Myth : A Breast Lump Is Probably Cancer
Most breast lumps women feel — 8 out of 10 — aren’t cancer. It’s more common for them to be a cyst or a fibroadenoma . Some lumps come and go during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
You can’t tell what it is by how it feels.
“It’s always important to know your own body and detect a change which may need to be evaluated,” says Beth Overmoyer, director of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “If it is cancer, then you may have saved your life.”
Risk Factors You Can Change
- Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
- Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
- Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a womans risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.
Research suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and changes in other hormones due to night shift working also may increase breast cancer risk.
What Are The Symptoms Of Ibc
- Rapid, unusual increase in breast size
- Redness, rash, blotchiness or other skin color changes on the breast
- Persistent itching of breast or nipple
- Lump or thickening of breast tissue
- Stabbing pain and/or soreness of breast
- Feverish breast
- Swelling of lymph nodes under the arm or above the collarbone
- Dimpling or ridging of breast
- Flattening or retraction of nipple
- Nipple discharge or change in pigmented area around nipple
Although the above symptoms may indicate a benign breast disorder, any change to your breast should be reported to your doctor immediately. In addition, these symptoms may appear quickly and suddenly.
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Checking Yourself For Breast Cancer
Breast self-exams to check for lumps and other changes can help women detect the early signs of cancer.
Even more important than looking for specific changes is knowing how your breasts feel normally. A change in their shape or texture, a new lump, or other significant change could signal a problem, including cancer.
Women should also get regular breast exams from their doctor. Those at high risk of breast cancer may need annual mammograms, although teens almost never fall into this category.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In Children
Breast cancer may cause any of the following signs. Check with your childs doctor if your child has any of the following:
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
- A change in the size or shape of the breast.
- A dimple or puckering in the skin of the breast.
- A nipple turned inward into the breast.
- Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola .
- Dimples in the breast that look like the skin of an orange, called peau dorange.
Other conditions that are not breast cancer may cause these same signs.
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What Is Benign Breast Disease
If you feel a lump in your breast, your first thought may be that you have breast cancer. Fortunately, a majority of breast lumps are benign, meaning theyre not cancerous.
Both women and men can develop benign breast lumps. This condition is known as benign breast disease. While these breast changes arent cancerous or life-threatening, they may increase your risk of developing breast cancer later on.
How Is Breast Cancer Treated
As in women, treatment for breast cancer in men depends on how big the tumor is and how far it has spread. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. For more information, see the National Cancer Institutes Male Breast Cancer Treatment.external icon
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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 hasnât 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 âlocally advanced breast cancer.â 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.
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General Considerations For Screening
The goal of screening for cancer is to detect preclinical disease in healthy, asymptomatic patients to prevent adverse outcomes, improve survival, and avoid the need for more intensive treatments. Screening tests have both benefits and adverse consequences .
Breast self-examination, breast self-awareness, clinical breast examination, and mammography all have been used alone or in combination to screen for breast cancer. In general, more intensive screening detects more disease. Screening intensity can be increased by combining multiple screening methods, extending screening over a wider age range, or repeating the screening test more frequently. However, more frequent use of the same screening test typically is associated with diminishing returns and an increased rate of screening-related harms. Determining the appropriate combination of screening methods, the age to start screening, the age to stop screening, and how frequently to repeat the screening tests require finding the appropriate balance of benefits and harms. Determining this balance can be difficult because some issues, particularly the importance of harms, are subjective and valued differently from patient to patient. This balance can depend on other factors, particularly the characteristics of the screening tests in different populations and at different ages.
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Breasts And Birth Control
Some research has shown that taking hormonal birth controlslightly increases the risk of breast cancer. But once you stop using hormonal birth control, risk levels eventually return to normal.
An analysis of data from more than 150,000 women showed that, overall, women who had ever used oral contraceptives had a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer compared with women who had never used oral contraceptives.
If you use hormonal birth control and youre concerned about your cancer risk, discuss your options with your doctor before stopping your birth control.
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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What Are The Symptoms
The most common symptoms of breast cancer in men are
- A lump or swelling in the breast.
- Redness or flaky skin in the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Nipple discharge.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
These symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer. If you have any symptoms or changes, see your doctor right away.
What Is Breast Cancer In Children
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among females aged 15 to 39 years. Breast cancer in this age group is more aggressive and more difficult to treat than in older women. Treatments for younger and older women are similar. Younger patients with breast cancer may have genetic counseling and testing for familial cancer syndromes. Also, the possible effects of treatment on fertility should be considered.
Most breast tumors in children are fibroadenomas, which are benign . Rarely, these tumors become large phyllodes tumors and begin to grow quickly. If a benign tumor begins to grow quickly, a fine needle aspiration biopsy or an excisional biopsy will be done. The tissues removed during the biopsy will be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.
