Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
The signs and symptoms of breast cancer vary among women. It is crucial to understand even slight changes in the breast.
Breast Cancer Signs And Symptoms
Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is an important part of your breast health. Although having regular screening tests for breast cancer is important, mammograms do not find every breast cancer. This means it’s also important for you to know what your breasts normally look and feel like, so youll be aware of any changes in your breasts.
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass . A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be also soft, round, tender, or even painful.
Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Swelling of all or part of a breast
- Skin dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking, or thickened
- Nipple discharge
- Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or near the collar bone
Many of these symptoms can also be caused by benign breast conditions. Still, its important to have any new breast mass, lump, or other change checked by an experienced health care professional so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Remember that knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular screening for breast cancer.Screening mammography can often help find breast cancer early, before any symptoms appear. Finding breast cancer early gives you a better chance of successful treatment.
Less Common Types Of Invasive Breast Cancer
Pagets disease of the nipple
Paget’s disease of the nipple is a rare form of breast cancer in which cancer cells grow in the nipple or the areola . The nipple and areola often become scaly, red, itchy, and irritated. Many people with Pagets disease may also have either DCIS or invasive breast cancer somewhere else in the breast. The unusual changes in the nipple and areola are often the first signs that breast cancer is present.
Inflammatory breast cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive form of invasive breast cancer that affects the blood vessels in the skin and/or lymphatic vessels of the breast. This causes the breast to become red and inflamed. SeeCancer Australiafor more information about inflammatory breast cancer.
Phyllodes tumours of the breast
Phyllodes tumours of the breast are rare. Although most phyllodes tumours are benign some are malignant . Phyllodes tumours tend to grow quickly, but they rarely spread outside the breast. Phyllodes tumours develop in the breasts connective tissue or stroma i.e. outside the ducts and lobules of the breast.
Other rare breast cancers
There are also other types of very rare breast cancers such as metaplastic, medullary and mucinous breast cancer.
The USbreastcancer.orgwebsitehas a range of very clearly explained information about the rarer types of breast cancer. This is an American website and please keep in mind not all information may be relevant to Australia.
Locally advanced breast cancer
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Understanding Your Risk Of Breast Cancer
Several breast cancer risk assessment tools have been developed to help a woman estimate her chance of developing breast cancer. The best studied is the Gail model, which is available on the National Cancer Institutes website at www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool. After you enter some personal and family information, including race/ethnicity, the tool provides you with a 5-year and lifetime estimate of the risk of developing invasive breast cancer. Because it only asks for information about breast cancer in first-degree family members and does not include their ages at diagnosis, the tool works best at estimating risk in women without a strong inherited breast cancer risk. For some women, other ways of determining the risk of breast cancer may work better. For example, women with a strong family history of breast cancer risk should consider talking to a genetic counselor.
It is important to talk with your doctor about how to estimate your personal risk of breast cancer and to discuss risk-reducing or prevention options .
Blood Tests For Tumor Markers
In some cases, blood tests for tumor markers may be used to help monitor metastatic breast cancer.
For example, you may have blood tests every few months for cancer antigen 15-3 or cancer antigen 27.29 . These tests are similar. Health care providers usually check one, but not both of these blood tests.
Whether the tumor marker test score rises or falls over time may give some information on tumor response to a drug or tumor spread.
Tumor marker tests are not helpful in every case. Some people with rising tumor marker levels dont have tumor growth, and some people with tumor growth have normal or unchanged tumor marker levels.
Health care providers dont make treatment decisions based on serum tumor marker testing alone. They may combine findings from a tumor marker test with information on symptoms and findings from imaging tests . This combined information can help your health care providers understand if a treatment is working well for your cancer.
Talk with your health care provider about whether tumor marker testing is right for you.
