Will My Breast Cancer Treatment Affect My Ability To Have A Baby
Women of childbearing age who are being treated for breast cancer may be concerned about the impact on their ability to conceive a child in the future. Treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of the two may affect fertility.
Chemotherapy may affect the functioning of the ovaries, reducing the number or quality of eggs. These anti-cancer drugs may also cause infertility in women who havent started menopause . The likelihood of infertility may depend on the type of chemotherapy drugs used, the dose given and your age.
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by stopping or reducing their growth and division. Because radiation sometimes passes through healthy tissues, organs near the cancer site may be affected, potentially causing temporary or permanent infertility, especially if the radiation was delivered directly to the pelvic region.
You may want to consider your options for preserving fertility before starting treatment and discuss your questions and concerns with your oncologist.
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.
Staging And Grading Of Breast Cancer
The results of your tests help your doctors find out more about the size and position of the cancer and whether it has spread. This is called staging.
A doctor decides the grade of the cancer by how the cancer cells look under the microscope. This gives an idea of how quickly the cancer might grow or spread.
Knowing the stage and grade helps your doctors plan the best treatment for you.
This information is about stage 1 to 3 breast cancer. If you have stage 4 breast cancer, you may find our information about secondary breast cancer helpful.
Breast cancer cells may have receptors that hormones or a protein called HER2 can attach to and encourage the cells to grow. Cancer cells taken during biopsy are tested for these receptors.
There are different types of receptors in breast cancer:
- Hormone receptors
Breast cancer that has receptors for the hormone oestrogen is called oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.
- Receptors for HER2
Some breast cancers have too much of a protein called HER2 on the surface of their cells. This is called HER2-positive breast cancer.
Cancer that does not have receptors for either hormones or HER2 is called triple negative breast cancer.
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If Youre Feeling Overwhelmed
Its normal to feel overwhelmed when youve been diagnosed with cancer.
It can be hard to think straight or carry out normal everyday activities.
Some people have physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, diarrhoea or difficulty sleeping.
If youre feeling overwhelmed, it can help to talk to your GP. They can offer support and medication that can help in the short term.
How Long Is Chemo For Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy is often administered after surgery to remove any undetected breast cancer cells. Chemotherapy can also help reduce your risk of the cancer returning.
Chemotherapy should usually be given within 30 days of surgery and less than 120 days from the initial diagnosis. One study showed women who started chemotherapy two months after surgery had a 19 percent lower chance to survive compared to women who began chemotherapy a month after surgery.
Treatment comes in cycles that can occur once a week or once every three weeks. Following a period of recovery, this process can continue for up to six months. Women with more aggressive forms of cancer may receive chemotherapy for longer than that.
Not all stages of cancer require chemotherapy. Depending on the results of pathology from surgery, your doctor will decide the best plan for adjuvant treatment. You may also be a candidate for hormonal therapy.
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What Will Happen After Treatment
Youll be glad when treatment is over. For years after treatment ends, you will see your cancer doctor. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. You will have exams, blood tests, and maybe other tests to see if the cancer has come back.
At first, your visits may be every few months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed.
If you still have a breast , youll need to get a mammogram every year. Depending on your treatment, you might need other tests as well, such as yearly pelvic exams or bone density tests.
Having cancer and dealing with treatment can be hard, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. You might be thinking about how to improve your health. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or talk to your cancer care team to find out what you can do to feel better.
You cant change the fact that you have cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life making healthy choices and feeling as well as you can.
What Are The Potential Side Effects Of This Treatment
Many people who undergo radiation therapy for breast cancer have some breast pain and skin irritation. The affected skin may eventually become red and swollen like a sunburn. These conditions typically begin within a few weeks of starting treatment and go away on their own within six months after treatment ends. For some patients, these symptoms may not occur until several months or years after treatment. Other common side effects include fatigue, especially in the later weeks of treatment and for some time afterward, and firmness or shrinkage of the breast. Women who have had radiation therapy to the lymph nodes in the underarm area may develop lymphedema, a condition in which fluid collects in the arm, causing it to swell.
