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What If You Have Breast Cancer

Do I Still Need A Second Opinion If My Mammogram Came Back Positive

A Breast Cancer Diagnosis: What you need to know

Mammograms are about 87% effective in detecting invasive breast cancer cells. Depending on the doctor and his or her interpretation of the mammogram, test results can still yield a false-negative or false-positive. You should always follow-up and get a specialist’s second opinion to confirm the diagnosis and to get more information about your treatment options and next steps.

When Youre Told You Have Breast Cancer

  • Exactly what type of breast cancer do I have?
  • How big is the cancer? Where exactly is it?
  • Has the cancer spread to my lymph nodes or other organs?
  • What is the stage of my cancer? What does it mean?
  • Will I need any other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Do I need to see any other doctors or health professionals?
  • What is the hormone receptor status of my cancer? What does this mean?
  • What is the HER2 status of my cancer? What does this mean?
  • What is the grade of my cancer? What does this mean?
  • How do these factors affect my treatment options and long-term outlook ?
  • What are my chances of survival, based on my cancer as you see it?
  • Should I think about genetic testing? What are my testing options? Should I take a home-based genetic test? What would be the reasons for and against testing?
  • How do I get a copy of my pathology report?
  • If Im worried about the costs and insurance coverage for my diagnosis and treatment, who can help me?

Should I Have Breast Reconstruction And When

This is another question that has a multi-layered answer. It involves both medical and personal considerations. Some women opt not to have reconstruction. Others believe it benefits their appearance and psychological recovery.

This is another question that has a multi-layered answer. It involves both medical and personal considerations. Some women opt not to have reconstruction. Others believe it benefits their appearance and psychological recovery.

If youre having one or both breasts removed and are considering reconstruction, the stage of your cancer may dictate the timing of the reconstructive surgery. For patients with early-stage breast cancer, Dr. Abraham says immediate reconstruction is reasonable. With a Stage III cancer, you should discuss with your oncologist and surgeon whether immediate reconstruction is advisable.

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What Are The Stages Of Breast Cancer

There are two different staging systems for breast cancer. One is called anatomic staging while the other is prognostic staging. The anatomic staging is defined by the areas of the body where the breast cancer is found and helps to define appropriate treatment. The prognostic staging helps medical professionals communicate how likely a patient is to be cured of the cancer assuming that all appropriate treatment is given.

The anatomic staging system is as follows:

Stage 0 breast disease is when the disease is localized to the milk ducts .

Stage I breast cancer is smaller than 2 cm across and hasn’t spread anywhere including no involvement in the lymph nodes.

Stage II breast cancer is one of the following:

  • The tumor is less than 2 cm across but has spread to the underarm lymph nodes .
  • The tumor is between 2 and 5 cm .
  • The tumor is larger than 5 cm and has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm .

Stage III breast cancer is also called “locally advanced breast cancer.” The tumor is any size with cancerous lymph nodes that adhere to one another or to surrounding tissue . Stage IIIB breast cancer is a tumor of any size that has spread to the skin, chest wall, or internal mammary lymph nodes .

Stage IV breast cancer is defined as a tumor, regardless of size, that has spread to areas away from the breast, such as bones, lungs, liver or brain.

Peeling Scaling Or Flaking Skin

Breast Cancer

Dont immediately be alarmed if you notice peeling, scaling, or flaking on your breasts or the skin around your nipples. This is a symptom of breast cancer, but it can also be a symptom of atopic dermatitis, eczema, or another skin condition.

After an exam, your doctor may run tests to rule out Pagets disease, which is a type of breast cancer affecting the nipples. It can also cause these symptoms.

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Can I Be Screened For Breast Cancer

BreastScreen Australia offers a free screening program for women at risk of breast cancer:

  • If youre aged between 50 and 74 years, youll be invited to access a free mammograms every 2 years. This is because nearly 4 in 5 breast cancers occur in women aged over 50.
  • If youre aged between 40 and 49 years or over 75 years, you are also eligible but wont be contacted about it.
  • Women under 40 years of age are usually not offered breast screening because the density of their breast tissue makes it harder to detect cancers on mammograms.

Younger women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or women with breast cancer diagnosed in the last 5 years may also benefit from breast screening. For more details, call BreastScreen Australia on 13 20 50 or visit their website.

