How Does Breast Cancer Start
Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast grow out of control. Different kinds of breast cells develop into different . Most breast cancers begin in the breast ducts or lobules . These are known respectively as invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. Other less common types of breast cancer include inflammatory breast cancer and ductal carcinoma in situ.
Though breast cancer is most common in women, men can develop it as well. A mans lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,620 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
‘i Noticed What Felt Like A Frozen Pea In My Armpit’
During a routine breast self-exam, I felt a really tiny lump. It didnt hurt, but it was mobile and felt like a frozen pea. It was right inside my armpit, which seemed odd at first, but I remembered that your breast tissue actually extends into your armpit. This didnt feel consistent with the breast changes that came along with my menstrual cycle.
“I actually kept quite calm, even though in my gut, I knew what was going on. So I called my ob-gyn, who offered to take a look during my next annual exam, which was months away. After nothing changed in a week, I called the breast center at my local hospital and demanded to be seen. After imaging and biopsies, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 24.
“From my experience, I hope that other women will learn that you need to monitor changes in your body, but its futile if youre afraid to speak up about them. Women need to have the confidence to speak up.
Brittany Whitman, Cleveland Education Ambassador for Bright Pink
What Happens After Radiation Therapy Treatment Ends
Once treatment ends, you will have follow-up appointments with the radiation oncologist. It’s important to continue your follow-up care, which includes:
Checking on your recovery
Watching for treatment side effects, which may not happen right away
As your body heals, you will need fewer follow-up visits. Ask your doctor for a written record of your treatment. This is a helpful resource as you manage your long-term health care.
Read Also: What Is Stage 3a Breast Cancer
Evaluation After Cancer Diagnosis
After cancer is diagnosed, doctors usually consult a team of cancer specialists , including surgeons, cancer drug treatment specialists, and radiologists , to determine which tests should be done and to plan treatment.
If cancer cells are detected, the biopsy sample is analyzed to determine the characteristics of the cancer cells, such as
Whether the cancer cells have estrogen or progesterone receptors
How many HER2 receptors are present
How quickly the cancer cells are dividing
For some types of breast cancer, genetic testing of the cancer cells
This information helps doctors estimate how rapidly the cancer may spread and which treatments are more likely to be effective.
Tests may include
A chest x-ray to determine whether the cancer has spread
Blood tests, including a complete blood count , liver tests, and measurement of calcium, also to determine whether the cancer has spread
When cancer is diagnosed, a stage Staging Cancer Cancer is suspected based on a person’s symptoms, the results of a physical examination, and sometimes the results of screening tests. Occasionally, x-rays obtained for other reasons, such as… read more is assigned to it. The stage is a number from 0 to IV that reflects how extensive and aggressive the cancer is:
Staging the cancer helps doctors determine the appropriate treatment and the prognosis.
Many factors go into determining the stage of breast cancer, such as the TNM classification system.
The TNM classification is based on the following:
What If You Find A Lump
First, donât panic. Eighty percent of breast lumps arenât cancerous. They often turn out to be harmless cysts or tissue changes related to your menstrual cycle. But let your doctor know right away if you find anything unusual in your breast. If it is cancer, the earlier itâs found, the better. And if it isnât, testing can give you peace of mind.
You May Like: What Is Stage 3a Breast Cancer
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.
What Is A Normal Breast
No breast is typical. What is normal for you may not be normal for another woman. Most women say their breasts feel lumpy or uneven. The way your breasts look and feel can be affected by getting your period, having children, losing or gaining weight, and taking certain medications. Breasts also tend to change as you age. For more information, see the National Cancer Institutes Breast Changes and Conditions.external icon
Don’t Miss: Chances Of Breast Cancer Survival
Inherited Versus Acquired Dna Mutations
Normal breast cells become cancer because of changes in DNA. DNA is the chemical in our cells that makes up our genes. Genes have the instructions for how our cells function.
Some DNA mutations are inherited or passed to you from your parents. This means the mutations are in all your cells when you are born. Some mutations can greatly increase the risk of certain cancers. They cause many of the cancers that run in some families and often cause cancer when people are younger.
But most DNA mutations linked to breast cancer are acquired. This means the change takes place in breast cells during a person’s life rather than having been inherited or born with them. Acquired DNA mutations take place over time and are only in the breast cancer cells.
