How Is Breast Cancer Treated
There are several breast cancer treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and targeted drug therapy. Whats right for you depends on many factors, including the location and size of the tumor, the results of your lab tests and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Your healthcare provider will tailor your treatment plan according to your unique needs. Its not uncommon to receive a combination of different treatments, too.
Breast cancer surgery
Breast cancer surgery involves removing the cancerous portion of your breast and an area of normal tissue surrounding the tumor. There are different types of surgery depending on your situation, including:
Chemotherapy for breast cancer
Your healthcare provider may recommend chemotherapy for breast cancer before a lumpectomy in an effort to shrink the tumor. Sometimes, its given after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of recurrence . If the cancer has spread beyond your breast to other parts of your body, then your healthcare provider may recommend chemotherapy as a primary treatment.
Radiation therapy for breast cancer
Radiation therapy for breast cancer is typically given after a lumpectomy or mastectomy to kill remaining cancer cells. It can also be used to treat individual metastatic tumors that are causing pain or other problems.
Hormone therapy for breast cancer
Immunotherapy for breast cancer
Your Nipples Have Changed
Only mannequins have perfect, pointy, well-behaved nipples. Real, human women have to deal with different colors and sizes, positions, textures, and hair.
Fortunately, all of these things are totally normal and not a problem as long as theyre your normal, says Dr. Denduluri. For example, if your nips have always been inverted, thats just how youre shaped, but if they change suddenly, going from pointy to fully or partially inverted, call your doctor stat. Bottom line: Any changes in your nipplesincluding their color and textureneed to be checked to rule out cancer, Dr. Denduluri says.
Oh, and BTW, hairy nipples on women have nothing to do with cancer and are totally normalone in three women have nipple hair, she adds.
How Should I Check My Breasts
Take the time to get to know how your breasts normally look and feel through normal regular activities .
You dont need to use a special technique, but ensure you look at and feel your breasts regularly. Make sure this includes all parts of your breast, your armpit and up to your collarbone.
For women of all ages, it is recommended that you be breast aware. Breast awareness is being familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts, so that you can identify any unusual changes .
Recommended Reading: How Does Breast Cancer Affect You
Inflammatory Breast Cancer Symptoms
A rare type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer can have different symptoms to other types.
Your whole breast might look red and inflamed and feel sore. The breast might feel hard and the skin might look like orange peel.
See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
Or Your Nipples Are Leaking
Is there anything more alarming than having your breasts start squirting liquid when theres no baby involved? Its normal to have some leakage during pregnancy while breastfeeding, and up to a year after weaning your baby, but if you notice any discharge any other time it needs to be evaluated by a doctor, says Dr. Patt.
Random dischargeespecially if its red or green or has an odormight mean you have a problem, including cancer of the breast or the pituitary gland, Dr. Patt explains.
Does Breast Cancer Hurt
Most breast cancers dont cause pain. Breast pain, or mastalgia, is more likely related a persons menstrual cycle if they have one. There are other benign conditions that can cause breast pain, such as cysts, fibroadenomas, or blocked milk ducts.
Breast cancer in early stages usually isnt painful. Breast cancer typically doesnt hurt until/if it becomes advanced. The majority of tumors wont begin causing pain until they reach two centimeters in size, and even then, some may not cause pain.
Inflammatory breast cancer, a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer, can cause pain and present along with redness, a rash, and severe itching.
Remember, a painful lump doesnt necessarily rule out cancer. If breast pain is severe or persists, you should consult your physician. They will be able to determine if it is being caused by cancer or another condition.
What Does A Tumor Feel Like Under The Skin
Lumps, tumors, and all sorts of things one can feel in the breast can feel surprisingly similar: firm, as opposed to the normal, more spongy tissue of the breast. They are often irregularly shaped as opposed to a sphere or ball shape. Lumps are also usually mobile within the breast and can be moved around within the breast.
However, its important to note that this can vary from person to person. Ultimately, anytime you feel something thats different from what your normal breast tissue feels like, or if you notice anything that generally feels unusual, you should speak to her medical team about that.
What Should You Do If You Feel A Breast Lump
Dr. Joshi says your first action after feeling a breast lump should be to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor.
