start again once your treatment is complete.

If you’re approaching the menopause , your periods may not start again after you stop taking goserelin.

Goserelin is taken as an injection once a month and can cause menopausal side effects, including:

  • hot flushes and sweats

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What Are Risk Factors For Breast Cancer In Men

A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. Risk factors for a certain type of cancer might include smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. The exact cause of someones cancer may not be known. But risk factors can make it more likely for a person to have cancer.

Things you should know about risk factors for cancer:

  • Risk factors can increase a persons risk, but they do not necessarily cause the disease.

  • Some people with 1 or more risk factors never develop cancer. Other people can develop cancer and have no risk factors.

  • Some risk factors are very well known. But there is ongoing research about risk factors for many types of cancer.

Some risk factors, such as family history, may not be in your control. But others may be things you can change. Knowing the risk factors can help you make choices that might lower your risk. For example, if an unhealthy diet is a risk factor, you may choose to eat healthy foods. If excess weight is a risk factor, your healthcare provider may check your weight or help you lose weight.

Risk factors for breast cancer in men include:

  • Female relatives with breast cancer

  • A breast cancer 2 gene mutation in the family

How To Do A Breast Self

Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling

If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
Breast Self-Exam Step 1
Larger Version

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What About Other Treatments That I Hear About

When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.

Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.

Questions To Ask The Doctor

Taking the edge off Breast Cancer
  • 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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Do You Need Tests For Later

Imaging tests. If your cancer is stage IIIB or IV, you should get an imaging test to look for cancer in other parts of your body. Treatment can depend on how much and where the cancer has spread.

Tumor marker tests. If you have later-stage breast cancer, your doctor may also use blood tests to look at tumor markers. These tests should be done only when it is known that you have advanced cancer.

This report is for you to use when talking with your healthcare provider. It is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment. Use of this report is at your own risk.

09/2012

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