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What Do Breast Cancer Look Like

You Notice Changes That Arent Related To Your Boobs At All

What does breast cancer look like?

Back pain, neck pain, and unexplained weight loss were all listed as other breast cancer symptoms that led women to seek medical care and ultimately get diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the study published in Cancer Epidemiology.

Thats because breast cancer can spread before its caught, causing symptoms in body parts that have nothing to do with your boobs. Its not possible to identify every possible sign of breast cancer so when it comes to early detection, you are your own best weapon, says Dr. Denduluri. Overall, any persistent, noticeable change should be checked by a doctor.

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Areolas And Breast Cancer

Areolas can change in color or size for many reasons, many of which are completely harmless. However, some changes are indicative of breast cancer. Knowing the different causes and expected changes can help you identify irregularities that might signal something more serious.

Every person has very different nipples and areolas, so do not try to compare yours to others as a sign of health or the presence of conditions. Instead, look for these signals:

Sudden Change In Breast Size

IBC can change the appearance of the breasts. This change can occur suddenly. Because this cancer can cause inflammation and swelling, breast enlargement or thickness can occur.

The affected breast may appear noticeably larger than the other breast or feel heavy and hard.

If youve always had symmetrical breasts and you notice a sudden increase or decrease in the size of one breast, speak with your doctor to rule out IBC.

diagnostic criteria for IBC include:

  • breast redness, swelling, dimpling, or warmth that comes on quickly, with or without a detectable lump or mass
  • redness that includes at least a third of the breast
  • symptoms that have lasted for no longer than 6 months
  • confirmation of the presence of cancer cells through a biopsy

Now lets explore the diagnostic methods that can be used for IBC in a little more detail.

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Change In Nipple Appearance

A change in the shape of the nipple is another possible early sign of IBC. Your nipple may become flat or retract inside the breast.

A pinch test can help determine if your nipples are flat or inverted. Place your thumb and index finger around your areola and gently squeeze. A normal nipple moves forward after pinching. A flat nipple doesnt move forward or backward. A pinch causes an inverted nipple to retract into the breast.

Having flat or inverted nipples does not necessarily mean you have IBC. These types of nipples are normal for some women and are no cause for concern. On the other hand, if your nipples change, speak with a doctor immediately.

How Can I Be Sure That My Cancer Will Be Detected Before It Has Spread


While you cant prevent breast cancer altogether, there are certain things you can do to reduce your risk of discovering it at an advanced stage. For example:

  • Get routine mammograms. The American Cancer Society recommends having a baseline mammogram at age 35, and a screening mammogram every year after age 40.
  • Examine your breasts every month after age 20. Youll become familiar with the contours and feel of your breasts and will be more alert to changes.
  • Have your breasts 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 mammograms may not find.

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Breast Cancer: Why Me

The most obvious risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman. Men get the disease, too, but itâs about 100 times more common in women. Other things that make it more likely include being over age 55 or having a close relative who had the disease. Still, up to 80% of women with breast cancer have no family history of the illness.

An Introduction To Guided Imagery For Cancer

Most people are familiar with the idea of meditation, even if theyve never tried it. But if guided visualization is new to you, it may be tough to wrap your head around exactly what it is.

Here is a very general, basic idea of how a guided visualization might go. Our Circle + Bloom programs go into much more detailed imagery and are typically 20 minutes in length. But this can give you an idea of a starting point:

  • Notice how you feel, including the physical discomfort and uncomfortable emotions like fear, anxiety, anger.
  • Accept how you feel right now. Be kind to yourself. No matter how you feel and where you are, it is ok.
  • Imagine the cancer cells in your body. Picture what you think they look like, and where they are in your body.
  • Then picture your immune system and the medical treatments removing the cancer cells. What does this look like to you? Try to focus on a positive imagery, rather than destructive imagery. Imagine the cancer cells dissolving, or shriveling up, or floating away.
  • See your own healthy cells becoming stronger.
  • Picture all of the cancer cells leaving your body forever.
  • See your body healing, stronger, healthy, and thriving.

As you listen, you will learn how to use focused concentration, guided imagery, deep relaxation, and other mindtools to control the reactions and responses of your body.

Dont forget: In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Circle + Blooms guided visualization for cancer program is 25% OFF through the month of October.

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What Clinical Trials Are Available For Women With Inflammatory Breast Cancer

NCI sponsors clinical trials of new treatments for all types of cancer, as well as trials that test better ways to use existing treatments. Participation in clinical trials is an option for many patients with inflammatory breast cancer, and all patients with this disease are encouraged to consider treatment in a clinical trial.

