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What Part Of The Body Does Breast Cancer Affect

Stage The Stage Is The Main Prognostic Factor For Breast Cancer There Is Less Risk That Early Stage Breast Cancer Will Come Back So It Has A More Favourable Prognosis Breast Cancer Diagnosed At A Later Stage Has A Greater Risk Of Recurrence So It Has A Less Favourable Prognosis Doctors Will Consider If Cancer Has Spread To Lymph Nodes And The Size Of The Tumour When They Predict A Prognosis

Breast Cancer : How Does Cancer Work in the Body?

If cancer has spread to lymph nodes

Whether or not cancer has spread to lymph nodes is the most important prognostic factor for breast cancer. Breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes has a higher risk of coming back and a less favourable prognosis than breast cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes.

The number of lymph nodes that contain cancer is also important. The more positive lymph nodes there are, the higher the risk that breast cancer will come back. Breast cancer that has spread to 4 or more lymph nodes has the highest risk for recurrence.

The size of the tumour

The size of the tumour is the 2nd most important prognostic factor for breast cancer. The tumour size will affect prognosis no matter how many lymph nodes have cancer in them.

Breast tumours that are 5 cm or larger are more likely to come back after treatment than smaller tumours. Breast tumours that are smaller than 1 cm and have not spread to the lymph nodes have a very favourable prognosis.

Where In The Body Does Breast Cancer Spread

In theory, breast cancer can spread to any part of the body, but it most commonly spreads to the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, bones and sometimes the brain. Keep in mind though, that even if your breast cancer spreads to other areas of your body, its still considered breast cancer. For example, if breast cancer spreads to your lungs, it does not mean that you now have lung cancer too.

If your breast cancer has moved to other parts of your body, you might experience symptoms relating to the area it has spread to, but not always.

Here Dr. Roesch explains how metastatic breast cancer can affect different parts of the body:

Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Bones

You may have any of these symptoms if your cancer has spread to the bones:

  • an ache or pain in the affected bone
  • breaks in the bones because they are weaker
  • breathlessness, looking pale, bruising and bleeding due to low levels of blood cells – blood cells are made in the bone marrow and can be crowded out by the cancer cells

Sometimes when bones are damaged by advanced cancer, the bones release calcium into the blood. This is called hypercalcaemia and can cause various symptoms such as:

  • tiredness

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What Are The Signs Of Breast Cancer

A woman who has breast cancer may have no problems, or she may find a painless lump in her breast. If women examine their breasts monthly, they can help find lumps or other changes that a doctor should examine.

Most breast lumps are not cancer, but all lumps should be checked out by a doctor to be sure. Breast lumps that are not cancer may be scar tissue or cysts or they can be due to normal breast changes associated with hormone changes or aging.

Girls who are beginning puberty might notice a lump underneath the nipple when their breasts start developing. Usually, this is a normal. You can ask a parent or your doctor about it to be sure.


What The Lymphatic System Is

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The lymphatic system is a system of thin tubes and lymph nodes that run throughout the body. These tubes are called lymph vessels or lymphatic vessels. The lymph system is an important part of our immune system. It plays a role in:

  • fighting bacteria and other infections
  • destroying old or abnormal cells, such as cancer cells

This video is about the lymphatic system, it lasts for 1 minute and 59 seconds.

You can read detailed information about the immune system and cancer.

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What Are The Symptoms

The most common symptoms of breast cancer in men are

  • A lump or swelling in the breast.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Nipple discharge.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

These symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer. If you have any symptoms that worry you, see your doctor right away.

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About Metastatic Breast Cancer

Cancer begins when healthy cells change and grow out of control, forming a mass or sheet of cells called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor can grow but will not spread.When breast cancer is limited to the breast and/or nearby lymph node regions, it is called early stage or locally advanced. Read about these stages in a different guide on Cancer.Net. When breast cancer spreads to an area farther from where it started to another part of the body, doctors say that the cancer has metastasized. They call the area of spread a metastasis, or use the plural of metastases if the cancer has spread to more than 1 area. The disease is called metastatic breast cancer. Another name for metastatic breast cancer is “stage IV breast cancer if it has already spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis of the original cancer.

Doctors may also call metastatic breast cancer advanced breast cancer. However, this term should not be confused with locally advanced breast cancer, which is breast cancer that has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.