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Breast Cancer Cell Lines
Part of the current knowledge on breast carcinomas is based on in vivo and in vitro studies performed with cell lines derived from breast cancers. These provide an unlimited source of homogenous self-replicating material, free of contaminating stromal cells, and often easily cultured in simple standard media. The first breast cancer cell line described, BT-20, was established in 1958. Since then, and despite sustained work in this area, the number of permanent lines obtained has been strikingly low . Indeed, attempts to culture breast cancer cell lines from primary tumors have been largely unsuccessful. This poor efficiency was often due to technical difficulties associated with the extraction of viable tumor cells from their surrounding stroma. Most of the available breast cancer cell lines issued from metastatic tumors, mainly from pleural effusions. Effusions provided generally large numbers of dissociated, viable tumor cells with little or no contamination by fibroblasts and other tumor stroma cells.Many of the currently used BCC lines were established in the late 1970s. A very few of them, namely MCF-7, T-47D, MDA-MB-231 and SK-BR-3, account for more than two-thirds of all abstracts reporting studies on mentioned breast cancer cell lines, as concluded from a Medline-based survey.
Can Blood Work Detect Breast Cancer
Yes. Cancerous tumors produce specific proteins that can be found in blood marker tests. Certain markers, such as CA 15.3, TRU-QUANT, and CA 27.29, typically indicate breast cancer may be present or if there is a cancer recurrence. Other markers, like CEA , can indicate that breast cancer is present and can also determine if it has traveled to other areas of the body. Doctors will often order blood tests before treatment and throughout the process to help diagnose the cancer, as well as to see how the cancer is responding to treatment methods. A blood test is a supplement to other breast cancer detection strategies, but it is not a foolproof method and should not be used in place of other cancer screenings.
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Check Your Health Insurance
Its hugely unfortunate how expensive cancer care is and how many out-of-pocket expenses there are for many women, says Dr. Rosenblatt. Every insurer is different. Verify your copays, and check that your doctors are in-network and that prescription drugs are covered, Dr. Rosenblatt advises, to avoid a surprise on your medical bill. Your pharmacy should also check with your insurance before they order any meds. As a general rule, call your provider if youre not sure whether a treatment is covered.
Many women arent aware of the Womens Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, a federal law that guarantees that when health insurance provides coverage of medical and surgical benefits for mastectomy, it must also provide coverage for breast reconstruction, prosthesis, and physical complications from surgery.
Navigating Your Path To Breast Care: Newly Diagnosed
A new diagnosis of breast cancer is often paired with difficult sensations, emotions and responses including fear, shock, numbness and disbelief, as well as anger, betrayal, grief and sadness. In the midst of this emotional trauma, women must gather information, often learn a new language of medical terms, understand treatment choices and make difficult decisions. Women often report being overwhelmed or at least intensely challenged to make sense of the medical maze.
Three specialty areas of central importance in the treatment of breast cancer include: surgical oncology, medical oncology and radiation oncology. Not everyone is treated with all of these modalities, but each is weighed for the benefits offered and for the potential risks incurred.
Each of these areas can be thought of as the treatment building blocks they may be given in different orders, over differing amounts of time, all depending on the stage and biological behavior of the breast cancer and the individual references of the women diagnosed with disease. A combination of treatment strategies from the three key breast cancer modalities is often the best method to achieve both local and systemic control of breast cancer.
The treatments are accompanied by a range of emotions, possible side effects and potential variability in response to treatment. While none of these treatments is easy to undergo, many women weather breast cancer treatments with support.
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How Soon Will My Treatment Get Underway
Timely treatment is key to achieving the best possible patient outcomes. That’s why our coordinated approach to patient care emphasizes quick assessment and implementation of the specific services you need.
We strive to make your treatment as seamless as possible by housing our cancer services in close proximity to one another at each of our hospital campuses. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to get the care you need, so you can concentrate on feeling better.
Positron Emission Tomography Scan
For a PET scan, a slightly radioactive form of sugar is injected into the blood and collects mainly in cancer cells.
PET/CT scan: Often a PET scan is combined with a CT scan using a special machine that can do both at the same time. This lets the doctor compare areas of higher radioactivity on the PET scan with a more detailed picture on the CT scan.
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Treatment For Breast Cancer
A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team .