You Have A Reddish Or Purple Nipple

Noticing your nipple change colors isn’t a great sign. According to Holly Pederson, MD, director of medical breast services at the Cleveland Clinic, it could be a symptom of cancer and could also involve flaking and irritation. “Cancer can originate in the nipple,” she told WebMD. “The nipple will look reddish or purplish it doesn’t look normal. It’s actually the tumor cells invading the nipple that cause the skin to look different if it is breast cancer.”

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Has The Cancer Spread To My Lymph Nodes Or Other Organs

Cancer may spread from the site where it originated to other parts of the body. When cancer cells move away from a tumor, they may travel through the bloodstream to distant organs. If they travel through the lymph system, the cancer cells may end up in lymph nodes. The lymph nodes in the underarm are the first-place breast cancer is most likely to spread. Your doctor may perform a biopsy to check for the presence of cancer cells. The sample is examined by a pathologist who checks the nodes under a microscope. That exam determines lymph node status.

The spread of cancer to another part of the body is called metastasis. If breast cancer has metastasized to other areas of the body, it is categorized as stage 4 breast cancer. Typically, breast cancer metastasizes primarily to the lungs, liver, brain, regional lymph nodes and bone.

What Are The Common Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

You Have Breast Cancer: What Now?

The following early signs and symptoms of breast cancer can happen with other conditions that are not cancer related.

  • New lump in the breast or underarm
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area of the breast
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
  • Pain in any area of the breast

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A Lump In Your Breast

A lump or mass in the breast is the most common symptom of breast cancer. Lumps are often hard and painless, although some are painful. However, not all lumps are cancer. Benign breast conditions that can also cause lumps.

Still, its important to have your doctor check out any new lump or mass right away. If it does turn out to be cancer, the sooner its diagnosed the better.

Screening For Breast Cancer

Women aged between 50 and 74 are invited to access free screening mammograms every two years via the BreastScreen Australia Program.

Women aged 40-49 and 75 and over are also eligible to receive free mammograms, however they do not receive an invitation to attend.

It is recommended that women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, aged between 40 and 49 or over 75 discuss options with their GP, or contact BreastScreen Australia on 13 20 50.

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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

American Cancer Society , the most common sign of breast cancer is a newly formed mass or lump in your breast.

The mass or lump is usually irregularly shaped and painless. However, some cancerous masses can be painful and round in shape. This is why any lump or mass ought to be screened for cancer.

Invasive ductal carcinoma causes lumps and bumps in the breasts. This is a type of breast cancer that forms inside the milk ducts.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer. It makes up about 80 percent of all diagnoses. Its also more likely to spread to other areas of the body.

With breast cancer, your nipples may also undergo some noticeable changes.

Risk Factors For Breast Cancer

Woman

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:

  • Age. Your risk for developing breast cancer increases as you age. Most invasive breast cancers are found in women over age 55 years.
  • Drinking alcohol. Alcohol use disorder raises your risk.
  • Having dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue makes mammograms hard to read. It also increases your risk for breast cancer.
  • Gender. White women are

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.

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Planning Financially For Breast Cancer Treatment

An unexpected cancer diagnosis often comes with a heavy financial burden. Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, surgeries, and medications throughout the treatment journey can come as a shock, especially if they turn out to be out-of-pocket expenses. Medical bills can create additional stress in already trying times, so it’s important that patients understand any and all expenses that may arise during breast cancer treatment.

Patients should always contact their insurance company to see what expenses will be covered by insurance and what resources will require funds from elsewhere. Crowdfunding via sites like GoFundMe has become a popular way to cover medical and living expenses throughout the treatment journey, as patients look to the support of their friends, family, and even generous strangers in their community. If a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer after receiving a misdiagnosis, compensation from a successful medical malpractice lawsuit can also help ease the financial stress of growing medical bills.

How Do Tamoxifen Raloxifene Anastrozole And Exemestane Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer

If you are at increased risk for developing breast cancer, four medications tamoxifen , raloxifene , anastrozole , and exemestane may help reduce your risk of developing this disease. These medications act only to reduce the risk of a specific type of breast cancer called estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. This type of breast cancer accounts for about two-thirds of all breast cancers.

