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HomeTrendingWhy Do Breast Cancer Patients Lose Their Nipples

Why Do Breast Cancer Patients Lose Their Nipples

Nipple Erections Happen For This Reason

How Does Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy Help Breast Cancer Patients with Emotional Reconstruction?

Everyone knows nipples get stiff and stick out when a person is turned on, when its cold, or when fabriclike a sports brarubs against them in a certain way. But why do nipple hard-ons, as they’re called, happen in the first place? According to a 2016 study in Nature Neuroscience, it has to do with a specific type of specialized nerve cells concentrated in the area.

Those nerve cells are part of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary movements, the study authors say. By controlling the erectile muscles in breast tissue , they can help the body respond to outside stimuli, which in turn lets your system regulate things like internal temperature, sexual arousal, and the fight-or-flight response to threats.

If your nipples are the super sensitive kind that become erect anytime a breeze blows, and these nipple erections bother you, you can always try to cover up your perked-up pair with a lined or padded bra. But outside of that, erect nipples that peek out of your T-shirt at inappropriate times are just one of those things most women laugh off and learn to live with.

How Do Surgeons Reconstruct The Nipple And Areola

After the chest heals from reconstruction surgery and the position of the breast mound on the chest wall has had time to stabilize, a surgeon can reconstruct the nipple and areola. Usually, the new nipple is created by cutting and moving small pieces of skin from the reconstructed breast to the nipple site and shaping them into a new nipple. A few months after nipple reconstruction, the surgeon can re-create the areola. This is usually done using tattoo ink. However, in some cases, skin grafts may be taken from the groin or abdomen and attached to the breast to create an areola at the time of the nipple reconstruction .

Some women who do not have surgical nipple reconstruction may consider getting a realistic picture of a nipple created on the reconstructed breast from a tattoo artist who specializes in 3-D nipple tattooing.

A mastectomy that preserves a woman’s own nipple and areola, called nipple-sparing mastectomy, may be an option for some women, depending on the size and location of the breast cancer and the shape and size of the breasts .

What This Means For You

This study gives women and their doctors more information on long-term outcomes after nipple-sparing mastectomy. It also underscores that candidates for nipple-sparing mastectomy must be selected carefully.

If youve been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and have decided to have reconstruction after mastectomy, you and your surgeon may be discussing nipple-sparing mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.

Keeping your nipple and areola may be very important to you, and you may like the idea of waking up after immediate reconstruction with a rebuilt breast.

Because nipple-sparing mastectomy isnt for everyone, it makes sense to talk to your doctor about the characteristics of the cancer. If the cancer:

  • is multifocal
  • has large amounts of DCIS in addition to the invasive cancer
  • is larger than 3 cm
  • is closer than 2 cm to the areola area

you are not a good candidate for nipple-sparing mastectomy.

Recommended Reading: How Does Metastatic Breast Cancer Start

S To Help You Get Used To Looking At Your Body*

1. First, it may help to look at yourself in a full-length mirror fully clothed and pick out three things you really like about yourself.

2. After that, do the same wearing lingerie or underwear.

3. When you feel ready you can move on to looking at your naked body in a full-length mirror. Describe what you see and what you like or what makes you feel awkward or uncomfortable.

4. Look at and touch your scars or breast reconstruction so that you get used to how this now feels.

5. The more often you look at and feel your body, the less different it will seem.

*Adapted from;Intimacy & sexuality for cancer patients and their partners, available from

Some women will continue to feel uncomfortable about looking at their body. If youve tried the techniques above and still find looking at your body difficult or upsetting, you may find it helpful to speak to a counsellor. Your GP or breast care nurse should be able to arrange this for you.

Myths About Breast Cancer Survivorship


MYTH: Eating soy products after having hormone receptor positive breast cancer increases my chance of a recurrence.

FACT: Research on soy has been conflicting over the years. It has the capacity to mimic as well as block certain estrogens. Overall, natural dietary soy in the form of soy milk, soy bean sprouts, tofu or tempeh appears to be safe and may provide significant health benefits when it replaces animal sources of milk and protein. However, soy in concentrated forms such as pills, powders and supplements has the strongest potential for estrogenic activity and probably should be avoided by anyone who has been diagnosed with hormonal receptive breast cancer.

