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What Do I Do If I Have Breast Cancer

What Are The Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer

How do I find out if I have breast cancer?
  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle.
  • A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
  • A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast.
  • A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple.
  • A change in the look or feel of the skin on the breast or nipple .
  • Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple.
  • An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
  • A marble-like hardened area under the skin.

These changes may be found when performing monthly breast self-exams. By performing breast self-exams, you can become familiar with the normal monthly changes in your breasts.

Breast self-examination should be performed at the same time each month, three to five days after your menstrual period ends. If you have stopped menstruating, perform the exam on the same day of each month.

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You’re Experiencing Abnormal Tenderness Or Pain

You might experience some tenderness around your period, and that’s totally normal. If you’re experiencing persistent or severe pain, though, and you know it’s not due to your menstrual cycle, the American Cancer Society says it should be checked out. Even though breast cancers don’t normally cause pain and tenderness, it’s still a possibility.

Other Changes In The Breasts

You may see or feel other changes in your breasts.

See a health care provider if you notice any of these warning signs of breast cancer :

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesnt go away

Pain in your breasts may be related to your menstrual period. However, if the pain doesnt go away, dont ignore it. Although pain is rarely a sign of breast cancer, its best to see a health care provider to be sure.

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After My Breast Cancer Surgery Will I Need Radiation Or Chemotherapy Or Both

The stage of breast cancer helps determine which treatment regimen your oncologist will recommend. After breast-sparing surgery, radiation treatments may be used to help destroy remaining breast cancer cells. Radiation therapy is typically given after surgery to lower the chance of a cancer recurrence. Adjuvant breast cancer chemotherapy may be used after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells not killed during surgery.

Understanding A Breast Cancer Diagnosis

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When being diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s important for patients and their loved ones to take time to process the situation above all else. Although time may be of the essence, it’s important that patients enter their treatment journey with a clear head to ensure that every decision is made with their best interest in mind. Coming to terms with a diagnosis is a critical step in the process.

HER2 refers to the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, a gene that can play a role in breast cancer development. The gene controls how breast cells grow, divide, and repair themselves, making overproduction a potential red flag for breast cancer.

Patients and their families should also bring any questions or concerns to a doctor as soon as possible, especially if they relate to treatment options. A doctor should provide information regarding the type of cancer, the HER2 status, and its stage during the first appointment, so patients and families can begin to make a plan to move forward. Patients should feel comfortable asking questions about where the cancer is located, long-term outlook, and next steps. Having these conversations as quickly as possible and implementing a treatment plan will give the patient the best chance of survival, as diagnoses often worsen when left untreated.

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Complementary And Alternative Medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine are medicines and health practices that are not standard cancer treatments. Complementary medicine is used in addition to standard treatments, and alternative medicine is used instead of standard treatments. Meditation, yoga, and supplements like vitamins and herbs are some examples.

Many kinds of complementary and alternative medicine have not been tested scientifically and may not be safe. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before you start any kind of complementary or alternative medicine.

How Far Has My Tumor Spread

Understanding what stage of breast cancer you have is important. Ask your doctor to explain the stage to you and find out where else besides the breast any tumors are located.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the stage of your breast cancer is based on the size of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread to any lymph nodes, and whether the cancer has spread to other areas in the body.

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Who Gets Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women other than skin cancer. Increasing age is the most common risk factor for developing breast cancer, with 66% of breast cancer patients being diagnosed after the age of 55.

In the US, breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer, and it’s the leading cause of cancer death among women ages 35 to 54. Only 5 to 10% of breast cancers occur in women with a clearly defined genetic predisposition for the disease. The majority of breast cancer cases are “sporadic, meaning there is no definitive gene mutation.

Other Types Of Breast Cancer

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Other less common types of breast cancer include invasive lobular breast cancer, which develops in the cells that line the milk-producing lobules, inflammatory breast cancer and Pagets disease of the breast.

Its possible for breast cancer to spread to other parts of the body, usually through the lymph nodes or the bloodstream. If this happens, its known as secondary or metastatic breast cancer.

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What Course Of Treatment Does The Doctor Prescribe

It depends on the stage and the individual characteristics of the tumor. In the early stages, organ-sparing surgery is most often performed, during which only the damaged part of the breast is removed. In Western Europe, this practice and radiation therapy have a positive result in 60-70% of cases.

A mastectomy is performed relatively infrequently, during which the mammary gland is excised. However, the skin and breasts are preserved at this time, so breast reconstruction is possible. In addition, some patients are prescribed radiation therapy. In each of the above cases, the final decision is made by the surgeon, oncologist and radiologist.

In the second stage of cancer, additional treatment may be prescribed to reduce the risk of metastasis. It can be chemotherapy, biological, hormonal or immunotherapy. However, it all depends on the type of tumor.

In the third stage, treatment, in most cases, begins with chemotherapy. Surgical treatment is then performed. At the next stage, radiation or hormone therapy is prescribed. In the fourth stage of metastatic cancer, the main focus is on the complete elimination of the tumor, reducing the progression of the disease and improving the quality of human life.

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 hasn’t 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 isn’t 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.