Tamoxifen and raloxifene are in a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators . These drugs work by blocking the effects of estrogen in breast tissue by attaching to estrogen receptors in breast cells. Because SERMs bind to receptors, estrogen is blocked from binding. Estrogen is the fuel that makes most breast cancer cells grow. Blocking estrogen prevents estrogen from triggering the development of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer.

Anastrozole and exemestane are in a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors . These drugs work by blocking the production of estrogen. Aromatase inhibitors do this by blocking the activity of an enzyme called aromatase, which is needed to make estrogen.

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Breast Cancer Surgery Options

Surgery is usually the first line of treatment for breast cancer unless the tumor is very large or has spread to other parts of the body, in which case chemotherapy may be needed first. The surgical options for breast cancer include breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy. Lumpectomy removes the tumor and some surrounding normal breast tissue, whereas mastectomy removes the entire breast. Which option is best depends on tumor size, breast size, and personal preference, as well as other aspects of the medical history. If mastectomy is performed, breast reconstruction can be done during the same surgery or at a later time.

During the lumpectomy or mastectomy, some of the lymph nodes in the armpit will likely be removed to determine if the cancer has spread . For early breast cancers, sentinel lymph node biopsy is a technique in which the lymph nodes that first drain the breast are identified and sampled. If cancer is not found in the “sentinel” nodes, no additional lymph nodes need to be removed. This has the advantage of faster recovery and less risk of lymphedema .

What Is Metastatic Breast Cancer

Early Signs of Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer also called stage IV is breast cancer that has spread toanother part of the body, most commonly the bones, lungs, brain, or liver.

The process of cancer spreading is called metastasis. Metastasis happens when cancer cells break away from the original tumor in the breast and travel to other parts of the body. These cancer cells travel through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system .

Breast cancer can come back in another part of the body months or years after the original diagnosis and treatment. This is called metastatic recurrence or distant recurrence. Nearly 30% of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer develop metastatic disease. Because there are so few cases of male breast cancer, it’s not clear how many of these breast cancers metastasize, but men are also diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

When the first diagnosis of breast cancer is metastatic, it is called de novo metastatic breast cancer. This means that by the time the breast cancer is first detected, it has already spread to another part of the body.

Metastatic breast cancer is made up of cells from the original tumor that developed in the breast. So if breast cancer spreads to the bone, the metastatic tumor in the bone is made up of breast cancer cells, not bone cancer cells.

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What Size Is My Tumor And Why Does That Matter

Treatment options for breast cancer partly depend on how small or large your tumor is, if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and if the cancer is found in other parts of your body. The larger the tumor, the more likely it is that the breast cancer is lymph node-positive, meaning the axillary lymph nodes contain cancer. Sentinel node biopsy is the most common way to determine whether cancer cells have spread beyond the breast.

Should I Get A Second Opinion

A second opinion may confirm your original diagnosis and treatment plan, provide more details about the type and stage of your breast cancer, raise additional treatment options not considered, or lead to a recommendation for a different course of action. A second opinion may also help you feel more confident in your treatment decisions and help you find a doctor you feel comfortable with.

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How Breast Cancer Pain May Feel

While many types of breast pain are not cancerous, pain in only one breast may be cause for calling your doctor. Benign breast pain is often on both sides.

Breast cancer pain can be persistent and very specific, usually hurting in just one spot. It is important to remember that breast cancer can be present in your breast before it causes pain. If you have other symptoms of breast cancer, such as nipple retraction , sudden swelling of your breast, or sudden skin changes, consult your healthcare provider for a clinical breast exam.

Other Types Of Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Symptoms Every Woman Needs to Know ...

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 Paget’s disease of the breast.

It’s possible for breast cancer to spread to other parts of the body, usually through the lymph nodes or the bloodstream. If this happens, it’s known as “secondary” or “metastatic” breast cancer.

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Your Nipple Is Turning Inward

If your nipple is starting to turn inward when it wasn’t retracted before, it could be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, which is much more aggressive than other types of breast cancer, says the American Cancer Society. Because of that, you should book an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to discuss any concerning changes.

Are You Having Breast Cancer Pain

Breast pain can be stressful and concerning, especially if you are not sure what is causing it. Breast pain occurs for most people at one point or another. Knowing more about it and when it may signal something serious can help you take an active role in your healthcare.

This article will explain times when breast cancer is painful, what it may be indicating, and whether you are at higher risk for breast disease.

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