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What Is The Best Way To Treat Breast Cancer

Here are some of the leading treatments for breast cancer, all of which are available at the START Center for Cancer Care:

  • Genetic testing Because every person is different, every cancer is different. Thus, your cancer treatment should also be personalized for you. And since your time is precious as a cancer patient, getting the most effective drug early on in your treatment process is critical. The START Center for Cancer Care is the first cancer care provider in South Texas to offer genetic testing of tumors to help you get the best medication for your cancer as fast as possible.

What is genetic testing? Genetic testing can help you determine your risk for cancer based on your genes. It can also help your doctor know the best medication for you. Each of your cells, including your cancerous cells, contains a copy of your DNA. By sequencing the DNA in your tumor, the cancer specialists at START can use a series of tests to identify which anti-cancer drugs are most likely to help fight your cancer. This can save you weeks to months of treatment and unnecessary side effects! Use our online form to request an appointment.

  • Anti-cancer drugs Most breast cancer treatments involve taking medication. START Center for Cancer Care provides comprehensive on-site pharmacy services including medication pick-up, counseling, financial aid, prior authorization processing for insurance claims, and even home delivery.

The Tonsils And Adenoids

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The tonsils are 2 glands in the back of your throat.

The adenoids are glands at the back of your nose, where it meets the back of your throat. The adenoids are also called the nasopharyngeal tonsils.

The tonsils and adenoids help to protect the entrance to the digestive system and the lungs from bacteria and viruses.

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Radioprotective Drugs For Reducing Side Effects

One way to reduce side effects is by using radioprotective drugs, but these are only used for certain types of radiation given to certain parts of the body. These drugs are given before radiation treatment to protect certain normal tissues in the treatment area. The one most commonly used today is amifostine. This drug may be used in people with head and neck cancer to reduce the mouth problems caused by radiation therapy.

Not all doctors agree on how these drugs should be used in radiation therapy. These drugs have their own side effects, too, so be sure you understand what to look for.

Triple Negative And Her

A subset of women diagnosed with breast cancer will be told that their tumor is triple negative, which means that the cells within the tumor lack receptors on their surface that respond to hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 2 as well as estrogen and progesterone receptors.

What does that mean? Some of the drugs used to treat breast cancer, which are designed to interact with these receptors, wont be useful in these cases. Doctors will need to tailor a treatment regimen to other weaknesses in this tumor type.

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Other Treatment For Breast Cancer

Depending on the cancer, other treatment options can include:

  • Radiotherapy use x-rays to kill any remaining cancer cells. Women who have had breast-conserving surgery often have a course of radiotherapy. Side effects can include a short-term reddening of the skin, which looks like sunburn, or longer-term thickening of skin.
  • Chemotherapy cancer-killing medication is given intravenously . Chemotherapy can be offered to women with early breast cancer as an extra treatment to surgery, radiotherapy or both. Chemotherapy has side effects that will depend on the type of medication you have, but can include nausea, vomiting and hair loss.
  • Hormone treatments many breast cancers are influenced by the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Hormone treatment can reduce the chances of breast cancer developing again.
  • Biological therapies strengthen the immune system to fight cancer. Several types of biological therapies are now used to treat breast cancer. Research is continuing and various types of therapies are being tested in clinical trials.
  • Complementary and alternative therapies when used alongside your conventional cancer treatment, some of these therapies can make you feel better and improve quality of life. Others may not be so helpful and in some cases may be harmful. The Cancer Council Victoria booklet called Understanding complementary therapies can be a useful resource.

If Your Breast Cancer Has Spread

World cancer day 2015

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.

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The Sentinel Lymph Node

When cancer spreads, the lymph node located closest to the original tumor is usually affected first. In breast cancer cases, the sentinel lymph node is often located in the underarm area. An important part of the bodys immune system, lymph nodes are small structures that fight infection by attacking and destroying harmful substances carried in the lymphatic fluid. As a tumor drains into the sentinel lymph node, the immune system works hard to filter and destroy the cancerous cells, but the cancer may become trapped within the node.

Effect Of Hormonal Changes On Breasts

As women develop from pre-puberty through puberty, pregnancy and to menopause, the breasts will be affected by a variety of fluctuations in hormones.

During puberty, hormones produced by the ovaries cause growth and development of the breast. After puberty, the hormones oestrogen and progesterone will change throughout a womans monthly menstrual cycle. This may cause women to have swollen or tender breasts at different times of the month.

During pregnancy the body will produce additional oestrogen and progesterone, which trigger further growth and development of the breast to prepare mothers for breastfeeding.

