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What To Know About Breast Cancer

Skin Rash On The Breasts

What to Know About Breast Cancer

You may not associate breast cancer with redness or a skin rash, but in the case of inflammatory breast cancer , a rash is an early symptom. This is an aggressive form of breast cancer that affects the skin and lymph vessels of the breast.

Unlike other types of breast cancer, IBC doesnt usually cause lumps. However, your breasts may become swollen, warm, and appear red. The rash may resemble clusters of insect bites, and its not unusual to have itchiness.

What Does It Mean To Have A Brca Mutation

According to Payal Shah, MD, a medical oncologist at Penn Medicine and assistant professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, everyone has two copies of genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2, one copy inherited from each parent. BRCA1 and 2 are repair genes, so they help the body repair mistakes in DNA.

Karlena Lara-Otero, PhD, a genetic counselor at Stanford Health Care, says BRCA1 and 2 genes are specifically tumor suppressor genes that prevent cells from growing out of control, which is what leads to cancer. “When these genes work properly, they go to the site where cell damage occurs and repair it so cells can continue to function properly,” Lara-Otero tells Health.

The BRCA mutation can cause many types of cancer, but it’s most significantly associated with breast cancer. According to Lara-Otero, that’s because the BRCA gene is responsible for repairing DNA in breast tissue.

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A BRCA mutation occurs when someone’s born with a copy of a BRCA gene that doesn’t suppress tumor growth effectively. This can lead to an increased risk of various cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancer, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer.

What Are The Risk Factors

Older women are at a greater risk than younger women. In addition to age, family history and carrying a certain genetic mutation are the biggest risk factors. Women who undergo hormone therapy, especially if they have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors, or chest radiation are also at increased risk. Other risk factors include obesity, alcohol consumption and smoking.

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Good News About Breast Cancer Trends

In recent years, perhaps coinciding with the decline in prescriptive hormone replacement therapy after menopause, we have seen a gradual reduction in female breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 50 and older. Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, in part due to better screening and early detection, increased awareness, and continually improving treatment options.

How Much Do Tamoxifen And Raloxifene Lower The Risk Of Breast Cancer

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Multiple studies have shown that both tamoxifen and raloxifene can reduce the risk of developing estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer in healthy postmenopausal women who are at high risk of developing the disease. Tamoxifen lowered the risk by 50 percent. Raloxifene lowered the risk by 38 percent. Overall, the combined results of these studies showed that taking tamoxifen or raloxifene daily for five years reduced the risk of developing breast cancer by at least one-third. In one trial directly comparing tamoxifen with raloxifene, raloxifene was found to be slightly less effective than tamoxifen for preventing breast cancer.

Both tamoxifen and raloxifene have been approved for use to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in women at high risk of the disease. Tamoxifen is approved for use in both premenopausal women and postmenopausal women . Raloxifene is approved for use only in postmenopausal women.

Less common but more serious side effects of tamoxifen and raloxifene include blood clots to the lungs or legs. Other serious side effects of tamoxifen are an increased risk for cataracts and endometrial cancers. Other common, less serious shared side effects of tamoxifen and raloxifene include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.

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Myth: Using Underarm Antiperspirant Can Cause Breast Cancerfact: There Is No Evidence Of A Connection Between Underarm Antiperspirant And Breast Cancer But The Safety Of Antiperspirants Is Still Being Studied

There have been persistent rumors that underarm antiperspirants, especially those containing aluminum and other chemicals, are absorbed into the lymph nodes and make their way into breast cells, increasing cancer risk. Shaving the underarms was thought to make this worse by creating tiny nicks that allow more of the chemicals to enter the body. Another theory was that antiperspirants, by stopping underarm sweating, can prevent the release of toxic substances from the underarm lymph nodes, also increasing cancer risk.

However, there is no evidence of a link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer. Still, some studies have found that women who use aluminum products under their arms are more likely to have higher concentrations of aluminum in breast tissue.2 If youre concerned about minimizing the use of chemicals under your arms, check out these tips in Are Antiperspirants Safe?

Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Can Control

  • Physical activity. The less you move, the higher your chances.
  • Weight and diet. Being overweight after menopause raises your odds.
  • Alcohol. Regular drinking — especially more than one drink a day — increases the risk of breast cancer.
  • Reproductive history.
  • You donât have a full-term pregnancy.
  • Taking hormones. Your chances can go up if you:
  • Use hormone replacement therapy that includes both estrogen and progesterone during menopause for more than 5 years. This increase in breast cancer risk returns to normal 5 years after you stop treatment.
  • Use certain birth control methods including birth control pills, shots, implants, IUDS, skin patches, or vaginal rings that contain hormones.
  • Still, most women who are at high risk for breast cancer donât get it. On the other hand, 75% of women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors. Learn more about the risk factors for breast cancer.

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    Everything You Need To Know About Breast Cancer

    Breast cancer is one of those feared illnesses by many women. There are numerous commercials about breast cancer awareness, including statistics and warning signs. Its been talked about for decades and most people will know someone who has it or has suffered from it.

    There are some who no longer fear it as much. After all, many women do survive it. Yet there are still many who die from it every year, whether its a more aggressive form of breast cancer or its gone undiagnosed for too long. After all, breast cancer doesnt just appear as lumps in the breast and can sometimes appear as discoloration on the skin.

    While the prognosis is good for many, its important to catch it as early as possible. Youll also want to take steps to avoid contributory factors when possible. Heres all you need to know about breast cancer to help protect your life.

    If You Have Breast Implants

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    Mammograms are safe and effective for women with implants, but it may be harder to read the results. If you can, find a mammography center where the technologists and radiologists have experience doing mammograms for women with breast implants. Let your technologist know you have implants before your exam. They can position the machine and your breast to get the best image of your natural tissue. Four views of each breast will be taken .

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    Dense Breasts Need Special Screening

    Many women have dense breasts, which means their breasts have a high proportion of glandular tissue containing milk-producing cells and fibrous tissue as compared to fat. Some believe dense breasts may increase cancer risk, though age and weight are more important risk factors.

    Dense breasts also make it harder for radiologists to detect cancer. As a result, women with dense breasts may need an ultrasound or MRI scan for follow-up testing.

    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.

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    In Your 40s You Should Get Your First Mammogram

    If you’ve talked to your doctor, calculated your risk, and found that you do not need early screening or imaging, then your 40s is when you should be scheduling your first mammogram and continuing to get them annually .

    If you have dense breast tissue, talk to your doctor about potentially adding in ultrasounds, and if you are at high risk of breast cancer, ask your doctor about whether she recommends adding in MRIs as well.

    Dr. Hunt advises consulting the National Cancer Institute‘s website to educate yourself on the options and being fully informed of your family history, so you can advocate for the best imaging course of action for you.

    “We want to be appropriate for each individual,” Dr. Hunt says. “You can take the information that you learn and bring that to your physician and personalize it. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach. We all have different family histories and they evolve over time, of course.”

    Estrogen Exposure And Breastfeeding

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    Breastfeeding for over 1 year appears to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

    Extended exposure to estrogen appears to increase the risk of breast cancer.

    This could be due to a person starting their periods earlier or entering menopause at a later than average age. Between these times, estrogen levels are higher.

    Breastfeeding, especially for over 1 year, appears to reduce the chance of developing breast cancer. This is possibly due to the drop in estrogen exposure that follows pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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    Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Self

    The month of October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month

    Breast cancer is now the most common form of cancer and has surpassed cervical cancer. Breast cancer is also now more common in the younger age group with more women in their thirties and forties being now diagnosed with breast cancer. This can also be attributed to increasing awareness on the disease but genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors are also at play. We often hear that early diagnosis is important. So how can we maximize the chance of catching breast cancer early? Here are some points to note.

    Diagnosis Of Invasive Lobular Carcinoma

    The earlier youre diagnosed with ILC and start treatment, the better your outlook. As with other types of cancer, early stages of ILC are likely to be treated more easily with fewer complications. This typically but not always leads to a complete recovery and low recurrence rates.

