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What Causes Breast Cancer After Menopause

Does A Lump In My Breast Mean I Have Breast Cancer

Menopause After Breast Cancer | Dr Charlotte Fleming

While performing breast self-examinations to look for lumps in your breast can help in early cancer detection, lumps dont necessarily mean you have cancer. The main reason self-exams are important is that they help you learn what is normal for you. For many women, having some lumps is normal.

With regular examination, you may notice that your lumps come and go, usually with your menstrual cycle. Although most lumps arent a cause for concern, whenever you find a lump for the first time you should let your doctor know. Some lumps will need to be drained or possibly even removed if they become uncomfortable.

Other changes in your body may signal that your breasts are, or are about to, start growing. Some signs include:

  • the appearance of small, firm lumps under your nipples
  • itchiness around your nipples and chest area
  • tender or soreness in your breasts
  • backaches

Understanding Breast Pain During The Menopause

Alongside hot flushes, mood changes, and sleep issues, breast soreness can be a symptom of perimenopause the transitional period leading up to the menopause, which is when your ovaries lose their reproductive function and you stop getting periods. Perimenopause can last between 4-12 years , and most symptoms experienced during this time are caused by fluctuations in hormone levels.Throughout your reproductive years, breast tenderness can signal that your period is coming or be an early sign of pregnancy. However, the experience of breast pain during menopause is different.Here, we take a look at what happens to your breasts throughout menopause and outline simple ways you can manage pain and reduce any discomfort.

When To See A Doctor

Its important to see your doctor for any new breast or nipple pain. While most cases of breast pain are easily managed, you would not want to delay a diagnosis of breast cancer or a serious non-breast-related cause like a heart condition.

Its true that the risk for breast cancer increases with age and that most cases are diagnosed after age 50. But breast pain is rarely a symptom of cancer, particularly if its your only symptom.

Other warning signs of breast cancer may include:

  • Thickening or lump in your breast or under the arm
  • Pitting of the skin, giving it an orange peel look
  • Nipple discharge
  • Swelling, redness
  • Change in size or shape of your breast

Your doctor can help determine if your breast soreness is hormonal or if another condition might be causing your symptoms.

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Being Overweight After Menopause

You might be carrying extra weight, but its important to know that menopause can also lead to a higher risk of breast cancer.

Before puberty, your ovaries are the main source of estrogen, and body fat only produces small amounts.

But after you go through menopause , many women get their estrogen from body fat cells that produce more than they did before being post-menopausalmeaning an increased chance for developing breast cancer.

Your weight can also affect the types of breast cancer that youre at risk for.

Some research suggests that being overweight before menopause might increase your risk of triple-negative breast cancer, which is less common than hormone receptor-positive breast cancers caused by being overweight after menopause.

Breast Changes During Menopause Are Normal

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Though breast changes might have an impact on your self-esteem, rest assured that it is normal. Almost all menopausal women will notice some breast changes from menopause when they look in the mirror.

The greater cause for concern is the increased risk of cysts, fibroids, and other abnormal growths in the breast tissue. Women can develop abnormal growths at any age, but menopausal women are certainly in a higher risk category. But if you notice a breast lump, dont wait to be offered to screen see your health care provider rule out breast cancer. Breast cancer is most common in women over 50.

You may feel discomfort in one breast or both breasts. Not all women experience breast discomfort in the same way. Breast pain in the postmenopausal years may be coming from the chest wall, arthritis of the spine, or, only rarely, from cancer.

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What Are The Causes Of Early Menopause

Early or premature menopause can happen for two reasons: follicle depletion or follicle dysfunction.

When these occur, eggs dont mature or get released, causing a womans period to stop. These processes are considered normal when they occur later in life. If they occur early, your doctor will likely check for an underlying cause.

Follicle depletion and dysfunction can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • Aging. The risks of early menopause rise after age 35.
  • Family history. Being related to women who have a history of early or premature menopause may raise your risk.
  • Genetic disorders. Having abnormal chromosomes or genes, as occurs in Turner syndrome or Fragile X syndrome.
  • Toxins. Exposure to chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy used to treat cancer can affect onset of menopause.
  • Autoimmune conditions. When the immune system mistakenly attacks the bodys hormone-producing organs, it can sometimes affect the ovaries.
  • Infection. Having certain infections such as the mumps virus.
  • Surgery. Procedures to remove the ovaries or uterus may cause early menopause.

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and your menstrual cycle.

They may also:

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Medicines That Can Help

Ask your doctor if you can try medicines to help. There are a number of drugs that can help women with breast cancer who have hot flushes. Your doctor will fully discuss their possible side effects with you before prescribing them.

Low dose progesterone tablets have been shown to reduce the number of flushes and to make them milder. They might make you feel slightly sick and gain weight.