Around the time of menopause , the ovaries stop producing female hormones including oestrogen. Without oestrogen, the breast tissue decreases in size. After menopause , monthly menstrual periods stop.

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Treatment For Breast Cancer

Treatment options for breast cancer include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Usually, more than one is used. Treatment for breast cancer in men is similar to the treatment for breast cancer in women.

Treatment depends on several factors, including:

  • whether you have had your menopause
  • the type of breast cancer you have
  • the size of your breast tumour in relation to your breast
  • the stage of your breast cancer
  • the grade of your cancer cells
  • the results of tests on your cancer cells
  • your age, general health and personal preferences.

Risk Factors For Breast Cancer

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One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and over 220,000 women are diagnosed each year.

In recent years, there has been a gradual reduction in breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 50 or older. Death rates from breast cancer have also been declining since about 1990, in part to better due to screening and early detection, and the development of better treatment options. There are over 2 million breast cancer survivors today.

Risk factors for developing breast cancer include:


Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. It is rare in men, with approximately 2,150 cases diagnosed each year. The reason is probably that men have less of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can promote the growth of breast cancer cells.


Roughly one out of every eight invasive breast cancers are discovered in women younger than 45. In contrast, two out of three invasive breast cancers are found in women 55 or older.

Genetic factors

Between 5 percent and 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, meaning that they result directly from a defects or mutation in the genes. This defect is hereditary, meaning that it can be passed on by a parent.

Family history

A first-degree relative with breast cancer roughly doubles a woman’s risk. Two first-degree relatives with breast cancer increase a womans risk about three times.

Personal history


Dense breast tissue

Benign breast conditions

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What Do Scientists Actually Know About The Cause Of Breast Cancer

Cancer grows when a cells DNA is damaged, but why or how that DNA becomes damaged is still unknown. It could be genetic or environmental, or in most cases, a combination of the two. But most patients will never know exactly what caused their cancer. However, there are certain established risk factors that are associated with breast cancer.

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Complications Of Breast Cancer

As with treatment, possible complications of breast cancer depend on the type and stage of breast cancer you have. A number of the complications are side effects from treatment, that continue after treatment stops. Depending on what kind of treatment you’ve had, these can include:

Some patients develop a chronic condition called lymphedema, following treatment. Lymphatic fluid accumulates in the tissues, causing swelling. Lymphedema usually results from removal of or damage to lymph nodes.

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How Is Breast Cancer Treated

Treatment for breast cancer usually depends on the type of cancer and whether the cancer has spread outside of the breast to other parts of the body.

Here are some common treatments:

  • lumpectomy , which removes the cancerous tumor from the breast. A woman usually has this surgery when the cancer is found early and when the lump is small and in only one part of the breast.
  • mastectomy , which removes the whole breast. This surgery is done when cancer cells have spread through the breast or into other parts of the body. It’s a good way to remove all or most of the cancer, and can help prevent the cancer from spreading or coming back. Sometimes, a woman who has a mastectomy may choose to have an operation to reconstruct the breast, so her shape will be more like it was before.
  • radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which are often used after lumpectomy or mastectomy to make sure that all the cancer cells are destroyed and do not grow back. Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy , or chemo, is special medicine that travels throughout the entire body and kills cancer cells.
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Cosmetic Implants And Breast Cancer Survival

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The general agreement, based on , is that silicone breast implants do not increase the risk of breast cancer. A 2015 meta-analysis of 17 studies that included participants who had undergone cosmetic breast augmentation discovered no increase in the risk of breast cancer associated with the procedure. In fact, the research showed that the incidence among these participants was lower than expected.

In 2021, another study found that women with cosmetic implants have significantly lower rates of breast cancer than those who do not have them.

Meanwhile, a 2013 meta-analysis found that women who received a diagnosis of breast cancer after getting cosmetic breast implants may have a higher risk of dying from the disease.

However, this research did not factor in other variables that may influence breast cancer mortality, such as body mass index, age at diagnosis, or cancer stage at diagnosis. And at least one of the studies in the analysis looked at overall mortality, instead of breast cancer-specific mortality, thereby potentially skewing the results. As such, a person should consider the finding with caution.

most common type is ductal carcinoma, which begins in a milk duct. Another type is lobular carcinoma, which begins in a lobule, one of the tiny glands that produce milk.

Invasive breast cancer involves cancerous cells spreading to nearby tissue. It is then more likely that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body.

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