Your doctor will look for a variety of features and characteristics in order to answer questions such as:
- How large is the lump?
- Does the lump move and slip under the fingers, or is it attached to the skin?
- Is the lump painless or painful?
- Is the lump accompanied by red, itchy or inflamed skin?
- Is the lump affecting the nipple, causing inversion or discharge?
- Is the lump changing in size?
- Does the lump become more painful or change in size around your period?
- Is there more than on lump?
- Are there lumps in both breasts?
“Based on the physical and clinical characteristics of the lump, your doctor may or may not recommend follow-up tests to more thoroughly evaluate the mass, such as a diagnostic mammogram or biopsy,” explains Dr. Joshi.
What Does Breast Cancer Look Like On A Mammogram
Any area that does not look like normal tissue is a possible cause for concern. The radiologist will look for areas of white, high-density tissue and note its size, shape, and edges.
A lump or tumor will show up as a focused white area on a mammogram. Tumors can be cancerous or benign.
If a tumor is benign, it is not a health risk and is unlikely to grow or change shape. Most tumors found in the breasts are non-cancerous.
Small white specks are usually harmless. The radiologist will check their shape and pattern, as they can sometimes be a sign of cancer.
As well as dense breast tissue and possible tumors, a radiologist will look for anything unusual on a mammogram.
Other abnormalities include:
A mass may refer to a tumor, cyst, or fibroadenoma, whether it is cancerous or not.
A mammogram can also give a person information about their breast density. People with dense breasts have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. Dense breasts can make it more difficult to find abnormalities on a mammogram.
Mammograms are still possible if a person has had breast cancer surgery or implants. However, it may be necessary to take more images of each breast, and it might take longer to check the images.
A radiologist will often compare a mammogram against previous images. This can help them to spot any changes and decide whether an unusual area could be a sign of cancer.
Worried About Breast Cancer Spreading
Its natural to worry about breast cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
While its important to get any new and persistent symptoms checked, aches and pains in the bones can be due to ageing, arthritis or side effects of treatment for breast cancer. Being out of breath and a cough can be symptoms of a cold or flu-type illness. And many people experience tiredness and loss of appetite after cancer treatment.
Whatever your worry or concern, our free Helpline is here to offer support. Call 0808 800 6000.
Things Your Doctor Might Find
Some key clues to your breast health can only be spotted with medical tests. Thatâs why itâs important to keep up with any breast screening tests and checkups your doctor recommends.
Calcifications. These are bits of calcium in your breast tissue. Theyâre not cancer, but sometimes they can be a sign of it. A mammogram spots them. Calcifications show up in the image as bright white spots or flecks.
Bigger spot or dashes called macrocalcifications are usually caused by harmless conditions, and theyâre common after you turn 50.
Smaller specks, called microcalcifications, may be a clue that you have cancer or a higher risk for it. Theyâre more suspicious if they vary a lot in size or shape or appear in tight clusters. If your mammogram shows these, your doctor may recommend a biopsy. That’s when a specialist uses a needle to take a sample of breast tissue to have it checked for cancer.
Atypical hyperplasia. Your doctor might find this condition with a biopsy. Atypical hyperplasia means you have abnormal cells in your breast tissue. There are two main types, and neither is a sign of breast cancer. But both types are tied to higher odds of getting the disease later on. If you have it, your doctor may recommend follow-up tests or medicine to lower your chances for breast cancer.
Up to Date: âClinical manifestations, differential diagnosis, and clinical evaluation of a palpable breast mass,â âCommon problems of breastfeeding and weaning.â
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What Does A Lump Really Look Like
Kerger said that any new lump “is a problem” that you should bring to a doctor.
According to Know Your Lemons, a nonprofit global organization that focuses on making information about breast cancer warning signs and detection methods accessible, a hard lump is a common sign of cancer.
“The most common sign of breast cancer is a lump, deep in the breast. It often feels hard, like a lemon seed, and usually immovable. It can be any shape or size,” said the site. You might also see a bump, according to the site, on the surface of your breast.
Kerger said that doctors are especially concerned if a lump is hard and “not mobile.”