Descriptions of ongoing clinical trials for individuals with inflammatory breast cancer can be accessed by searching NCIs list of cancer clinical trials. NCIs list of cancer clinical trials includes all NCI-supported clinical trials that are taking place across the United States and Canada, including the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD. For information about how to search the list, see Help Finding NCI-Supported Clinical Trials.

People interested in taking part in a clinical trial should talk with their doctor. Information about clinical trials is available from NCIs Cancer Information Service at 18004CANCER and in the NCI booklet Taking Part in Cancer Treatment Research Studies. Additional information about clinical trials is available online.

Selected References
  • Anderson WF, Schairer C, Chen BE, Hance KW, Levine PH. Epidemiology of inflammatory breast cancer . Breast Diseases 2005 22:9-23.

  • Stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer Treatment

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    Cancer thats spread to more distant areas of the body is typically treated using one or a combination of the systemic therapies mentioned above. These include:

    • chemotherapy

    Its unclear exactly what causes IBC. In general, cancer develops due to genetic changes. These can happen due to a variety of factors, such as:

    • genetic changes inherited from your parents
    • irregularities that naturally occur during cell division
    • damage to DNA through environmental exposures

    Sometimes gene mutations that are associated with cell growth and division can occur. When this happens, cells can grow and divide out of control.

    In IBC, cells in the breast ducts or lobules begin to rapidly grow and divide. As cancer cells build up, they block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This leads to the redness, swelling, and dimpling associated with IBC.

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    Breast Cancer Symptoms: What You Need To Know

    Finding breast cancer early usually makes it easier to treat. Along with getting regular screening mammograms, being aware of how your breasts look and feel is an important part of early detection. Some breast cancer signs are detected best by mammogram. Other signs may be more eaily seen as changes in how the breasts look or feel.

    It is important to know that not all changes in the breasts are cancer. Benign breast conditions are much more common than breast cancer. But it is important to let your health care team know about any changes in your breast so they can be looked into.

    Below are some common breast symptoms that should be checked right away.

    How Is It Diagnosed

    There are a variety of tests to diagnose invasive breast cancer. These include:

    • Breast exam: During a breast exam, a healthcare professional will carefully feel your breasts for signs of lumps or other changes.
    • Mammogram: During a mammogram, a device presses your breasts between two plates. X-ray images of the breast tissue are then taken and evaluated for signs of cancer.
    • Imaging tests: A healthcare professional may order additional imaging tests to help them better visualize breast tissue. Some examples include ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging .
    • Biopsy: During a biopsy, a sample of breast tissue is carefully removed and checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
    • Blood tests: Blood tests use a sample your blood to check for various markers of disease or illness.

    If cancer is detected, additional tests can be used to help characterize the cancer and determine its stage. These tests can include things like:

    Treatment for invasive breast cancer depends on the stage of the cancer as well as other factors. Lets examine the most common treatment options.

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    What Are The Types Of Breast Cancer

    The most common types of breast cancer are:

    • Infiltrating ductal carcinoma. This cancer starts in the milk ducts of the breast. It then breaks through the wall of the duct and invades the surrounding tissue in the breast. This is the most common form of breast cancer, accounting for 80% of cases.
    • Ductal carcinoma in situ is ductal carcinoma in its earliest stage, or precancerous . In situ refers to the fact that the cancer hasnât spread beyond its point of origin. In this case, the disease is confined to the milk ducts and has not invaded nearby breast tissue. If untreated, ductal carcinoma in situ may become invasive cancer. It is almost always curable.
    • Infiltrating lobular carcinoma. This cancer begins in the lobules of the breast where breast milk is produced, but has spread to surrounding tissues in the breast. It accounts for 10 to 15% of breast cancers. This cancer can be more difficult to diagnose with mammograms.
    • Lobular carcinoma in situ is a marker for cancer that is only in the lobules of the breast. It isnât a true cancer, but serves as a marker for the increased risk of developing breast cancer later, possibly in both or either breasts. Thus, it is important for women with lobular carcinoma in situ to have regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.

    An Especially Aggressive Form Of Breast Cancer Can Cause The Appearance Of Bruising On The Breasts

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    So how do you tell the difference between the bruise-like area of this kind of cancer and that of a benign bruise from skin trauma?

    This sign tends to happen in a less common and aggressive forms of cancer called inflammatory breast cancer, and the skin change is caused by the tumor cells blocking proper lymphatic drainage in the skin, explains Mylaine Riobe, MD, founder of Riobe Institute of Integrative Medicine.

