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Breast cancer


Breast cancer affects all women. While it is known that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer, every woman carries some risk of developing the disease.


Symptoms

Early breast cancer usually does not cause symptoms. This is why regular breast exams are important. As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:

  • Breast lump or lump in the armpit that is hard, has uneven edges, and usually does not hurt
  • Change in the size, shape, or feel of the breast or nipple -- for example, you may have redness, dimpling, or puckering that looks like the skin of an orange
  • Fluid coming from the nipple -- may be bloody, clear to yellow, green, and look like pus

Men can get breast cancer, too. Symptoms include breast lump and breast pain and tenderness.


Symptoms of advanced breast cancer may include:

  • Bone pain
  • Breast pain or discomfort
  • Skin ulcers
  • Symptoms of advanced breast cancer may include:
  • Weight loss

Treatment

Most women receive a combination of treatments which may include Chemotherapy, Radiation and Surgery. For women with stage I, II, or III breast cancer, the main goal is to treat the cancer and prevent it from returning (curing). For women with stage IV cancer, the goal is to improve symptoms and help them live longer. In most cases, stage IV breast cancer cannot be cured.


  • Stage 0 and DCIS - Lumpectomy plus radiation or mastectomy is the standard treatment. There is some controversy on how best to treat DCIS.
  • Stage I and II - Lumpectomy plus radiation or mastectomy with some sort of lymph node removal is the standard treatment. Hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and biologic therapy may also be recommended following surgery.
  • Stage III - Treatment involves surgery, possibly followed by chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biologic therapy.
  • Stage IV - Treatment may involve surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or a combination of these treatments.

Surgery

Surgery to remove a breast cancer is usually the first step in treatment.

The choice of which surgery is best for you can be difficult. Sometimes, it is hard to know whether lumpectomy or mastectomy is best. You and the health care providers who are treating your breast cancer will decide together.


  • Lumpectomy is often preferred for smaller breast lumps, because it is a smaller procedure and it has about the same chance of curing breast cancer as a mastectomy.
  • Mastectomy, when all breast tissue is removed, may be done if the area of cancer is too large to remove without deforming the breast.

You and your doctor should consider:

  • The size of your tumor, where in your breast it is located, whether you have more than one tumor in your breast, how much of your breast the cancer affects, and the size of your breasts.
  • Your age, family history, whether you have reached menopause, and your overall health.

Prevention

Women at very high risk for breast cancer may consider preventive (prophylactic) mastectomy. This is the surgical removal of the breasts before breast cancer is ever diagnosed.


Possible candidates include:

  • Women who have already had one breast removed due to cancer
  • Women with a strong family history of breast cancer
  • Women with genes or genetic mutations that raise their risk of breast cancer (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2)

Your doctor may do a total mastectomy to reduce your risk of breast cancer. This may reduce, but does not eliminate the risk of breast cancer.


Learn more about breast cancer, risk factors and symptoms


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