According to the most recent data from the CDC*, [excluding skin cancer] breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among American women, with 1 in 8 developing it in their lifetime. The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s diagnosed and treated early.
uncontrolled way. With breast cancer, the cancer begins in the tissues that make up
the breasts. The cancerous cells may form a mass of tissue called a malignant tumor.
The cells of a malignant tumor may spread to other parts of the body and threaten life.
Benign tumors are abnormal growths that are not cancer. The cells of a benign tumor
do not spread to other parts of the body and do not threaten life.
• LOBULAR CARCINOMA. Cancer that begins in the glands of the breast that make
milk. These milk-making glands are called lobules. About 1 in 10 breast cancers
are this type.
• DUCTAL CARCINOMA. Cancer that begins in the milk ducts of the breast. Milk
ducts are thin tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple. About 8 in 10
breast cancers are this type.
* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
BREAST CANCER SCREENING
Breast cancer screening looks for signs of cancer before a woman has symptoms. Although
breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early,
when it is easier to treat. Breast cancer is categorized as Stage I, II (A or B), III (A, B, or
C), or IV. The stage is based on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread.
Stages I, IIA, IIB, and IIIA are considered "early-stage" breast cancer and refer to cancers
that may have spread to nearby lymph nodes but not distant parts of the body.
TWO TESTS ARE COMMONLY USED TO SCREEN FOR BREAST CANCER:
• MAMMOGRAM. A low-dose x-ray exam of the breasts to look for changes that
are not normal.
• CLINICAL BREAST EXAM (CBE). The doctor looks at and feels the breasts and
under the arms for lumps or anything else that seems unusual. Ask your doctor
if you need a CBE.
Getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. Talk to your
doctor about which breast cancer screening tests are right for you, and when you should
have them. Your doctor should be aware of any history of breast cancer in your family. If
you are at higher risk of breast cancer, your doctor might want to use other tests too, such
as a different type of mammography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
It is important to let your doctor know if you find any changes in your breast, such as a
lump or dimpling or puckering of the skin. Although research results do not support an
official recommendation that all women conduct breast self-exams, knowing your body
is the key to pointing out any concerns to your doctor.
SYMPTOMS OF BREAST CANCER CAN INCLUDE:
• ANY CHANGE in the size or the shape of the breast
• PAIN in any area of the breast
• NIPPLE DISCHARGE other than breast milk (including blood)
• A NEW LUMP in the breast or underarm.
If you have any signs that worry you, see your doctor right away. Please keep in mind that
many people have no symptoms at all which makes regular screening even more crucial.
DIAGNOSING BREAST CANCER
Screening tests look for signs of cancer. If a screening mammogram or CBE shows a breast change that could be cancer, additional tests are needed to learn more. These tests might include:
• DIAGNOSTIC MAMMOGRAM. This type
of mammogram uses x-rays to take more
detailed images of areas that look abnormal
on a screening mammogram.
• ULTRASOUND EXAM. Sound waves help your
doctor see if a lump is solid (could be cancer)
or filled with fluid (a fluid-filled sac that is not
• MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI).
Radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the breast. MRI may be used if enlarged lymph nodes or lumps are found during a clinical breast exam that are not seen on a mammogram or ultrasound.
• BREAST BIOPSY. Fluid or tissue is removed from the breast and checked for cancer cells. There are many types of biopsy. A biopsy is the only test to find out if cells are cancer.
Finding out about "abnormal" breast changes can be scary. Talk to your doctor about
what tests you might need and what the test results mean. If you learn that you have cancer, your doctor will help you move forward and begin treatment. Not all women who have abnormal screening test results need to have a biopsy. Sometimes, doctors can rule out cancer based on the results of follow-up tests without biopsy.
SHOULD I GET A SECOND OPINION?
Your cancer treatment involves several important decisions. A second opinion may help you feel more confident in your decision making. Well-qualified doctors welcome a second opinion and can give you the name of another surgeon, radiation oncologist, or medical oncologist. In fact, health insurance often will pay for, and may even require, a second opinion if treatment is involved.
Breast cancer is treated in several ways. Treatment will depend on the kind of breast cancer you have and how far it has spread. People with breast cancer often get more than one kind of treatment.
• SURGERY. An operation where doctors cut and remove cancer tissue.
• CHEMOTHERAPY. Using special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.
• HORMONAL THERAPY. Blocks cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
• BIOLOGICAL THERAPY. Works with your body's immune system to help it fight cancer or to control side effects from other cancer treatments. Side effects are how your body reacts to drugs or other treatments.
• RADIATION THERAPY. Using high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer.
Doctors from different specialties often work together to treat breast cancer. Surgeons are doctors who perform operations. Medical oncologists are doctors who treat cancer with medicine. Radiation oncologists are doctors who treat cancer with radiation.
REDUCE THE RISK OF BREAST CANCER
Many women who develop breast cancer do not have any known risk factors or history of the disease in their families. However, you can help lower your risk of breast cancer in the following ways:
• MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
• EXERCISE REGULARLY
• GET ENOUGH SLEEP
• DON’T DRINK ALCOHOL, OR LIMIT ALCOHOLIC
- DRINKS TO NO MORE THAN ONE PER DAY
• BREASTFEED YOUR BABIES IF POSSIBLE
If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.
SURVIVAL AND SUPPORT
No matter what you do to prepare yourself, being told that a lump is indeed breast cancer is always a shock. Before you have time to process the new reality, you're plunged into a sea of new information and difficult decisions. Your healthcare provider will advise you on moving forward with treatment.
You’ll most likely experience a plethora of emotions – from anger to isolation and everything in between. This is when you need to gather your thoughts along with reaching out to family and friends to develop your own personal support group. Confide in those you trust and speak with them about your feelings and diagnosis.
You should not experience this alone, Acadiana has many great hospitals, treatment facilities and doctors, and the community offers a multitude of support groups and organizations that are more than willing to help on many different levels.
All you have to do is ask...
Sources: *Cancer Facts & Figures 2015 – American Cancer Society®, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health, National Cancer Institute, Office of Women’s Health, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).