Spotting Cancer Early Matters
Remember, spotting cancer at an early stage means treatment is more likely to be successful.
Its important to listen to your body. If something doesnt look or feel quite right, speak to your doctor dont wait to see if it gets worse. And dont assume unusual changes are down to just getting older, or part of another health condition you may have.
If its not normal for you or wont go away, get it checked out.
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.
What Do Scientists Actually Know About The Cause Of Breast Cancer
Cancer grows when a cells DNA is damaged, but why or how that DNA becomes damaged is still unknown. It could be genetic or environmental, or in most cases, a combination of the two. But most patients will never know exactly what caused their cancer. However, there are certain established risk factors that are associated with breast cancer.
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Why Do People Get Breast Cancer
Any woman can get breast cancer, but these things can make some women more likely to get it:
- Family history: A woman whose mother, sister, aunt, or daughter has had breast cancer is more likely to get it.
- Age: As women get older, they are more at risk for breast cancer. Teens as well as women in their twenties and thirties are less likely to get breast cancer.
- Diet and lifestyle choices: Women who smoke, eat high-fat diets, drink alcohol, and don’t get enough exercise may be more at risk for developing breast cancer.
How To Adjust To The Changes
You may choose to consult with a plastic surgeon before undergoing surgery to discover options available to you. Reconstruction can be done by using either your own breast tissue or silicone or water-filled implants. These procedures are typically performed in tandem with your surgery or afterward.
Prosthetics are an alternative to reconstruction. If you dont want breast reconstruction but still want a breast shape, you may choose to use a prosthesis. A prosthesis is also called a breast form.
A prosthesis can be slipped into your bra or bathing suit to fill the space where your breast was. These breast forms come in many shapes, sizes, and materials to suit your needs.
Beyond reconstruction, you can do some things to help yourself adjust to your new body and manage some of the changes:
Adding various treatments and their associated physical changes to the mix may certainly feel like too much to handle at times. If you have concerns about body image or depression, reach out to your friends, family, and medical care team.
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Can Breast Cancer In Younger Women Be Prevented
For women with a family history that is suggestive of a hereditary predisposition for breast cancer, a referral for genetic counseling may be appropriate. Identifying such genetic conditions will allow for a more personalized discussion on screening and preventive treatment options. For example, screening in BRCA mutation carriers begins at the age of 25.
Measures that all women can take to reduce breast cancer risk include:
- Achieving and maintaining ideal body weight
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Getting regular exercise
That being said, if breast cancer does develop, early detection and prompt treatment can significantly increase a woman’s chances of survival. More than 90% of women whose breast cancer is found in an early stage will survive.
Young women should be counseled on breast awareness and to report any breast changes to their healthcare provider. These changes can include:
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 that worry you, see your doctor right away.
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A Family History Of Breast Cancer
Having someone in your family with breast cancer doesnt automatically mean your own risk is increased. For most people, having a relative with breast cancer does not increase their risk.
However, a small number of women and men have an increased risk of developing breast cancer because they have a significant family history.
How The Disease Affects Aging Americansand What Additional Research Is Still Needed To Improve Care And Outcomes
Breast cancer, like most cancer, is a disease of aging. The median age of a breast cancer diagnosis is 62 and nearly 20 percent of women diagnosed are over the age of 75, according to the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results registry. One 2015 analysis, the most recent available, estimated that as the general population continues to age, invasive breast cancer cases will;double by 2030 in the U.S. Of those new breast cancer cases, women aged 70 to 84 were expected to make up a larger, rising proportion of diagnoses , while women aged 50 to 69 would make up a smaller, declining proportion .
While older adults represent a significant portion of breast cancer patients, there are still few standardized guidelines for how best to treat and screen this population. The first mammography guidelines for survivors of early-stage breast cancer who are over age 75, for example, were only just published in early 2021.
Here, we highlight some of the ways elderly people experience breast cancer differentlyand the importance of further research to improve outcomes.
How breast cancer affects the elderly
Older patients can respond to treatment differently. Chemotherapy, for example, requires a balance of providing the standard of care at recommended doses while monitoring potential toxicities and impact on quality of life. While elderly people with breast cancer are at a greater risk of side effects and treatment-related mortality, undertreatment at any age is linked to poor outcomes.
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Having Certain Benign Breast Conditions
Women diagnosed with certain benign breast conditions may have a higher risk of breast cancer. Some of these conditions are more closely linked to breast cancer risk than others. Doctors often divide benign breast conditions into 3 groups, depending on how they affect this risk.
