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What Does Breast Cancer Affect

What Are Lymph Nodes

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Lymph nodes are small, rounded structures of about 1 mm to 25 mm that are found throughout the body.

The lymph nodes form part of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system that protects the body from disease and infection. It contains a network of thin tubes called lymph vessels that are found throughout the body. These lymph vessels transport a clear fluid called lymph between the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes filter the lymph to trap or remove substances harmful to the body, such as bacteria or cancer cells. This helps to protect the body from disease or infection. The lymph then passes back to the blood.

The closest lymph nodes to the breast are those in the armpit, which are known as axillary nodes. The axillary nodes drain lymph from nearby tissues, including the breast.; There are also lymph nodes under the breastbone and in the neck . The number of lymph nodes varies between different people. There are usually about 15-30 lymph nodes in the armpit.

Because the lymph vessels carry lymph away from the breast, in the case of breast cancer, cancer cells can enter the lymph vessels and begin to grow in the lymph nodes. The axillary nodes are often the first place of cancer spread outside the breast. Usually, surgery is used to remove one or more of the axillary nodes to help check for cancer spread. Cancer found in the lymph nodes affects the staging and treatment of breast cancer.

What Is The Average American Womans Risk Of Being Diagnosed With Breast Cancer At Different Ages

Many women are more interested in the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer at specific ages or over specific time periods than in the risk of being diagnosed at some point during their lifetime. Estimates by decade of life are also less affected by changes in incidence and mortality rates than longer-term estimates. The SEER report estimates the risk of developing breast cancer in 10-year age intervals . According to the current report, the risk that a woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer during the next 10 years, starting at the following ages, is as follows:;

  • Age 30 . . . . . . ;0.49%
  • Age 40 . . . . . . ;1.55%
  • Age 50 . . . . . . ;2.40%
  • Age 60 . . . . . . ;3.54%
  • Age 70 . . . . . . ;4.09%

These risks are averages for the whole population. An individual womans breast cancer risk may be higher or lower depending on known factors, as well as on factors that are not yet fully understood. To calculate an individual womans estimated breast cancer risk, health professionals can use the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, which takes into account several known breast cancer risk factors.;

A History Of Breast Cancer Or Breast Lumps

Women who have previously had breast cancer are more likely to have it again than those who have no history of the disease.

Having some types of noncancerous breast lump increases the chance of developing cancer later on. Examples include atypical ductal hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ.

Individuals with a history of breast, ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer

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If Your Breast Cancer Has Spread

Even if your breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body, it does not necessarily mean its not treatable. If the cancer cannot be removed, the goal of treatment is to improve symptoms, improve quality of life and extend survival.

Some women live with breast cancer for several years as they learn to adjust and accept that theyll be on treatment for an indefinite period of time, explains Dr. Roesch. Your cancer team will help you learn and cope with what you can expect on this journey.

Do I Need Genetic Counseling And Testing

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Your doctor may recommend that you see a genetic counselor. Thats someone who talks to you about any history of cancer in your family to find out if you have a higher risk for getting breast cancer. For example, people of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage have a higher risk of inherited genetic changes that may cause breast cancers, including triple-negative breast cancer. The counselor may recommend that you get a genetic test.

If you have a higher risk of getting breast cancer, your doctor may talk about ways to manage your risk. You may also have a higher risk of getting other cancers such as ovarian cancer, and your family may have a higher risk. Thats something you would talk with the genetic counselor about.

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Are There Complications Of Breast Cancer

Possible complications from breast cancer treatment include:

  • Lymphoedema in some cases, removing your lymph nodes may cause swelling, discomfort and pain in the arm, shoulder and upper body.
  • Early menopause certain treatments, especially chemotherapy and hormone therapy, can cause menopause symptoms, such as hot flushes, joint pain, or a change in sex drive, to occur earlier than usual.
  • Anxiety and depression research shows that anxiety and depression are common among women with breast cancer. One study found that up to 50 per cent of women with early breast cancer may experience anxiety and/or depression in the year after diagnosis.

Characteristics Of Breast Cancer Lumps

Breast cancer develops from abnormal and dysregulated growth of cells in the breast, which occurs due to the accumulation of genetic mutations within a small population of cells. These cells become immortal and divide indefinitely, giving rise to a tumor. There are a range of forms of breast cancer, which differ in where they originate and their severity. Often a cancer will present as a breast lump, and the characteristics of the lump help define the type of breast cancer, and guide future treatment strategies.

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I Have Diabetes Will It Complicate My Cancer Treatment

If you are diabetic, your multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists will consult your GP and other members of your diabetes care team to establish the best course of treatment. This will be based on how well controlled your diabetes is and what stage/grade your breast cancer is at.

Active cancer, cancer therapies such as chemotherapy, and the side effects of these treatments can all affect diabetes management, while poorly controlled blood sugar levels can lead to short-term complications which can delay cancer treatment.

How Is Diabetes Linked To Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer has been shown to be more common in women with type 2 diabetes , particularly among older patients who have gone through menopause, with research showing that diabetic women are up to 20% more likely to develop postmenopausal breast cancer than older, non-diabetic women.

A more recent medical study conducted by scientists in California gave more insight as to why breast cancer is more common in people with type 2 diabetes

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Stage Of Breast Cancer

When your breast cancer is diagnosed, the doctors will give it a stage. The stage describes the size of the cancer and how far it has spread.

Ductal carcinoma in situ is sometimes described as Stage 0. Other stages of breast cancer describe invasive breast cancer .