Mutated DNA can lead to mutated genes. Some genes control when our cells grow, divide into new cells, and die. Changes in these genes can cause the cells to lose normal control and are linked to cancer.
What To Do If You Spot Symptoms
Anyone who notices a change in their breast that develops without a clear cause should see a doctor, especially if the changes affect only one breast. In many cases, routine screening will reveal any significant changes.
Breast cancer is highly treatable if diagnosis occurs in the early stages. Regular screening can help with this.
As of April 2019, the ACP make for screening for women with an average risk of breast cancer and other guidelines for those with a higher risk.
For those with an average risk:
Women ages 40â49 should ask their doctor about whether they should start having a routine mammogram.
Women aged 50â74 who have an average risk should have a mammogram every 2 years.
Women with an average risk should stop screening when they reach 75 years of age, or if they expect to live another 10 years or fewer.
Women of all ages with an average risk should not undergo clinical breast examination to screen for breast cancer.
Other organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, make different recommendations. Each person should ask their doctor for advice on the best strategy for them.
It is helpful for people to be aware of how their breasts feel so that they can get used to any regular changes that occur. If they notice anything unusual, they should see their doctor.
At their visit, the doctor may use one of the following methods:
Also Check: What Is Invasive Breast Cancer Mean
What Are The Symptoms Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Symptoms of IBC usually take just 3-6 months to develop. Your symptoms may include:
- A red or purple color or a rash spread over one-third of the breast
- Pitting, thickening, or dimpling of skin on the breast, so that it looks like an orange peel, a condition calledpeau dorange
- Inverted or retracted nipple
- Pain, swelling, itchiness, burning, or tenderness
- Sensations of warmth or heaviness within the breast
- Increase in the size of one breast only
- Swollen lymph nodes near the collarbone or under the arm
Specific Signs Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
This is a rare but aggressive type of cancer that can appear differently to other types.
- inversion of the nipple
- swollen lymph nodes in the collarbone or underarm area
Inflammatory breast cancer tends to occur at a younger age than other types of cancer. Doctors sometimes misdiagnose it because it can resemble an infection, trauma, or another problem.
The same warning signs that occur with cancer can also signify other benign conditions. It is therefore important to know how to recognize which signs might indicate the presence of cancer and which do not.
Recommended Reading: De Novo Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms
‘my Dog Found My Cancer’
I had just been to the ob-gyn for my annual check-up and breast exam, and got the ‘all okay.’ Soon after, my little dog Zoe climbed up on me and started pawing at a specific part of my breast. Little alarms went off in my head, telling me to pay attention. It was like a slow-motion movie. I pushed her off and thats when I found a little round BB-sized lump. After a mammogram that didnt show anything, and a sonogram that found the lump, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Its so important to listen to the messages our bodies are telling us.
Christine Egan, author of The Healthy Girls Guide to Breast Cancer, Bayport, New York
RELATED: The 5 Breast Cancer Stages, Explained
Breast Lumps Or Lumpiness
Many women find their breasts feel lumpy. Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture.
Some women have more lumpiness in their breasts than others. In most cases, this lumpiness is no cause to worry.
If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, then its likely normal breast tissue.
Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast or that feel like a change should be checked. This type of lump may be a sign of breast cancer or a benign breast condition .
See a health care provider if you:
- Find a new lump that feels different from the rest of your breast
- Find a new lump that feels different from your other breast
- Feel something thats different from what you felt before
If youve had a benign lump in the past, dont assume a new lump will also be benign. The new lump may not be breast cancer, but its best to make sure.
Recommended Reading: How Serious Is Stage 3 Breast Cancer
What Causes Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer develops when cancer cells block lymph vessels. These tubes, which are hollow, allow lymph fluid to drain out of the breast.
In most cases of IBC, cancer cells spread outward from lymph vessels. When cancer metastasizes, it affects the skin and other organs and is more difficult to treat.