MYTH: If I tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, I must have a bilateral mastectomy.

FACT: Women with a BRCA mutation do have an increased risk of having a second breast cancer and many do choose to have bilateral mastectomies as a preventive measure. However having a BRCA mutation does NOT mean that you have to get a mastectomy. Women with a BRCA mutation are still good candidates for breast-conserving therapy and many choose this for their breast cancer treatment. Women with a BRCA mutation and any residual breast tissue need to be followed closely and are advised to have enhanced breast cancer screenings.

MYTH: My deodorant contributed to my getting breast cancer.

FACT: This is completely false! No evidence has ever been shown to prove this.

MYTH: Eventually, I will be able to stop my mammograms.

Also Check: Can You Get Breast Cancer At 20

Preparing For A Mastectomy

Before having a mastectomy, you will have the opportunity to discuss the operation with a specialist breast care nurse or surgeon. You can discuss how the procedure might affect you physically and emotionally.

You’ll get practical advice about bras and bra inserts, if you need them.

Your surgeon will discuss the type of mastectomy you’ll have, the possible complications and the option of breast reconstruction. You may need to have chemotherapy or hormone therapy before the operation to reduce the size of any tumours.

Getting Used To Changes

Research has shown that the sooner you confront the physical changes to your body, the easier you may find it to gain confidence in the way you look. However, some people wont have had the chance or courage to do this early on.

If you have a partner, letting them see the surgical scars and changes to your body sooner may also make being intimate easier in the long term.

The first few times you look at yourself might make you feel unhappy and shocked, and you may want to avoid looking at yourself again. However, the initial intense feelings you may have will lessen over time as you get more used to how you look now.

Read Also: How Many People Die From Breast Cancer

How Do Surgeons Use Tissue From A Woman’s Own Body To Reconstruct The Breast

In autologous tissue reconstruction, a piece of tissue containing skin, fat, blood vessels, and sometimes muscle is taken from elsewhere in a womans body and used to rebuild the breast. This piece of tissue is called a flap.

Different sites in the body can provide flaps for breast reconstruction. Flaps used for breast reconstruction most often come from the abdomen or back. However, they can also be taken from the thigh or buttocks.

Depending on their source, flaps can be pedicled or free.

  • With a pedicled flap, the tissue and attached blood vessels are moved together through the body to the breast area. Because the blood supply to the tissue used for reconstruction is left intact, blood vessels do not need to be reconnected once the tissue is moved.
  • With free flaps, the tissue is cut free from its blood supply. It must be attached to new blood vessels in the breast area, using a technique called microsurgery. This gives the reconstructed breast a blood supply.

Abdominal and back flaps include:

Flaps taken from the thigh or buttocks are used for women who have had previous major abdominal surgery or who dont have enough abdominal tissue to reconstruct a breast. These types of flaps are free flaps. With these flaps an implant is often used as well to provide sufficient breast volume.

How This Study Was Done

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This South Korean study focused on breast cancer recurrence rates in the nipple/areola area after nipple-sparing mastectomy, as well as the risk factors linked to recurrence in that area.

The study included 944 women who had nipple-sparing mastectomy and immediate reconstruction on 962 breasts. All the women were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer between March 2003 and December 2015. None of the women had chemotherapy or hormonal therapy after surgery. About 80% of the women were younger than 50 and 20% were 50 or older.

The characteristics of the breast cancers:

  • 52.9% were multifocal or multicentric
  • 68.3% had zero positive lymph nodes, 24.3% had one to three positive lymph nodes, and 7.4% had four or more positive lymph nodes
  • 60.7% of the cancers were more than 1 cm away from the nipple/areola tissue, and 37.8% were 1 cm or closer to the nipple/areola tissue
  • 63.0% were hormone-receptor-positive and HER2-negative, 15.8% were hormone-receptor-negative and HER2-positive, 12.8% were hormone-receptor-positive and HER2-positive, and 8.4% were triple-negative
  • 60.2% had large areas of DCIS in addition to the invasive cancer

After surgery, the women had follow-up visits with their doctors every 3 to 6 months for the first 5 years, then every year after that. Follow-up time ranged from 14 months to 15.4 years. Half the women were followed for more than 7 years and half were followed for shorter periods of time.