“When something is hard and doesn’t move around, like you’re rolling a marble on a table under your hand, is more concerning,” she said. However, it can be hard for people to diagnose this on themselves, so she recommends going to your doctor with concerns like these.
For men, who can be diagnosed with breast cancer, hard lumps right near the nipple are a warning sign.
“Because normally do not have breasts in the way women do, they may notice a lump or a dimple or a change in skin color on their breast that would indicate the presence of a breast cancer,” said Jones. “If has a change on his breast, he should absolutely let his doctor know.”
Being familiar with your breasts can help you tell the difference between whats normal and whats new.
How To Check Your Breasts For Early Signs Of Cancer
Knowing the symptoms is just one part of the prevention puzzle. You should also examine your breasts frequentlyand just be really aware of what normal looks and feels like for your own body. Here are some expert-backed tips to help you get started.
That normal were talking about has a name, Dr. Gary says: Think of it as breast self-awareness. It involves knowing the ins and outs of your breasts both before and during your period, a time when your hormones are in flux. It also means becoming familiar with asymmetry that might be normal for you, such as breast size differences or nipple placement. I tell my patients their breasts are twins but seldom identical, Dr. Gary says.
Dr. Flanagan recommends looking at your breasts in the mirror and knowing what they look and feel like. Its best to do it when your breasts are not tender or swollen, so make sure you wait a few days after your period. Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides, and again, with your arms raised high over your head. Look for any changes, she says, like the ones mentioned above. Experts no longer recommend doing routine structured self-exams , but rather stress this type of self-awareness so you can get in touch with your doctor if you notice anything that differs from your usual.
Also Check: Signs Of Breast Cancer Metastasis
What Do Lumps In My Breast Mean
Many conditions can cause lumps in the breast, including cancer. But most breast lumps are caused by other medical conditions. The two most common causes of breast lumps are fibrocystic breast condition and cysts. Fibrocystic condition causes noncancerous changes in the breast that can make them lumpy, tender, and sore. Cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that can develop in the breast.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
Learning everything you can about your diagnosis can help you make informed decisions about your health. Here are some questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- Where is the tumor located?
- Has the tumor spread?
- What stage breast cancer do I have?
- What do the estrogen receptor , progesterone receptor and HER2 tests show and what do the results mean for me?
- What are my treatment options?
- Is breast cancer surgery an option for me?
- Will I be able to work while I undergo treatment?
- How long will my treatment last?
- What other resources are available to me?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Being diagnosed with breast cancer can feel scary, frustrating and even hopeless. If you or a loved one is facing this disease, its important to take advantage of the many resources available to you. Talk to your healthcare provider about your treatment options. You may even want to get a second opinion before making a decision. You should feel satisfied and optimistic about your treatment plan. Finally, joining a local support group can help with feelings of isolation and allow you to talk with other people who are going through the same thing.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/21/2022.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services.Policy
Recommended Reading: Can Breast Cancer Spread To Thyroid
Should Men Be Breast Aware Too
Breast cancer affects both men and women, because both men and women have breast tissue. Although it is uncommon, men can be diagnosed with breast cancer too. About 1 in 600 men are diagnosed with breast cancer. Last year alone over 30 Australian men lost their lives to breast cancer. If you are a man, and you notice any new and unusual changes in your breasts, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible so that the changes can be examined by a health professional.
Anyone can get breast cancer. Men and women. Young and old. Breast cancer does not discriminate.
George was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 after he discovered an irritation in right breast during a game of golf. After a visit to the GP, a biopsy confirmed he had breast cancer. Two weeks later he was in hospital having a mastectomy and all his lymph nodes removed. When George first heard he had breast cancer it came as quite a shock. Like most guys, he was unaware men could get this disease. Fortunately, he was diagnosed in the early stages and didnt require chemotherapy or radiation. However, just nine months later, after a routine scan, a mass forming on his other breast was picked up, so George went back into hospital where I had the other breast removed. George shares his story in the hope it will encourage other men to seek medical advice if they notice any unusual changes in their breasts.
Three points to remember
You Notice Changes That Arent Related To Your Boobs At All
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.
Read Also: What Is The Treatment For Breast Cancer