Your doctor will explain the different treatment options and their side effects. They will also talk to you about the things you should consider when making treatment decisions.
The first treatment for breast cancer is often surgery to remove it. Your surgeon will talk to you about having one of these operations:
- Breast-conserving surgery
Breast-conserving surgery is when the cancer and some surrounding normal breast tissue is removed.
You will usually need some, or all, of the lymph nodes in your armpit removed.
Some women may be asked to decide if they want surgery to make a new breast shape during the operation. Others may decide to have this done later.
We have more information about your operation. You may also need support when dealing with changes to your body after surgery.
Dealing With Emotions After Breast Cancer
I want you to start by giving yourself permission to feel. You may be reading this because you are not sure how to navigate your emotions after breast cancer or how you should be reacting to your breast cancer story. Some people feel confused, angry, fearful or even relieved at having a label on what may have been a long diagnosis. You may feel defeated or powerful or even a mixture of every emotion. Above all, there is no right or wrong way to feel in this moment. Whatever you are feeling, this is your journey, so give yourself permission to feel.
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How Does The Doctor Know I Have Breast Cancer
A change seen on your mammogram may be the first sign of breast cancer. Or you may have found a lump or other change in your breast.
The doctor will ask you questions about your health and will do a physical exam. A breast exam is done to look for changes in the nipples or the skin of your breasts. The doctor will also check the lymph nodes under your arm and above your collarbone. Swollen or hard lymph nodes might mean breast cancer has spread there.
Mammogram: This is an x-ray of the breast. Mammograms are mostly used to find breast cancer early. But another mammogram might be done to look more closely at the breast problem you might have.
MRI scan: MRIs use radio waves and strong magnets instead of x-rays to make detailed pictures. MRIs can be used to learn more about the size of the cancer and look for other tumors in the breast.
Breast ultrasound: For this test, a small wand is moved around on your skin. It gives off sound waves and picks up the echoes as they bounce off tissues. The echoes are made into a picture that you can see on a computer screen. Ultrasound can help the doctor see if a lump is a fluid-filled cyst , or if it’s a tumor that could be cancer.
Nipple discharge exam: If you have fluid coming from your nipple, some of it may be sent to a lab. There, it will be checked to see if there are cancer cells in it.
What This Means For You
If youve been diagnosed with breast cancer and are concerned about preserving your fertility, it makes sense to talk to your doctor about your fertility options before you start treatment. If your doctor doesnt bring up the subject, be your own best advocate and start the discussion.
If chemotherapy is recommended for you, it may be possible for you to be treated with medicine to temporarily shut down your ovaries while youre being treated. Research has shown that ovarian shut down during chemotherapy can increase the chances of having a child after treatment.
There also are other options available, including harvesting mature eggs from your ovaries before treatment starts. The most important thing to do is to talk to your doctor about fertility as youre planning your treatment. You also can ask for a referral to a fertility specialist for counseling before treatment begins.
For more information, visit the Breastcancer.org pages on Fertility and Pregnancy Issues During and After Breast Cancer.
To discuss this study with others or talk about your fertility options, join the Breastcancer.org Discussion Board forum Family and Family Planning Matters.
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How Soon After A Breast Cancer Diagnosis Should You Have Surgery
Surgery should come within a few weeks of diagnosis. Research shows the sooner you receive surgery, the better the overall prognosis. For example, a study showed women ages 15 to 39 who had surgery within two weeks had a 84 percent five-year survival rate compared to a 78 percent five-year survival rate for women who waited six weeks or more until surgery. Overall, the optional time for surgery after diagnosis is less than 90 days.
Lumpectomy, mastectomy and lymph node removal are three common surgical procedures to treat breast cancer. A lumpectomy is a breast-conserving procedure in which only a part of the breast that contains cancer cells is removed. A mastectomy removes the entire breast. Some women also undergo a double mastectomy to remove both breasts.
How Big Is My Tumor
Tumor size is another factor that will determine your course of treatment. Your doctor uses the size of your tumor to stage, or further categorize your cancer .
The tumors dimensions are estimated by a physical exam, a mammogram, an ultrasound or an MRI of the breast. The precise size wont be known until a pathologist studies the tumor after surgical removal.
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