  • multifocal
  • large areas of DCIS in addition to the invasive cancer

Read Also: Do Breast Cancer Tumors Hurt

Nipple Stimulation Can Induce Labor

Breast stimulation doesn’t just trigger a hormone release that amps up sexual pleasure. It also increases the production of the hormone oxytocin, which can bring on contractions in pregnant women. This could be why studies have shown that some women go into labor after their nipples are touched or played with.

In one 2015 study by Turkish researchers, pregnant women whose nipples were stimulated just before going into labor had shorter deliveries, with fewer complications, than those in a control group. And none of the women in the nipple-stimulation group needed an emergency C-section, compared to 8.5% of women in the control group.

Gynecomastia Causes: Certain Age Groups Are More Susceptible

Suprisingly, gynecomastia actually affects about one third of males at some point in their lives.

Sometimes a small percentage of males develop gynecomastia when they reach;puberty.;However,;this is most often temporary and resolves on its own as the rest of the body catches up.

But generally speaking, gynecomastia occurs most commonly with men in their mid sixties.

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Breast Discomfort And Pain

Women may feel discomfort and pain as the cancer grows and spreads in the breast. Cancer cells do not cause pain but as they grow they cause pressure or damage to surrounding tissue. A large tumor can grow into or invade the skin and cause painful sores or ulcers. It can also spread into the chest muscles and ribs causing obvious pain.

Questions To Ask Your Surgeon

The Michelangelo of nipple tattoos helps breast cancer ...

If youve decided not to have reconstruction, here are some questions you may want to discuss with your surgeon:

  • How many women in your practice have opted for no reconstruction?
  • Do you have pictures of women whove had mastectomy with no reconstruction?
  • How will you make sure that the mastectomy scar lay flat against my chest?
  • How will you make sure that I dont have any dog ears or tabs?
  • What results are realistic for me?
  • How will my chest area feel to the touch?
  • Will I have any feeling in my chest area?
  • Can you connect me with other women who have opted for no reconstruction?

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Differential Diagnosis Of Gynecomastia Versus Breast Cancer

Typical physical symptoms of male breast cancer may include:-

  • nipple retraction
  • redness and scaling of the breast skin or nipple
  • a painful lump under the nipple
  • skin dimpling or puckering
  • breast swelling

For this reason, whenever there is gynecomastica the patient should have a mammogram and ultrasound to determine whether it looks like normal tissue or breast cancer. If those findings are uncertain or not in typical gynecomastia patterns, an excisional biopsy should be undertaken.

Some People Have Three Nipples Or More

Two breasts means two nipples, right? Not always. In rare cases, a preson can have a third nipple or even several additional, smaller nipplessometimes mistaken for molesknown as accessory or supernumerary nipples. These can occur anywhere along the vertical lines where your breasts are, from head to toe, says Dr. Shah.

Where do these extra headlights come from? Early in pregnancy, a growing fetus develops something called a “mammary ridge” across the chest. Later on, this mammary ridge regresses and becomes two nipplesexcept in rare cases, when the ridge doesn’t fully regress and an extra nippleor two, or threeremain.

Accessory nipples may be noticed at birth, or they may get larger and be diagnosed around puberty. Theyre usually harmless, but in rare cases they can cause discomfort, and theres been at least one case of an accessory nipple developing cancer.

Recommended Reading: What Happens When Breast Cancer Metastasis

Recovery And Aesthetic Issues

Recovering from a mastectomy with no reconstruction is generally easier than recovering from mastectomy with reconstruction. If you have immediate reconstruction , the recovery time is longer than it is with no reconstruction. Depending on the type of procedure you have, there may be some muscle weakness and/or mobility issues as well, although some of the newer flap procedures minimize this risk by preserving the muscle structure at the tissue donor site. Generally, immediate reconstruction does lead to the most cosmetically pleasing results.