Non-proliferative lesions: These conditions dont seem to affect breast cancer risk, or if they do, the increase in risk is very small. They include:
- Fibrosis and/or simple cysts
- Mild hyperplasia
- Epithelial-related calcifications
- Other tumors
Mastitis is not a tumor and does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Proliferative lesions without atypia : In these conditions theres excessive growth of cells in the ducts or lobules of the breast, but the cells don’t look very abnormal. These conditions seem to raise a womans risk of breast cancer slightly. They include:
- Usual ductal hyperplasia
- Several papillomas
- Radial scar
Proliferative lesions with atypia: In these conditions, the cells in the ducts or lobules of the breast tissue grow excessively, and some of them no longer look normal. These types of lesions include:
Breast cancer risk is about 4 to 5 times higher than normal in women with these changes. If a woman also has a family history of breast cancer and either hyperplasia or atypical hyperplasia, she has an even higher risk of breast cancer.
For more information, see Non-cancerous Breast Conditions.
Lobular carcinoma in situ
What Is The Prognosis For Men With Breast Cancer
It depends on the kind, stage, and type of breast cancer. In general, when male breast cancer is detected at an early stage, men have a similar chance of recovery as women with breast cancer.
However, breast cancer is often diagnosed in men at a later stage because many may not routinely examine their breasts, arent aware that breast cancer can occur in men, or are embarrassed about having a breast-related complaint, says Dr. Andrejeva-Wright.
Later detection of breast cancer means the cancer is harder to cure and may have spread to other areas of the body, such as the lymph nodes.
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What Will The Doctor Do
Sometimes a doctor will discover a lump in a woman’s breast during a routine examination or a patient might come to the doctor with questions about a lump she found.
In other cases, a mammogram may find a lump in the breast that can’t be felt. A mammogram is a special kind of X-ray of the breast that helps doctors see what’s going on inside. Sometimes, other kinds of pictures, like an MRI, also can be taken.
When a lump is found, the doctor will want to test it. The best way to do this is usually with a biopsy. In a biopsy, a small amount of breast tissue is removed with a needle or during a small operation. Then, the tissue is examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
The biopsy may be benign , which means the lump is not cancer. If the biopsy shows cancer cells, the lump is malignant . If a breast lump does contains cancer cells, the woman, along with her doctor and family, will decide what to do next.
Having Dense Breast Tissue
Breasts are made up of fatty tissue, fibrous tissue, and glandular tissue. Breasts appear denser on a mammogram when they have more glandular and fibrous tissue and less fatty tissue. Women with dense breasts on mammogram have a risk of breast cancer that is about 1 1/2 to 2 times that of women with average breast density. Unfortunately, dense breast tissue can also make it harder to see cancers on mammograms.
A number of factors can affect breast density, such as age, menopausal status, the use of certain drugs , pregnancy, and genetics.
To learn more, see our information on breast density and mammograms.
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Population Based Screening And Age
Currently breast cancer screening programs are running in >26 countries across the world . The introduction of early detection breast cancer screening programs has resulted in increased breast cancer detection rates for all age groups. Numerous studies investigating the benefits of screening programs have demonstrated a reduction in mortality rates, with maximal benefit seen in women aged 5070 years .
Genetics And Breast Cancer Risk
Currently the major genes known to influence breast cancer risk is BRCA1 and BRCA2 . These genes are tumour suppressor genes responsible for DNA damage repair and mutations in these genes result in a significantly increased risk of breast cancer. It is estimated that up 16% of all familial breast cancers are due to mutations in these genes and up to 5% of all breast cancer cases . BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers <70 years old face a 57% and 49% risk of developing breast cancer . Importantly, BRCA mutation carriers frequently tend to develop a more aggressive breast cancer and at a younger age . Screening for BRCA gene mutations in high-risk patients has become a priority and scoring systems such as the Manchester scoring system provides a means to identify which patients need increased surveillance . From scoring systems like this, Genetic testing guidelines have recently been introduced for higher-risk patients .
Family history, breast cancer risk and screening.
Current recommendations for patients with detected BRCA mutations are bilateral mastectomies for carriers , with patients who decline surgery to continue high-risk screening. Additionally, genetic screening for first degree relatives is recommended . The genetic testing of patients can have significant personal ramifications, in addition to the consequences for their families and close relatives. Due to this genetic screening is not routine worldwide, with genetic counseling recommended prior to testing .