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What Is A Normal Breast
No breast is typical. What is normal for you may not be normal for another woman. Most women say their breasts feel lumpy or uneven. The way your breasts look and feel can be affected by getting your period, having children, losing or gaining weight, and taking certain medications. Breasts also tend to change as you age. For more information, see the National Cancer Institutes Breast Changes and Conditions.external icon
Risk Factors And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In Men
Colonel Adams is a breast cancer survivor, but it might have been different if not for the urging of his wife and doctor. Male breast cancer often goes undiagnosed until it is more advanced. And because of how rare it is, it is difficult to study.
But we do know several things about men and breast cancer:
- The types of breast cancers found in men are the same as those found in women. Fortunately, this means that the research conducted for female breast cancer also applies to men. There are some differences, though.
- Most male breast cancer is driven by the estrogen hormone. That is also true for women. Men rarely get the HER2-positive type of breast cancer, however.
- The BRCA2 gene is the risk factor most often seen in male breast cancer patients.
- Other risk factors for male breast cancer include aging, genetic mutation, family history of breast cancer, radiation treatments to the chest, hormone therapy with drugs containing estrogen, obesity, liver disease, Klinefelter syndrome, and injury to or surgery of the testicles.
It isnt possible to eliminate all risk factors. Some of these, such as family history or genetic mutations, are completely out of the individuals control. Male breast cancer can be recognized early, however, if more men become aware of the risk and dont hesitate to report their symptoms to a physician.
The symptoms of male breast cancer are similar to the symptoms for women:
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation puts it like this:
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What Are The Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
Being a woman and getting older are the main risk factors for breast cancer.
Studies have shown that your risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors. The main factors that influence your risk include being a woman and getting older. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older.
Some women will get breast cancer even without any other risk factors that they know of. Having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease, and not all risk factors have the same effect. Most women have some risk factors, but most women do not get breast cancer. If you have breast cancer risk factors, talk with your doctor about ways you can lower your risk and about screening for breast cancer.
What Are The Risk Factors
Several factors can increase a mans chance of getting breast cancer. Having risk factors does not mean you will get breast cancer.
- Getting older. The risk for breast cancer increases with age. Most breast cancers are found after age 50.
- Genetic mutations. Inherited changes in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, increase breast cancer risk.
- Family history of breast cancer. A mans risk for breast cancer is higher if a close family member has had breast cancer.
- Radiation therapy treatment. Men who had radiation therapy to the chest have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Hormone therapy treatment. Drugs containing estrogen , which were used to treat prostate cancer in the past, increase mens breast cancer risk.
- Klinefelter syndrome.Klinefelter syndromeexternal icon is a rare genetic condition in which a male has an extra X chromosome. This can lead to the body making higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of androgens .
- Certain conditions that affect the testicles. Injury to, swelling in, or surgery to remove the testicles can increase breast cancer risk.
- Liver disease. Cirrhosis of the liver can lower androgen levels and raise estrogen levels in men, increasing the risk of breast cancer.
- Overweight and obesity. Older men who are overweight or have obesity have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than men at a normal weight.
Talk to your doctor about your familys history of cancer.
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Facts You Should Know About Breast Lumps In Women
- Breast lumps can be caused by infections, injuries, non-cancerous growths, and cancer.
- Breast cancer usually causes no pain in the breast. The symptoms of breast cancer include painless breast lumps, nipple discharge, and inflammation of the skin of the breast.
- The chances that a particular breast lump could be cancerous depends on many factors, including past medical history, physical examination, as well as genetic and other risk factors.
- The only way to be certain that a lump is not cancerous is to have a tissue sampling . There are several ways to do the biopsy. The treatment of a breast lump depends on its cause.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer causes a number of signs and symptoms, most of which develop quickly , including:
- Swelling of the skin of the breast
- Redness involving more than one-third of the breast
- Pitting or thickening of the skin of the breast so that it may look and feel like an orange peel
- A retracted or inverted nipple
- One breast looking larger than the other because of swelling
- One breast feeling warmer and heavier than the other
- A breast that may be tender, painful or itchy
- Swelling of the lymph nodes under the arms or near the collarbone
If you have any of these symptoms, it does not mean that you have IBC, but you should see a doctor right away. Tenderness, redness, warmth, and itching are also common symptoms of a breast infection or inflammation, such as mastitis if youre pregnant or breastfeeding. Because these problems are much more common than IBC, your doctor might suspect infection at first as a cause and treat you with antibiotics.
Treatment with antibiotics may be a good first step, but if your symptoms dont get better in 7 to 10 days, more tests need to be done to look for cancer. Let your doctor know if it doesnât help, especially if the symptoms get worse or the affected area gets larger. The possibility of IBC should be considered more strongly if you have these symptoms and are not pregnant or breastfeeding, or have been through menopause. Ask to see a specialist if youre concerned.