If you choose delayed reconstruction reconstruction 6 or 12 months or more after mastectomy your recovery from mastectomy should be a bit easier. If you choose implant reconstruction, your doctor may need to use a device called a tissue expander, which is used to create a pocket under the skin where the implant will eventually go. If you have a tissue flap reconstruction, the skin that was removed at mastectomy will be replaced with the skin that comes with the flap .

It can be helpful to show your surgeon pictures of women whove had mastectomy with no reconstruction with results you like. The website BreastFree has photographs of good no-reconstruction results.

What Is Breast Cancer

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The human body is made of tiny building blocks called cells. Your body creates them, replacing those that die with new ones. Usually, the body creates healthy, normal cells that do just what they’re supposed to do. This includes cells in the breasts, the two rounded areas on the front of the chest.

But if a cell changes into an abnormal, sometimes harmful form, it can divide quickly over and over again without dying, making many, many copies of itself. When this happens, a tumor, abnormal body cells grouped together in the form of a mass or lump, can start to form and grow.

Breast cancer is a kind of tumor that develops in the cells of a person’s breast. You may think that only women can get breast cancer, but because all people have breast tissue, men can get breast cancer as well but this is very rare.

Someone with breast cancer may have cancer cells in just one part of the breast, which might be felt as a lump. The cancer can spread throughout one or both breasts. Sometimes breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, like the bones<, the liver, or elsewhere.

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Nipple And Areola Options

As part of the reconstruction process, you will also need to decide if you want to reconstruct your nipples and areola. If you are a nipple-sparing mastectomy candidate, your nipple and the surrounding breast skin are preserved and reattached. As an alternative, you may be able to consider nipple and areola tattooing or nipple reconstruction.

With nipple and areola tattooing, the three-dimensional simulation of a nipple is tattooed onto the skin using colored ink. While the skin remains flat, your breast will appear to have a nipple and areola in the center.

In nipple reconstruction surgery, your surgeon will either:

  • Raise flaps of tissue on the reconstructed breast and sew them together to make a nipple shape
  • Transfer a portion of the opposite nipple the reconstructed breast and eventually tattoo a full areola shape on the area

Why Do People Get Breast Cancer

Any woman can get breast cancer, but these things can make some women more likely to get it:

  • Family history: A woman whose mother, sister, aunt, or daughter has had breast cancer is more likely to get it.
  • Age: As women get older, they are more at risk for breast cancer. Teens as well as women in their twenties and thirties are less likely to get breast cancer.
  • Diet and lifestyle choices: Women who smoke, eat high-fat diets, drink alcohol, and don’t get enough exercise may be more at risk for developing breast cancer.

Recommended Reading: What Does Pt1c Mean In Breast Cancer

Identifiable Breast Cancer Symptoms

While getting regular screenings is an important part of breast cancer prevention, familiarizing yourself with the most common breast cancer symptoms can be a big help as well. If detected early, before it can spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99 percent. There are 8 basic symptoms of breast cancer to be aware of.

  • Breast Lumps. Breasts are made up of a complex network of blood vessels, nerves, fibrous tissue, glandular tissue, lobules, and milk ducts. All these structures give breasts a naturally lumpy and uneven texture. However, lumps that feel different from the rest of your breasts or develop suddenly can be a cause for concern. Breast lumps may be hard and painless, like an uncooked bean, or soft and tender, like a grape. They can be large or small, and can develop in your breast or underneath your arm. Though not always cancerous, if you find one, you should always have it checked by your doctor.
  • Change in Consistency. The consistency of a womans breast fluctuates naturally over her lifetime, most often during pregnancy and menopause. However, if your breast tissue thickens very suddenly, it may be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, a rare, but aggressive form of cancer, or lobular breast cancer, which develops in the breasts milk-producing lobules.

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