‘i Felt A Pea On My Ribs’
I had done monthly self-breast exams since I was in my early 20s. I felt a tiny hard little bump the size of a small pea. I could only feel it because it was over my rib at the bottom of my left breast. In retrospect, my bra may have hurt a little in that area before I found the lump. I have had many lumps, bumps, and cysts biopsied, but this pea was definitely different. I scheduled my annual mammogram along with a biopsy. I received the breast cancer diagnosis within a week, just shy of my 55th birthday. Turns out, there was another in the other breast that didnt show up on a mammogram. I also discovered I was a BRCA 1 mutation carrier. I needed aggressive chemo followed by a double mastectomy. Had I not done the exam that evening, everything would be quite different.
Cynthia Bailey, MD, president and CEO of Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology, Inc., Sebastopol, California
Don’t Miss: Do You Gain Weight With Breast Cancer
Signs Of Breast Cancer
- Redness. If you notice any redness on the skin of your breasts that lasts for more than a few days, get it checked out.
- Lump in the breast. You may not see a lump, but if you feel a new or changing lump in your breast, its time to talk to you doctor.
- Swelling. Pay attention to any swelling in your breasts that does not go away quickly.
- Lump in armpit. Lumps in your armpit can be a sign of breast cancer, so be aware of any changes here.
- Orange-peel texture. If the texture of the skin on your breast starts to change, it can be a sign of breast cancer. In some cases, breast skin can start to feel bumpy like the texture of an orange.
- Dimpling. Breast skin can also dimple if there is a problem, so if you see signs of this, call your doctor.
Breast cancer can also sometimes show up as changes in the way your nipples look. Here are some signs to watch for:
- Discharge. Nipple discharge should be check out by a doctor.
- Pulling in. Talk to your doctor if your nipple starts to pull in or appear inverted.
- Change in direction. You might notice your nipple starts to change direction. If you see this, get it checked out.
- Ulcer. Nipple changes can appear in the form of an ulcer or sore on the nipple.
- Scaliness. The skin on your nipple might change from being smooth to being scaly or rough.
What Is The Prognosis For People With Inflammatory Breast Cancer
IBC usually develops quickly and spreads to other tissues outside the breast. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to managing the condition as effectively as possible.
Doctors use a system made up of four stages to diagnose all types of cancer. IBC is stage III or stage IV when it is diagnosed.
Because IBC is aggressive, and because it is found later than other cancers, the outlook for people with this condition is generally not as good as for other types of breast cancer. Still, some people have lived many years after an IBC diagnosis. Your doctor can explain your individual prognosis to you.
Read Also: Chemotherapy For Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
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.
Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
There are several risk factors that increase your chances of getting breast cancer. However, having any of these doesnt mean you will definitely develop the disease.
Some risk factors cant be avoided, such as family history. You can change other risk factors, such as quitting smoking, if you smoke. Risk factors for breast cancer include:
While there are risk factors you cant control, following a healthy lifestyle, getting regular screenings, and taking any preventive measures your doctor recommends can help reduce your risk for developing breast cancer.
Recommended Reading: Recurrence Of Breast Cancer After 10 Years
What Is A 5
A relative survival rate compares women with the same type and stage of breast cancer to women in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific stage of breast cancer is 70%, it means that women who have that cancer are, on average, about 70% as likely as women who dont have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.
Breast Examination By A Health Care Practitioner
A breast examination may be part of a routine physical examination. However, as with breast self-examination, a doctor’s examination may miss a cancer. If women need or want screening, a more sensitive test, such as mammography, should be done, even if a doctor’s examination did not detect any abnormalities. Many doctors and medical organizations no longer require an annual breast examination by a doctor.
During the examination, a doctor inspects the breasts for irregularities, dimpling, tightened skin, lumps, and a discharge. The doctor feels each breast with a flat hand and checks for enlarged lymph nodes in the armpitthe area most breast cancers invade firstand above the collarbone. Normal lymph nodes cannot be felt through the skin, so those that can be felt are considered enlarged. However, noncancerous conditions can also cause lymph nodes to enlarge. Lymph nodes that can be felt are checked to see if they are abnormal.
You May Like: How To Detect Breast Cancer Early
What Complications Are Associated With Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Treatment for IBC can bring its own set of complications, such as lymphedema after removal of lymph nodes.
Because IBC develops so quickly, the condition has usually spread to other tissues by the time it is diagnosed. This metastasis can create a need for additional treatment to other areas of the body. IBC is also more likely to recur compared to other forms of breast cancer.