Breast cancer elicits so many fears, including those relating to death, surgery, loss of body image, and loss of sexuality. Managing these fears can be facilitated by information and knowledge so that each woman can make the decisions concerning her care. Optimally, these issues are best discussed with the patient’s doctor on an individual basis. Below, you will find all the necessary information on breast cancer, its symptoms and treatment methods.
Facts About Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer is the most common cancer among American women;
- One in every eight women in the U.S. develops breast cancer;
- There are many types of breast cancer that differ in their capability of spreading;
- Breast cancer is diagnosed with physician and self-examination of the breasts, mammography, ultrasound testing and biopsy.
Types of Breast Cancer
There are many types of breast cancer. Some are more common than others, and there are also combinations of cancers. Some of the most common types of cancer are as follows;
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ. The most common type of noninvasive breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ. This type of cancer has not spread and therefore usually has a very high cure rate.
Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. This cancer starts in a duct of the breast and grows into the surrounding tissue. It is the most common form of breast cancer. About 80% of invasive breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinoma.
Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. This breast cancer starts in the glands of the breast that produce milk. Approximately 10% of invasive breast cancers are invasive lobular carcinoma.
What are Breast Cancer Risk Factors?
Some of the breast cancer risk factors can be modified while others cannot be influenced. It is important to discuss these risks with your health care professional any time new therapies are started.
The following are risk factors for breast cancer:
- Age -- the chances of breast cancer increase as you get older;
- Family history -- the risk of breast cancer is higher among women who have relatives with the disease. Having a close relative with the disease doubles a woman’s risk;
- Personal history -- having been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast increases the risk of cancer in the other breast or the chance of an additional cancer in the original breast;
- Menstruation -- women who started their menstrual cycle at a younger age, before 12, or went through menopause later, after 55, have a slightly increased risk;
- Breast tissue -- women with dense breast tissue have a higher risk of breast cancer;
- Race -- white women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, but African-American women tend to have more aggressive tumours when they do develop breast cancer;
- Exposure to chest radiation or use of diethylstilbestrol increases the risk of breast cancer;
- Having no children or the first child after age 30 increases the risk of breast cancer;
- Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer;
- Use of oral contraceptives in the last 10 years increases the risk of breast cancer.
How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
The use of screening mammography has made it possible to detect many of the cancers early before they cause any symptoms.
Mammograms are a very good screening tool for breast cancer. The results of the mammogram have limitations and will miss some cancers. The results of your mammogram, breast exam, and family history should be discussed with your health care professional.
How is Breast Cancer Treated?
Patients with breast cancer have many treatment options. Most treatments are adjusted specifically to the type of cancer and the staging group. Treatment modalities are always changing and developing. It is important that you discuss the different options with your health care team.
- Breast conserving surgery. This will only remove part of the breast. The extent of the surgery is determined by the size and location of the tumor.
- Mastectomy. All the breast tissue is removed. In this type of surgery, all the breast tissue is removed as well but the overlying skin is preserved.
- Radical Mastectomy. The surgeon removes the axillary lymph nodes as well as the chest wall muscle in addition to the breast.
After the surgery, the patient needs to undergo radiation therapy, which destroys cancer cells, and chemotherapy. The latter is a 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.
Determining breast cancer symptoms from the early stages is extremely important. This is why all women should undergo a mammogram, a Pap test and an ultrasound.