    Dr. Riobe, board certified in OB/GYN and integrative medicine, is the author of The Answer to Cancer.

    It can also make the skin appear like an orange peel and this is called peau dorange, says Dr. Riobe.

    A bruise from skin trauma follows a predictable course.

    The skin that covers the breasts is no different than the skin that, say, covers your legs.

    A bruise on your breast from an external source will progress and appear the same as bruises on your legs, butt or arm.

    Bruising from External Trauma

    • 7-10 days: yellow

    Normal bruise. Shutterstock/Stephane Bidouze

    It can take about two weeks for a typical bruise to vanish, though big ugly ones from more forceful trauma will take longer but theyll still follow a predictable course.

    Inflammatory breast cancer affects one percent of all BC cases in the U.S. yearly. This means about 2,300 new cases/year, making it a rare disease.

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    Dog Mammary Tumor Removal Recovery

    Dogs with mammary tumors are often treated with surgery, after which your pet may need chemotherapy or palliative care. This can be provided through veterinarian-prescribed medicine and alternative remedies. Most of these treatments are aimed at reducing pain.

    Recommended recovery aids include:

    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs : NSAIDs are commonly prescribed for the treatment of pain and inflammation. They could also reduce the rate at which cancer cells proliferate .
    • Ivermectin: Ivermectin has shown promising results as an anti-cancer agent, reducing the growth of tumors in dogs .
    • Cannabidiol : CBD has shown promise in reducing cancer cell proliferation . CBD can also significantly reduce the pain experienced in dogs with benign or malignant mammary tumors during and after treatment .

    Is A Red Spot On Breast Cancer

    Although red spots or a red rash on the breast are usually symptoms of a noncancerous condition, they can sometimes be an early sign of breast cancer and a person should monitor them closely. Red spots are a typical feature of inflammatory breast cancer or IBC, which is a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer.

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    Invasive Breast Cancer And Staging

    Whether or not invasive cancer cells are present can influence how breast cancer is staged after a diagnosis.

    Breast cancer that remains isolated to the area in which it started and has not spread into healthy breast tissue is called cancer in situ. You may also see this referred to as non-invasive breast cancer or Stage 0 breast cancer.

    When invasive cancer is detected, it can be staged as stage 1 through 4. Many of these stages also have subcategories.

    Several factors are taken into consideration with the TNM staging system thats used for invasive breast cancer. This includes:

    • Tumor : Tumor size and the extent to which it has spread
    • Lymph nodes : Whether or not the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and if so, how many
    • Metastasis : If the cancer has spread to more distant organs and tissues

    Other factors that can impact staging are:

    There are different types of invasive breast cancer. Lets examine some of the most common ones in more detail.

    Who Is Mainly Affected By Breast Cancer

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    Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women, second only to skin cancer. Its most likely to affect women over the age of 50.

    Though rare, men can also develop breast cancer. Approximately 2,600 men develop male breast cancer every year in the United States, making up less than 1% of all cases.

    Transgender women are more likely to develop breast cancer compared to cisgender men. Additionally, transgender men are less likely to develop breast cancer compared to cisgender women.

    What age does breast cancer occur?

    Breast cancer is most often diagnosed in adults over the age of 50, but it can occur at any age.

    What race is most affected by breast cancer?

    Overall, women who are non-Hispanic white have a slightly higher chance of developing breast cancer than women of any other race or ethnicity. Women who are non-Hispanic Black are almost as likely as non-Hispanic white women to develop the disease. Statistically, women who are Asian, Hispanic or Native American are the least likely to develop breast cancer.

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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.

    The Power Of Visualization On Cancer

    In a small study from Oregon Health and Science University in 2002, 25 women with stage one and two breast cancer were led through individual hypnotic-guided imagery sessions. During the sessions, the women were encouraged to imagine certain kinds of protective immune system cells called natural killer cells finding, destroying, and removing cancer cells.

    Researchers measured the womens immune function and emotional state three times: before the program began, after the eight-week program, and three months after the program ended. After combining these results, researchers found that the women had much less depression and higher natural killer cell counts.

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    How Accurate Are Mammograms

    Mammograms are good at finding abnormalities before you can feel them. Early identification means treatment can begin sooner. Breast cancer is easier to treat before it spreads outside the breast.

    However, mammograms can have false-negative results, meaning they miss some cancers. They may also produce false-positive results, which can lead to unnecessary biopsies or other procedures.

    Overall, the accuracy rate is about 87 percent.


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