Some anti depressant drugs such as venlafaxine can help. They can cause side effects, such as feeling sick , a dry mouth, and loss of appetite. Other antidepressants include fluoxetine or paroxetine , but you can’t take them if you are having tamoxifen treatment. These drugs might help to reduce menopausal hot flushes.

A drug called clonidine may reduce hot flushes, but it takes a few weeks to work and may not help some women at all. It can cause constipation, skin problems and drowsiness.

Anti epileptic drugs help some women. One is called gabapentin and the side effects can include diarrhoea, indigestion and nausea. A drug called pregabalin can reduce the number and severity of hot flushes for some women. It can cause side effects, such as dizziness, weight gain, sleepiness, coordination difficulties, trouble concentrating, and blurred or double vision in some women. But these side effects are usually mild.

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What Does Breast Pain Feel Like

Breast pain can feel different from woman to woman. And you wont always necessarily experience the same type of pain. It can vary in type and intensity. Either way it can be extremely unpleasant.

For example you can feel:

  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Stabbing pains

You can get more than one type of pain at the same time or find that the type of pain changes between each episode. Episodes of breast pain can be short or prolonged. Were all different so your experience is unlikely to be the same as mine, or any other womans for that matter, but its just as valid.

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Hormone Replacement Therapy After Breast Cancer

Menopause Symptoms And Breast Cancer Treatment Connection

Many women in the UK take hormone replacement therapy to reduce menopausal symptoms. But doctors don’t recommend taking HRT after breast cancer.

This is because we know that HRT can increase the risk that the breast cancer will come back. It also increases the risk of developing another breast cancer. But some doctors will prescribe HRT, particularly if you are having very severe menopausal symptoms.

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Why Do Your Breasts Hurt When You Go Through The Menopause

In complete menopause, confirmed, there can no longer be breast pain strictly speaking since the breasts react to estrogen, and by definition, there is no more estrogen at menopause nuance the gynecologist. When breast pain occurs after menopause, it is most often projected back pain, intercostal pain, heart or respiratory problem. Most the breast itself may no longer be painful in complete menopause for hormonal reasons, she insists.

Joint Pain And Risk Of Osteoporosis

Joint pain or aching joints are common menopausal symptoms and also a side effect of some breast cancer treatments.

If youre experiencing joint pain, tell your treatment team or GP who may be able to suggest things to help relieve it.

Lower oestrogen levels may harm your bones and cause osteoporosis.

During and after the menopause, bones become less strong and the body is less able to repair any damaged or weakened areas. This can result in pain and as the bones become fragile they can break with little or no force.

Your treatment team may arrange for you to have a DEXA scan to check your bone strength if:

  • Your menopause was brought on by cancer treatment
  • You are starting ovarian suppression
  • You are going to be taking an aromatase inhibitor

A well-balanced diet, regular physical activity, not smoking and limiting alcohol are all important for bone health.

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Are Other Forms Of Hormone Therapy Safe

Although many other versions of hormone therapy exist, none have been put to the test of a long-term randomized trial such as the Womens Health Initiative. While it is possible that some form of hormones or hormone combinations may not increase the risk of breast cancer, the existing evidence suggests otherwise. Until proven otherwise through long-term randomized trials, we believe that women should assume that long-term use of hormone therapy increases breast cancer risk.

During the last several years, newer forms of therapy, called selective estrogen receptor modifiers , have become available. These drugs mimic some of the estrogen’s effects and have been used to treat hormone-sensitive breast cancers. Pharmaceutical companies hope to create a SERM that will help relieve hot flashes and vaginal dryness and prevent osteoporosis, heart disease and Alzheimer’s without increasing the risk of cancer or blood clots.

Thus far, companies have successfully created a SERM that reduces the risk of bone fracture without increasing the short-term risk of breast cancer.

Other Important Risk Factors For Breast Cancer

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Unfortunately, there are also a number of important breast cancer risk factors that women have no control over. Knowing which ones apply to you can help you understand your risk and do what you can to lower it. If you feel youre at high risk, talk to a doctor or other health professional. These can increase a womans breast cancer risk:

  • Older age, especially 60 years or over
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • First menstrual period before age 12
  • Menopause at age 55 or over
  • First childbirth after age 35
  • No children
  • Tall height
  • Dense breasts

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You Have More Power Than You Have Been Told

You have more power over your risk of breast cancer than you think. There are many steps you can take to protect yourself. Each one of them has other positive domino effects for your hormonal balance and overall health:

1. Help with Estrogen Metabolism

If theres one trio of supplements I recommend for preventing breast cancer and promoting overall hormone health, its the combination of DIM, sulforaphane, and calcium d-glucarate. Heres a breakdown of these major estrogen metabolizers.