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Types Of Breast Carcinomas
Within the large group of carcinomas, there are many different types of breast cancer. The first major division is between in situ and invasive carcinoma. In situ carcinoma is “pre-invasive” carcinoma that has not yet invaded the breast tissue. These in situ cancer cells grow inside of the pre-exisiting normal lobules or ducts. In situ carcinoma has significant potential to become invasive cancer, and that is why it must be adequately treated to prevent the patient from developing invasive cancer. Invasive cancers have cancer cells that infiltrate outside of the normal breast lobules and ducts to grow into the breast connective tissue. Invasive carcinomas have the potential to spread to other sites of the body, such as lymph nodes or other organs, in the form of metastases.
Approximately 80% of breast carcinomas are invasive ductal carcinoma, followed by invasive lobular carcinomas which account for approximately 10-15% of cases. Invasive ductal carcinomas and invasive lobular carcinomas have distinct pathologic features. Specifically, lobular carcinomas grow as single cells arranged individually, in single file, or in sheets, and they have different molecular and genetic aberrations that distinguish them from ductal carcinomas. Ductal and lobular carcinomas may have different prognoses and treatment options, depending upon all of the other features of the particular cancer.
Benign hyperplasia of the breast epithelial cells lining the ducts and lobules.
How Can I Protect Myself From Breast Cancer
Follow these three steps for early detection:
- Get a mammogram. The American Cancer Society recommends having a baseline mammogram at age 35, and a screening mammogram every year after age 40. Mammograms are an important part of your health history. Recently, the US Preventive Services Task Force came out with new recommendations regarding when and how often one should have mammograms. These include starting at age 50 and having them every two years. We do not agree with this, but we are in agreement with the American Cancer Society and have not changed our guidelines, which recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40.
- Examine your breasts each month after age 20. You will become familiar with the contours and feel of your breasts and will be more alert to changes.
- Have your breast examined by a healthcare provider at least once every three years after age 20, and every year after age 40. Clinical breast exams can detect lumps that may not be detected by mammogram.
Noninvasive Types Of Breast Cancer
In situ breast cancer cells are non-invasive and remain in a particular location of the breast, without spreading to surrounding tissue, lobules or ducts.
Breast cancer that does not spread beyond the milk ducts or lobules is known as in situ. The two types of in situ cancers are ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma.
Ductal carcinoma in situ
About 20 percent of newly diagnosed breast cancers are classified as DCIS, according to the ACS. DCIS starts out as a mass that grows in a milk duct, which carries milk from the lobules, or glands, to the nipple. A DCIS hasnt spread to other parts of the body. Over time, chances increase for the mass to break through the ductal walls into the surrounding tissue and fat of the breast. With advances in diagnostics and treatments, however, most patients treated for DCIS, also called stage 0 breast cancer, have positive outcomes.
Lobular carcinoma in situ
An LCIS is technically not considered cancer, but rather a change in the breast. In the breast are tens of thousands of tiny clusters of lobules to produce breast milk. Cells that resemble cancer cells may grow inside these lobules. LCIS tends to remain there and not spread. However, having LCIS puts you at an increased risk for invasive breast cancer, so your care team may want to monitor you in order to promptly address any changes.
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What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Breast Cancer
The most common symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Feeling a lump in the breast area, with or without pain
- Change in breast shape or size
- Dimple or puckering in breast
- A nipple turning inward into the breast
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, especially if it is bloody
- Scaly, red, darkened or swollen skin in the breast area
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Dimple, pitted appearance or feel in the breast area
- Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes around the breast area, including the collarbone and armpits
Although these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, you should check with a doctor preferably a breast health specialist so they can make a definitive diagnosis.
Help Getting Through Cancer Treatment
People with cancer need support and information, no matter what stage of illness they may be in. Knowing all of your options and finding the resources you need will help you make informed decisions about your care.
Whether you are thinking about treatment, getting treatment, or not being treated at all, you can still get supportive care to help with pain or other symptoms. Communicating with your cancer care team is important so you understand your diagnosis, what treatment is recommended, and ways to maintain or improve your quality of life.
Different types of programs and support services may be helpful, and can be an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services including rides to treatment, lodging, and more to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists.
