What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer starts once cells within the breast begin to grow out of control. These
cells typically kind a tumor which will usually be seen on an x-ray or felt as a
lump. The neoplasm is malignant (cancer) if the cells will grow into (invade)
surrounding tissues or unfold (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. Breast
cancer happens nearly entirely in ladies, however men will get breast cancer, too.
Cells in nearly any a part of the body will become cancer and may spread to alternative areas of the body. to be told a lot of concerning what’s cancer and the way all cancers begin and spread, see our section on Cancer Basics.
Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms:-
Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is an important part of breast health. Finding breast cancer as early as possible gives you a better chance of successful treatment. But knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. Screening tests can help find breast cancer in its early stages, even before any symptoms appear.
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 tender, soft, or rounded. They can even be painful. For this reason, it is important to have any new breast mass or lump or breast change checked by a health care provider experienced in diagnosing breast diseases.
Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast tissue is large enough to be felt. Swollen lymph nodes should also be checked by a health care provider.
Although any of these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, if you have them, they should be reported to a health care provider so that he or she can find the cause.
Because mammograms do not find every breast cancer, it is important for you to be aware of changes in your breasts and to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
What tests do physicians use to diagnose breast cancer?
Although breast cancer can be diagnosed by the above signs and symptoms, the use of screening mammography has made it possible to detect many of the cancers early before they cause any symptoms.
Women should have the opportunity to begin annual screening between 40-44 years of age. Women age 45 and older should have a screening mammogram every year until age 54. Women 55 years of age and older should have biennial screening or have the opportunity to continue screening annually. Women should continue screening mammography as long as their overall health is good and they have a life expectancy of 10 years or longer.
Mammograms are a very good screening tool for breast cancer. As in any test, mammograms have limitations and will miss some cancers. An individual’s family history and mammogram and breast exam results should be discussed with a health-care provider.
Women at high risk (greater than 20% lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. Women at moderate risk (15%-20%) should talk to their doctor about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram
How are breast cancer stages determined?
Staging is the process of determining the extent of the cancer and its spread in the body. Together with the type of cancer, staging is used to determine the appropriate therapy and to predict chances for survival.
To determine if the cancer has spread, several different imaging techniques can be used.
- Chest X-ray: It looks for spread of the cancer to the lung.
- Mammograms: More detailed and additional mammograms provide more images of the breast and may locate other abnormalities.
Computerized tomography (CT scan): These
- specialized X-rays are used to look at different parts of your body to determine if the breast cancer has spread. It could include a CT of the brain, lungs, or any other area of concern.
- Bone scan: A bone scan determines if the cancer has spread (metastasized) to the bones. Low level radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream, and over a few hours, images are taken to determine if there is uptake in certain bone areas, indicating metastasis.
- Positron emission tomography (PET scan): A radioactive material is injected that is absorbed preferentially by rapidly growing cells (such as cancer cells). The PET scanner then locates these areas in your body.
What are breast cancer treatments?
Radiation therapy destroys cancer cells with high energy rays. There are two ways to administer radiation therapy.
External beam radiation
This is the usual way radiation therapy is given for breast cancer. A beam of radiation is focused onto the affected area by an external machine. The extent of the treatment is determined by a health-care team and is based on the surgical procedure performed and whether lymph nodes were affected or not.
The local area will usually be marked after the radiation team has determined the exact location for the treatments. Usually, the treatment is given five days a week for five to six weeks.
Chemotherapy is treatment of cancers with medications that travel through the bloodstream to the cancer cells. These medications are given either by intravenous injection or by mouth.
Chemotherapy can have different indications and may be performed in different settings as follows:
- Adjuvant chemotherapy: If surgery has removed all the visible cancer, there is still the possibility that cancer cells have broken off or are left behind. If chemotherapy is given to assure that these small amounts of cells are killed as well, it is called adjunct chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is not given in all cases, since some women have a very low risk of recurrence even without chemotherapy, depending upon the tumor type and characteristics.
- Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: If chemotherapy is given before surgery, it is referred to as neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Although there seems to be no advantage to long-term survival whether the therapy is given before or after surgery, there are advantages to see if the cancer responds to the therapy and by shrinking the cancer before surgical removal.
- Chemotherapy for advanced cancer: If the cancer has metastasized to distant sites in the body, chemotherapy can be used for treatment. In this case, the health-care team will need to determine the most appropriate length of treatment.
There are many different chemotherapeutic agents that are either given alone or in combination. Usually, these drugs are given in cycles with certain treatment intervals followed by a rest period. The cycle length and rest intervals differ from drug to drug.
Whenever a disease has the potential for much harm and death, physicians search for alternative treatments. As a patient or the loved one of a patient, there may be an inclination to try everything and leave no option unexplored. The danger in this approach is usually found in the fact that the patient might not avail themselves of existing, proven therapies. One should discuss any interest in alternative treatments with a health-care team and together explore the different options.
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