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What Can Breast Cancer Do To You

The Effects Of Breast Cancer On The Body

Breast Cancer: How to do a Breast Self Exam

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:

  • liver
  • bones
  • brain

The early effects of breast cancer can depend on the exact type of breast cancer you have.

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When A Cure For Breast Cancer Isn’t Possible

If breast cancer has been diagnosed in its later stages, the cancer may have spread to the point where a cure is no longer possible. Treatment then focuses on improving quality of life by relieving the symptoms with medication to relieve pain, nausea and vomiting. The Cancer Council Victoria booklet called Advanced Cancer: Living with Advanced Cancer may be helpful to read.

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What Tumor Factors Threaten My Life More

There are important tumor biology factors not well reflected in survival statistics by breast cancer stage. Below we list a few important factors that carry a higher risk to life beyond just the stage of cancer. You must ask your surgeon or medical oncologist to explain your receptor status and give you a copy of your biopsy pathology report.

Triple Negative Receptor breast cancer

Triple negative breast cancer is considered a more aggressive breast cancer. Invariably it does require chemotherapy. If you have triple negative breast cancer the risk of dying is higher than the standard statistics usually quoted for a particular stage of breast cancer . Learn more about Triple Negative Breast Cancer with our video lesson

HER2-Positive breast cancer

HER2-positive breast cancers are also more aggressive tumors. But the good news is that we now have incredibly effective, targeted chemotherapy and immunotherapy for HER2-positive cancers. Our video lesson covers HER2-Positive Breast Cancer in more detail .

Breast Cancer at a Young Age

Women younger than 40 have a higher chance of being diagnosed with a more advanced stage breast cancer. Also, the specific cancer type younger women develop has a higher chance of being more aggressive . As a result, age is a relative risk factor for survival.

Untreated breast cancer

Teaching everyone to be an expert in their own breast cancer care.

Who Is At Risk

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IBC is more common in females than males, but its possible for males to develop it, too. Research tells us that women from African-Caribbean backgrounds have the highest risk of developing IBC, and having a close family member who has had breast cancer is also associated with increased risk. Obesity is another risk factor for IBC.

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Change In Size Shape Or Feel Of Your Breast

A cancer might cause your breast to look bigger or have a different shape than usual, it might feel different.

Many healthy women find that their breasts feel lumpy and tender just before their period.

It can help to be breast aware. This means getting to know the size, shape and feel of your breasts.

Does A Benign Breast Condition Mean That I Have A Higher Risk Of Getting Breast Cancer

Benign breast conditions rarely increase your risk of breast cancer. Some women have biopsies that show a condition called hyperplasia . This condition increases your risk only slightly.

When the biopsy shows hyperplasia and abnormal cells, which is a condition called atypical hyperplasia, your risk of breast cancer increases somewhat more. Atypical hyperplasia occurs in about 5% of benign breast biopsies.

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Stomach Upset Loss Of Appetite And Weight Loss

Cancer can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Anxiety and lack of sleep can also upset the digestive system.

It can be more difficult to eat a healthy diet as these symptoms occur, setting up a vicious cycle. As women avoid certain foods because of stomach upset, the digestive system may lack the fiber and nutrients it needs to function optimally.

Over time, women may lose their appetite and have difficulty taking in the calories they need. Not eating regularly may cause significant weight loss and nutritional imbalances.

Estrogen Exposure And Breastfeeding


Breastfeeding for over 1 year appears to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Extended exposure to estrogen appears to increase the risk of breast cancer.

This could be due to a person starting their periods earlier or entering menopause at a later than average age. Between these times, estrogen levels are higher.

Breastfeeding, especially for over 1 year, appears to reduce the chance of developing breast cancer. This is possibly due to the drop in estrogen exposure that follows pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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Are There Any Other Questions I Should Ask My Doctor About Breast Cancer

Yes. There are surely other questions you will wish to ask. Do not hesitate to be very open about your concerns with your doctor. There is constantly new information and new research available about breast cancer, whether BRCA-related new treatments or drugs or new treatment regiments and recommendations. The foregoing questions and comments should demonstrate that the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer may not be a simple process. Even when all the information is available, there may be difficulties in deciding a proper course of action. However, this decision-making process has a better chance of success when you and the doctor are well informed and communicating effectively. Although the information here cannot be all-inclusive, we hope it will help you work through this process.

Cancer Specialist Shares What Can Be Learned From First Lady Casey Desantis Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis has breast cancer. Gov. Ron DeSantis shared the news Monday morning.

It comes just days into October, which has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Currently, the first lady has yet to share what stage the cancer is in, but her husband has said, Casey is a true fighter, and she will never, never, never give up.

We know the bulk of women now are diagnosed between age 40 and 50, said Dr. Jane Mendez, chief of surgery at the Miami Cancer Institute.