What Is Metastatic Cancer
Metastatic cancer is cancer thats spread to a different part of the body than where it originated. You may also see metastatic cancer referred to as stage 4 cancer.
In some cases, the cancer may have already spread by the time of initial diagnosis. Other times, the cancer may spread after the initial treatment. For example, a person who has been treated for early-stage breast cancer may later be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
Metastasis can occur with almost every type of cancer and is considered advanced-stage cancer. Cancer metastasis may occur months to years after initial breast cancer treatment.
Theres also a type of metastatic cancer called oligometastatic cancer. This is where theres only a few small areas of metastatic cancer. Because this type of metastatic cancer is only found in a few locations, researchers hope it will be
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How Breast Cancer Spreads
Breast cancer can spread through the lymphatic system, the bloodstream, or by local invasionfor instance, when cancer cells actually invade nearby tissues, such as the chest wall or ribs.
When breast cancers spread and enter the lymphatic system, they usually first arrive at nearby lymph nodes and may still be early-stage.
Metastatic breast cancer is the same thing as stage 4 breast cancer and is considered the most advanced stage. It refers to breast cancers that have spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other regions of the body, which are called distant metastases.
While treatment options for metastatic breast cancer are similar no matter where cancer has spread, some treatments are used for specific sites of metastasis as well .
Us Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations Tool
The Data Visualizations tool makes it easy for anyone to explore and use the latest official federal government cancer data from United States Cancer Statistics. It includes the latest cancer data covering the U.S. population.
See how the rates of new breast cancers or breast cancer deaths changed over time for the entire United States and individual states.Links with this icon indicate that you are leaving the CDC website.
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Causes Of Breast Cancer: How Did This Happen
When youre told that you have breast cancer, its natural to wonder what may have caused the disease. But no one knows the exact causes of breast cancer. Doctors seldom know why one woman develops breast cancer and another doesnt, and most women who have breast cancer will never be able to pinpoint an exact cause. What we do know is that breast cancer is always caused by damage to a cells DNA.
Will I Have To Have Chemo If I Have Breast Cancer
Tran says chemotherapy can be an effective way to reduce the size of a tumor, but admits the regimen can be tough. Depending on your individual situation, chemo is not always necessary.
For postmenopausal patients with invasive cancer where the tumor is greater than 1 centimeter and hormone receptor positive, the information we get from the oncotype genetic profile of cancer can help predict if chemotherapy will be beneficial, she says.
If tests come back with a low score for certain factors, even if theres cancer in lymph nodes, the patient may be able to skip chemotherapy and instead receive hormone-blocking treatment, which is easier to take and involves fewer side effects. Tran says hormone therapy is given over five years, and can be administered in pill form.
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Differences By Race And Ethnicity
Some variations in breast cancer can be seen between racial and ethnic groups. For example,
- The median age of diagnosis is slightly younger for Black women compared to white women 63 years old).
- Black women have the highest death rate from breast cancer. This is thought to be partially because about 1 in 5 Black women with breast cancer have triple-negative breast cancer – more than any other racial/ethnic group.
- Black women have a higher chance of developing breast cancer before the age of 40 than white women.
- At every age, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race or ethnic group.
- White and Asian/Pacific Islander women are more likely to be diagnosed with localized breast cancer than Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
- Asian/Pacific Islanders have the lowest death rate from breast cancer.
- American Indian/Alaska Natives have the lowest rates of developing breast cancer.
What Are The Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer symptoms can vary for each person. Possible signs of breast cancer include:
- A change in the size, shape or contour of your breast.
- A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
- A lump or thickening in or near your breast or in your underarm that persists through your menstrual cycle.
- A change in the look or feel of your skin on your breast or nipple .
- Redness of your skin on your breast or nipple.
- An area thats distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
- A marble-like hardened area under your skin.
- A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from your nipple.
Some people dont notice any signs of breast cancer at all. Thats why routine mammograms and are so important.
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