  • Stage 1 the tumour measures less than 2cm and the lymph nodes in the armpit aren’t affected. There are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body.
  • Stage 2 the tumour measures 2-5cm or the lymph nodes in the armpit are affected, or both. There are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body.
  • Stage 3 the tumour measures;2-5cm and may be attached to structures in the breast, such as skin or surrounding tissues. The lymph nodes in the armpit are affected. However, there are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body.
  • Stage 4 the tumour is of any size and the cancer has spread to other parts of the body .

This is a simplified guide. Each stage is divided into further categories: A, B and C. If you’re not sure what stage you have, ask your doctor.

Kinds Of Breast Cancer

The most common kinds of breast cancer are

  • Invasive ductal carcinoma. The cancer cells grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma. Cancer cells spread from the lobules to the breast tissues that are close by. These invasive cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.

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Breast Cancer Can Negatively Impact Mental Health

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you know firsthand that a diagnosis can have long-lasting mental health effects. From anxiety about the future to the stress of treatment, its totally normal to feel a mix of intense emotions after a breast cancer diagnosis.

While normal, this turmoil can cause long-term mental health challenges. Studies show that a majority of people with breast cancer will subsequently develop symptoms of PTSD, and these symptoms tend to last longer than a year. Even after successful treatment, fear of recurrence affects many women and can be so severe it negatively impacts their quality of life.

After a breast cancer diagnosis, a womans relationship with her body might change as well. While life-saving, mastectomies can , impact their relationships to their sexuality, and have a negative effect on overall mental health.

Grade Of Breast Cancer

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The grade describes the appearance of the cancer cells.

  • Low grade the cells, although abnormal, appear to be growing slowly.
  • Medium grade the cells look more abnormal than low-grade cells.
  • High grade the cells look even more abnormal and are more likely to grow quickly.

Want to know more?

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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:

  • liver
  • bones
  • brain

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

What Does A Mammogram Show

A mammogram is a test used to examine the inside of the breasts, using a low dose X-ray. A trained clinician can interpret the images to identify any abnormal areas, masses or calcium deposits that may or may not indicate breast cancer. Mammograms performed on women who have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer are called screening mammograms. Mammograms that used to evaluate an abnormal breast symptom are called diagnostic mammograms.

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Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms

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.

Changing Roles In Relationships

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If you have always been a primary source of support for your family and friendsespecially if you tend to take on a lot of household responsibilities and childcareyou may find that your roles and relationships change during treatment. As you experience emotional and physical changes, you may have to learn how to accept support and care from those around you.

Likewise, if people begin to withdraw, you may wonder why. Some people, though kind, are not equipped to handle the emotions of facing cancer. You might find new friends in a cancer support group or with coworkers and neighbors.

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Invasive Breast Cancer Symptoms

Most breast cancers start in the ducts, or the tubes that carry milk to the nipple, or in the lobules, the little clusters of sacs where breast milk is made. Invasive breast cancer refers to breast cancer that spreads from the original site to other areas of the breast, the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. In these cancers that form in the ducts or lobules, invasive ductal carcinoma ;or invasive lobular carcinoma , the cancer spreads from the ducts or lobules to other tissue. Depending on the stage, you may notice symptoms.

Invasive breast cancer symptoms may include:

  • A lump or mass in the breast
  • Swelling of all or part of the breast, even if no lump is felt
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • A lump or swelling in the underarm lymph nodes

Surgery For Breast Cancer

An operation to remove the cancer, surrounding breast tissue and often, the nearby lymph nodes, is usually the preferred first treatment.

Surgery options include:

  • Breast-conserving surgery a small operation removes the cancer and some of the surrounding tissue, and usually some lymph nodes, leaving the bulk of the breast intact.
  • Mastectomy the entire breast is removed, along with lymph nodes from the armpit. Extra cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy is often unnecessary.
  • Breast reconstruction surgery women who have a mastectomy may choose to have reconstruction surgery . Options include silicone gel or saline-filled implants, or the use of your own muscle and skin to create a breast-like shape. If you dont choose reconstruction, you may use a breast form or prostheses. These are pads that are worn inside your bra. They help to restore balance and are designed to look like a normal breast under clothes.

All surgery has some risks. Possible side effects of breast surgery include infection, bleeding, blood clots in the leg , nerve damage and swelling of the arm. These side effects are not common, but you need to understand the risks.

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Symptoms Of Breast Cancer In The Bones

Although metastatic breast cancer can potentially occur in any bone in the body, it most often affects the ribs, spine, pelvis and long bones in the arms and legs. Breast cancer that has spread to the bones may cause:

  • Sudden bone pain, such as hip or back pain, which may feel similar to the discomfort associated with arthritis or exercise strain;but is persistent or progressively worse even with rest or conservative measures
  • An increased risk of bone fractures that result from minimal trauma, such as a minor fall
  • An elevated level of calcium in the blood, which can lead to fatigue, nausea, dehydration and loss of appetite
  • Numbness or muscle weakness in an arm or leg

Tests To Determine Specific Types Of Treatment

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You’ll also need tests that show whether the cancer will respond to specific types of treatment. The results of these tests can give your doctors a more complete picture of the type of cancer you have and how best to treat it. The types of test you could be offered are discussed below.

In some cases, breast cancer cells can be stimulated to grow by hormones that occur naturally in your body, such as oestrogen and progesterone.

If this is the case, the cancer may be treated by stopping the effects of the hormones, or by lowering the level of these hormones in your body. This is known as “hormone therapy”.

During;a hormone receptor test, a sample of cancer cells will be taken from your breast and tested to see if they respond to either oestrogen or progesterone. If the hormone is able to attach to the cancer cells , they’re known as “hormone receptor positive”.

While hormones can encourage the growth of some types of breast cancer, other types are stimulated by a protein called;human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 .

These types of cancer can be diagnosed using a HER2 test, and treated with medication to block the effects of HER2. This is known as “biological” or “targeted” therapy.

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