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Treatments For Breast Cancer

    If you have breast cancer, your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your health and specific information about the cancer. When deciding which treatments to offer for ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma, your healthcare team will consider:

    • the stage
    • if you have reached menopause
    • the hormone receptor status of the cancer
    • the HER2 status of the cancer
    • the risk that the cancer will come back, or recur
    • your overall health

    Dont Put Pressure On Her

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    Theres a lot going on right now: appointments, scans, medications, lots of feelings and fear, probably a chemotherapy-induced menopause, trying to guide her family through this while not really knowing how. So if she doesnt text back, or ignores your calls for a little while, let it slide and keep on trying. Shes probably overwhelmed but is reading your texts and listening to your voicemails and really appreciates them. If you gift her a book, for example , dont expect her to read it. I remember feeling so bad when a friend asked me multiple times about a book she gifted me that I hadnt read. Basically, just cut her lots of slack and dont expect much from her right now.

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    What Is My Her2 Status

    HER2 is another type of growth signal receptor which may be present on your breast cancer cells. About 25% of breast cancers are HER2-positive. HER2-positive cancers are a mix of good and bad news.

    The bad news is the tumors tend to grow more aggressively than those without the HER2 receptor. The good news is that like ER/PR-positive cancers, medicines can switch the HER2 growth receptor off.

    New drugs such as trastuzumab, pertuzumab, T-DM1 and lapatinib are extremely effective at this and have dramatically improved the prognosis for HER2-positive patients, Dr. Abraham says. Treatment outcomes are now as good as those with HER2-negative tumors.

    But HER2-positive tumors bigger than half a centimeter or that have spread into the lymph nodes may require treatment with chemotherapy and one of the medicines specifically targeting the HER2 receptor, such as trastuzumab.

    Causes Of Breast Cancer

    Doctors do not know the exact causes of breast cancer. But there are risk factors that can increase your chance of developing it.

    Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will get breast cancer. Also, having no risk factors does not mean you will not develop it.

    Breast cancer is likely to be caused by a combination of different risk factors, rather than just one.

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    I Found A Lump In My Breast What Should I Do

    Maybe it happened in the shower. Or during an intimate moment with your partner. You could have been putting on lotion before bed. And there it isa breast lump. Finding one is understandably anxiety-provoking for women.

    But before you jump to conclusions, stop and breathe.

    Although the most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump or mass, many breast lumps are either benign or a symptom of a condition unrelated to cancer. So how do you tell the difference, and will it disappear on its own?

    David Eddleman, MD, medical director of breast surgery at REX Breast Care Specialists, explains what to do if you find a lump.

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    Establishing A Breast Cancer Healthcare Team

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    Patients should form a care team to ensure complete care is provided upon receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. Whether it is through emotional support or medical procedures, establishing a team that can help a patient’s treatment and recovery journey from all angles is essential in the process. Members of this team can include:

    • Primary care doctor
    • Plastic surgeon
    • Patient navigator

    This team of individuals can provide quality care, whether it be through counseling or medical procedures, along with the comfort that patients will need during a critical time in their lives. If a patient must undergo a double mastectomy to prevent the cancer from spreading, post-cancer treatment such as breast reconstruction surgery may be necessary and may require another doctor and specialist. Depending on the severity of the prognosis, a team of palliative care or spiritual support providers may be needed throughout the process to help support both patients and their families.

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    How Do I Avoid A Misdiagnosis

    Patients should always stay informed about their health and know what age-based screening tests are required, as well as what screenings they should have based on various risk factors. It is also important to be direct with your doctor and communicate any symptoms you may have that could be a sign of breast cancer, and make sure your concerns are taken seriously and addressed.

    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.

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    What If I Dont Want Cancer Treatment

    No treatment is without some sort of risk. A decision to decline treatment has its own risks, too. Breast cancer patients may refuse their doctors treatment recommendations in whole or in part. Palliative care, designed to help control severe side effects such as pain, nausea or other symptoms, may help you manage your quality of life in the meantime.

    Which Surgical Option Do You Recommend Why

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    To determine which surgical approach may address your needs and treatment goals, your surgical oncologist may rely on information from the radiologist, who reads imaging tests the pathologist, who interprets the biopsy results the radiation oncologist, who works with the surgeon to plan radiation treatment either during or immediately after surgery and the medical oncologist, to predict how preoperative drug treatment may help reduce the size of the tumor. Depending on the biology and genetics of the tumor, your care team may recommend chemotherapy before or after surgery.

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    You’re Experiencing Abnormal Discharge

    While nipple discharge from breast milk is totally normal, if you’re noticing discharge that’s clear or bloody, that’s something you should get checked out since it could be a sign of breast cancer, says the National Breast Cancer Foundation. If you have discharge that’s milky, it could be something else, like hormonal changes or certain medication use.

    Questions To Ask The Doctor

    • Do you know the stage of the cancer?
    • If not, how and when will you find out the stage of the cancer?
    • Would you explain to me what the stage means in my case?
    • Based on the stage of the cancer, how long do you think Ill live?
    • Do you know if my cancer has any of these proteins: estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, or the HER2 protein?
    • What does it mean if my cancer has any of these proteins?
    • What will happen next?

    There are many ways to treat breast cancer.

    Surgery and radiation are used to treat cancer in a specific part of the body . They do not affect the rest of the body.

    Chemotherapy, hormone treatment, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy drugs go through the whole body. They can reach cancer cells almost anywhere in the body.

    Doctors often use more than one treatment for breast cancer. The treatment plan thats best for you will depend on:

    • The cancer’s stage and grade
    • If the cancer has specific proteins, like the HER2 protein or hormone receptors
    • The chance that a type of treatment will cure the cancer or help in some way
    • Your age
    • Other health problems you have
    • Your feelings about the treatment and the side effects that come with it

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