Casey DeSantis is not alone. The 41-year-old mom of three is now one of the thousands of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

By age 41, 1 out of 217 women, by 45 1 out of 93, by age 50 1 out of 50, Dr. Mendez said.

The chances of getting diagnosed go up as you age.

Eighty-five percent of breast cancers, which is the vast majority, occur sporadically, meaning they dont have it in their family, just happens out of the blue, Dr. Mendez said.

This is why screenings can make a life or death difference. Yearly mammograms for those over 40, but in some cases, for others, breast MRI exams, or even genetic testing for those younger with a history.

Usually any woman diagnosed with breast cancer below age 50 is considered a candidate for genetic testing, Dr. Mendez explained.

When the cancer is caught early, the chances of beating it are higher. Dr. Mendez told CBS4 that 98.5% of patients who detected breast cancer early have a 10-year survival rate.

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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.

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.

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How Do Tamoxifen Raloxifene Anastrozole And Exemestane Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer

If you are at increased risk for developing breast cancer, four medications tamoxifen , raloxifene , anastrozole , and exemestane may help reduce your risk of developing this disease. These medications act only to reduce the risk of a specific type of breast cancer called estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. This type of breast cancer accounts for about two-thirds of all breast cancers.

Tamoxifen and raloxifene are in a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators . These drugs work by blocking the effects of estrogen in breast tissue by attaching to estrogen receptors in breast cells. Because SERMs bind to receptors, estrogen is blocked from binding. Estrogen is the fuel that makes most breast cancer cells grow. Blocking estrogen prevents estrogen from triggering the development of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer.

Anastrozole and exemestane are in a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors . These drugs work by blocking the production of estrogen. Aromatase inhibitors do this by blocking the activity of an enzyme called aromatase, which is needed to make estrogen.

How Can I Protect Myself From Breast Cancer

Follow these three steps for early detection:

  • Get a mammogram. The American Cancer Society recommends having a baseline mammogram at age 35, and a screening mammogram every year after age 40. Mammograms are an important part of your health history. Recently, the US Preventive Services Task Force came out with new recommendations regarding when and how often one should have mammograms. These include starting at age 50 and having them every two years. We do not agree with this, but we are in agreement with the American Cancer Society and have not changed our guidelines, which recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40.
  • Examine your breasts each month after age 20. You will become familiar with the contours and feel of your breasts and will be more alert to changes.
  • Have your breast examined by a healthcare provider at least once every three years after age 20, and every year after age 40. Clinical breast exams can detect lumps that may not be detected by mammogram.

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Research Into Breast Cancer

Early detection and better treatment have improved survival for people with breast cancer. Research for breast cancer is ongoing. The Cancer Research UK website has information about research into breast cancer.

Clinical trials can test the effectiveness of promising new treatments or new ways of combining cancer treatments. Always discuss treatment options with your doctor.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms

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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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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 Quickly Does Breast Cancer Grow

Breast cancer has to divide 30 times before it can be felt. Up to the 28th cell division, neither you nor your doctor can detect it by hand. With most breast cancers, each division takes one to two months, so by the time you can feel a cancerous lump, the cancer has been in your body for two to five years.

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Male Breast Cancer Symptoms Diagnosis And Treatment

Symptoms of breast cancer in men are usually similar to those in women. Most conditions can cause things like a loss of appetite and hair, nausea, and pain. The treatment used to overcome various kinds of breast cancer can also cause side effects.

Most diagnoses of male breast cancer are given after a man finds a lump in their chest. However, many men avoid going to the doctor until they have more severe symptoms, which may indicate the spreading of cancer. The same techniques used to diagnose breast cancer in women are used for men, including physical exams, biopsies, and even mammography.

Once cancer is detected, treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: Typical treatment options for men often include a mastectomy, where the breast tissue is removed. Breast-conserving surgery in which only the affected tumour is removed is also possible.
  • Radiation therapy: Treatment with radioactive rays or particles can help to kill off cancer cells missed by the surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: With chemotherapy, drugs are administered by mouth or injection to attack remaining cancer cells. You may have chemotherapy following surgery to lower the risk of the cancer returning.
  • Hormone therapy: Some forms of cancer may require certain hormones to grow. Hormone therapy blocks the effect of the hormones, which can stop the cancers growth. Hormone therapy often works better in men than women, because 90% of mens cancers are hormone-receptor-positive.

What Causes Breast Cancer

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Many different things can affect your chances of getting breast cancer.

Theres no single cause. It results from a combination of the way we live our lives, our genes and our environment.

We cant predict who will get breast cancer. And we cant confidently say what might have caused someones breast cancer.

There are, however, some things you can do to lower your chances of getting it.

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