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What Is Yale Medicines Approach To Detecting And Treating Breast Cancer In Men
Our radiologists are uniquely qualified to diagnose even the rarest forms of breast cancer, including male breast cancerearly and accurately. Our radiologists who subspecialize in breast imaging are among the most highly skilled leaders in the field. They are nationally and internationally recognized for their skill in diagnosing breast cancer. Additionally, our radiologists conduct research on 3D mammography and dense breast imaging, which is advancing the field of radiology. ;
A man with a breast-related complaint will be scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound within a few days, Dr. Andrejeva-Wright says. If a suspicious mass is seen, then a needle biopsy is scheduled soon after. If a diagnosis of breast cancer is made, our intake specialists coordinate all necessary appointments with the patient as soon as possible, so that treatment can begin quickly.
The Effects Of Breast Cancer On The Body
At first, breast cancer affects the breast area only. You may notice changes in your breasts themselves. Other symptoms arent so obvious until you detect them during a self-exam.
Sometimes your doctor may also see breast cancer tumors on a mammogram or other imaging machine before you notice symptoms.
Like other cancers, breast cancer is broken down into stages. Stage 0 is the earliest stage with the fewest noticeable symptoms. Stage 4 indicates the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
If breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it may cause symptoms in those particular areas, too. Affected areas may include the:
The early effects of breast cancer can depend on the exact type of breast cancer you have.
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Is There A Relationship Between Pregnancy And Breast Cancer Risk
Studies have shown that a womans risk of developing breast cancer is related to her exposure to hormones that are produced by her ovaries . Reproductive factors that increase the duration and/or levels of exposure to ovarian hormones, which stimulate cell growth, have been associated with an increase in breast cancer risk. These factors include early onset of menstruation, late onset of menopause, and factors that may allow breasttissue to be exposed to high levels of hormones for longer periods of time, such as later age at first pregnancy and never having given birth.
Conversely, pregnancy and breastfeeding, which both reduce a womans lifetime number of menstrual cycles, and thus her cumulative exposure to endogenous hormones , are associated with a decrease in breast cancer risk. In addition, pregnancy and breastfeeding have direct effects on breast cells, causing them to differentiate, or mature, so they can produce milk. Some researchers hypothesize that these differentiated cells are more resistant to becoming transformed into cancer cells than cells that have not undergone differentiation .
Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Cannot Change
A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of getting a disease, such as breast cancer. But having a risk factor, or even many, does not mean that you are sure to get the disease.
Some risk factors for breast cancer are things you cannot change, such as getting older or inheriting certain gene changes. These make your risk of breast cancer higher.
For information on other known and possible breast cancer risk factors, see:
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Menstrual And Reproductive History
The menstrual cycle increases levels of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone in the body.
Starting menstrual periods at a younger age or going through menopause at a later age raises the bodys exposure to these hormones, which can increase a persons risk of breast cancer.
Those who start their menstrual period before the age of 12 years and those who go through menopause after the age of 55 years have an increased risk of breast cancer.
Females who have never given birth at full-term and those who had their first full-term pregnancy after the age of 30 years also have a higher risk of breast cancer, according to the NCI.
Atypical Hyperplasia Or Atypia
Either atypical hyperplasia or atypia indicates the growth of abnormal cells in the breast. The diagnosis of atypical hyperplasia can be made from a core biopsy or excisional biopsy, and has been correlated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
The diagnosis of atypia can be made from nipple aspiration, ductal lavage, or fine needle aspiration , and also indicates an increased breast cancer risk. Although these cells are not yet cancerous, they do raise a woman’s risk of eventually developing breast cancer. While biopsies and FNAs are usually reserved for when there is a current indication that a woman might have breast cancer, nipple aspiration and ductal lavage are methods that may help assess a woman’s future risk of breast cancer.
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Types Of Breast Cancer
There are many different types of breast cancer and common ones include ductal carcinoma in situ and invasive carcinoma. Others, like phyllodes tumors and angiosarcoma are less common.
Once a biopsy is done, breast cancer cells are tested for proteins called estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and HER2. The tumor cells are also closely looked at in the lab to find out what grade it is. The specific proteins found and the tumor grade can help decide treatment options.
To learn more about specific types of breast cancer and tests done on the breast cancer cells, see Understanding a Breast Cancer Diagnosis.