DIM: Also known as diindolylmethane, DIM is a compound generated when the body breaks down cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. It is best known as a nutrient that supports healthy estrogen metabolism as well as the prevention of hormone-related cancers by its anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic effects. It supports:

  • Phase 1 liver detoxification
  • The breakdown of estrogen into clean estrogens, not the antagonistic dirty ones
  • A healthy balance of testosterone and estrogen by acting as an aromatase inhibitor, blocking some testosterone from converting to estrogen
  • The cells from the damaging effects of oxidation

I personally use and recommend our DIM. The recommended dose is 100 mg to 200 mg per day.

I personally use and recommend our Brocco Power . The recommended dosage is 500 mg a day.

I personally use and recommend our Calcium-D-Glucarate. Recommended dosage of calcium d-glucarate ranges from 150 mg to 300 mg per day, taken with meals.

For Breast Protection:

Natural Decline Of Estrogen

One of the main causes of aging changes in the breasts is a natural decline of the female reproductive hormone estrogen. This reduced amount of estrogen causes the skin and connective tissue of the breast to become less hydrated, making it less elastic.

With less elasticity, the breasts lose firmness and fullness and can develop a stretched and looser appearance. Its not uncommon to change your cup size as you age.

Dense breast tissue is replaced by fatty tissue as the aging process continues.

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What Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider

If youve received a uterine cancer diagnosis, ask your provider:

  • What is the cancers stage?
  • What treatment options will be best for me?
  • Will I need more than one treatment?
  • Are there clinical trials I can take part in?
  • Whats the goal of treatment?
  • What can I expect after treatment?
  • Will cancer come back?
  • Am I at high risk for other cancers?

Top Causes Of Breast Pain During Menopause

Estrogen Post Menopause Prevents Breast Cancer

As with most physical changes and menopause symptoms, breast pain is linked to changing hormone levels in a womans body.

When estrogen and progesterone levels begin to fluctuate and then decline, this can give rise to a number of symptoms that may feel strange or downright scary at first.

But sore breasts in and of themselves are not a cause for alarm.

As hormone levels become increasingly erratic, this can also cause the breasts themselves to change in shape or size. This is due to changing tissue composition, according to WebMD.

Once the milk-producing gland system is no longer needed, it shuts down and decreases in size as well as in density. This can cause breasts to sag itself a potential cause for soreness and change in shape or size.

Another common reason for breast tenderness during perimenopause is the formation of fluid-filled cysts or benign lumps. Here again, changes to tissue composition as well as fluid retention are often responsible for these changes and are linked to hormonal fluctuations.

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Breast Cancer And Hormone Replacement Therapy

Menopause can trigger unpleasant side effects such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness. Hormone replacement therapy eases the symptoms by boosting sex hormone levels. It also reduces the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.

Since some breast cancers depend on oestrogen, women taking HRT for a long time have a 0.3-fold increased risk. Women who undergo HRT for shorter periods have the same risk of breast cancer as women who have not used HRT. The health benefits of HRT in women in early post-menopause may outweigh the risks in many cases.

Current Testing Practices Supported

Currently, testing for endometrial cancer in women experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding consists of transvaginal ultrasound imaging, biopsy, or both.

Although people tend to think of biopsies as invasive and frightening, an endometrial biopsy is a simple procedure similar to a Pap smear, Dr. Chu explained. Like a Pap smear, it can be done in the doctors office and doesnt require anesthesia.

In their study, the researchers ran simulations in which they estimated how many women with postmenopausal bleeding would need to undergo additional testing to detect one case of endometrial cancer, based on varied levels of risk and different testing strategies. Assuming a 10% risk of endometrial cancer and that women underwent subsequent testing with ultrasound, they estimated that 7 women would need to have a biopsy to find 1 cancer.

Before sending a woman for testing, doctors should ask themselves: If she has postmenopausal bleeding, how high is her risk of cancer?” explained Dr. Wentzensen. “Our estimate of 10% supports the current practice of further evaluating these women.”

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Taking Charge: Who Gets Breast Cancer

There are no rules about who gets this disease. The two most significant risk factors are being a woman, and increasing age. However, there are other factors that may increase your risk, and some that may lower it.

The development of breast cancer may be influenced by factors that affect the levels of female hormones that circulate in your body throughout life. These factors include the age when you began your menstrual period, the number of times you have been pregnant, your age at first pregnancy, whether you have breastfed your children, and your level of physical activity.

Can A Benign Cyst Be Detected In Postmenopausal Women

8 Reasons for Breast Pain and Tenderness

The postmenopausal involution makes the breast much easier to examine, both clinically and roentgenographically so that diagnosis of benign disorders can be made with reasonable confidence. Cysts can be safely aspirated because cystic carcinomas which do occur in this age group can be fairly easily recognized by gross clinical features.

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What Does The Endometrium Do

The endometrium is the inner layer of the uterus. It changes during the menstrual cycle.

A hormone called estrogen causes the endometrium to thicken in case of pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the body produces less estrogen and more progesterone, a different hormone. When that happens, the endometrial lining sheds. Thats when periods take place.

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