    However, early diagnosis of ILC can be a challenge, compared with the much more common IDC. Thats because the growth and spread patterns of ILC are more difficult to detect on routine mammograms and breast exams. ILC tumors are likely to have multiple origins, and they grow in single-file lines rather than a lump.

    The first step in a diagnosis of ILC is a breast examination. Your doctor will feel your breast for a thickening or hardening of the tissue. They will also look for any swelling in the lymph nodes under your arms or around your collarbone.

    Other diagnostic tests may include:

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    If You Are Age 55 Or Over:

    Mammograms are recommended every other year. You can choose to continue to have them every year.

    Clinical breast exams and self-exams are not recommended. But you should be familiar with your breasts and tell a health care provider right away if you notice any changes in how your breasts look or feel.

    Avoid Birth Control Pills Particularly After Age 35 Or If You Smoke

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    Birth control pills have both risks and benefits. The younger a woman is, the lower the risks are. While women are taking birth control pills, they have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. This risk goes away quickly, though, after stopping the pill. The risk of stroke and heart attack is also increased while on the pill particularly if a woman smokes. However, long-term use can also have important benefits, like lowering the risk of ovarian cancer, colon cancer and uterine cancer not to mention unwanted pregnancy so theres also a lot in its favor. If youre very concerned about breast cancer, avoiding birth control pills is one option to lower risk.

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    What Are Some Other Signs Of Breast Cancer

    Its important to know the most common breast cancers do not cause any changes in skin appearance or texture. Some people may present with lumps in other areas, such as under their arms. Any abnormal or bloody nipple discharge can be a sign of cancer, especially if it comes from one nipple only. Some patients may just have redness on the breast, so any redness or wounds on the breast can be a sign, too.

    Seek A Second Opinion

    Most doctors will suggest getting a second opinion, and even if they do not, it is always a good idea. Most insurance will cover it. It’s important to seek a specialist in breast cancer who is up to date on the latest treatments and can help you make the best decisions on how to proceed. You may discuss your diagnosis with another pathologist who can review your breast tissue slides and confirm a diagnosis, or another medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, or radiation oncologist to determine the best treatment choices.

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    What Can I Expect After A Mastectomy

    Because breast surgery is a major operation with often a considerable amount of blood loss, patients and their caregivers should be aware of the following outcomes after the surgical removal of the affected breast:

    • Altered consciousness from the postoperative anaesthesia
    • Significant tissue bruises around the surgical site
    • Wound pain or swelling around the stitches
    • Skin irritation
    • Weakness related to hypovolemia
    • Unusual swellings due to blood clots, surgical wound dressings
    • Numbness or heaviness in the arms
    • Unsightly scar tissue across the chest

    As mentioned before, the psychological impact of removing a womans breast needs to be addresses in the postoperative period by a supportive network made up of her obgyn specialist, mental health provider and family.

    Food And Drug Administration Approval Standards

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    Breast Cancer Action has advocated for more effective, less toxic treatments since our founding in 1990. Despite the billions of dollars spent on awareness, breast cancer treatments remain largely the same as they were decades ago. Activists and health providers alike worry that the basic treatments for breast cancer continue to be slash, burn, poisonmore commonly referred to in medical offices as surgery, radiation, chemotherapywith too few advances benefitting too few women.

    From a patient perspective, treatments work if they help people live longer , help people live better , or cost less . If a treatment doesnt do one of these three things, the companies who sell it may benefit, but breast cancer patients do not. Until a new treatment has been shown to do one of these three things, we believe it should not be approved by the Food and Drug Administration .

    In the face of slow medical advances, with true breakthroughs few and far between, the FDA too often gives in to pressure to approve new cancer drugs for the sake of saying theyve approved new treatments. But fast approvals dont help patients if the drugs in question are ineffective or unsafe. And granting FDA approval of essentially experimental drugs drives up medical costs without advancing health and wellbeing.

    For more information about the drug approval process, see Breast Cancer Actions:

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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.

    If signs are pointing to breast cancer, more tests will be done. Here are some of the tests you may need:

    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.

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