Breast cancer is an abnormal growth or mass of cells in the breast. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it is most common in women. Breast cancer occurs most often in women between the ages of 45 and 55. It can also occur in younger women, particularly those with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors. The majority of breast cancers are not hereditary; however, some types are linked to specific genes.
Breast Cancer Treatment in Tucson, AZ
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the breast. These cells can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious illness or death. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after skin cancer. There are two types of breast cancer: invasive and non-invasive. Invasive breast cancer means cancer has spread from the milk ducts or lobules (where it started) into the surrounding tissues. Non-invasive breast cancer means the cancer is still confined to the milk ducts or lobules.
Breast cancers can also be classified by how they look under a microscope. The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, which starts in the milk ducts. Lobular carcinoma starts in the lobules. Other types of breast cancer include inflammatory breast cancer, Paget’s disease of the nipple, and sarcoma (cancer of the connective tissues).
Types of Breast Cancer
There are two main types of breast cancer:
Invasive ductal carcinoma: This is the most common type of breast cancer and accounts for about 80% of all cases. In this type of cancer, the cells grow through the basement membrane (connective tissue that separates milk-producing glands from other tissues) into surrounding tissue and is usually diagnosed at an early stage.
Invasive lobular carcinoma: This type of breast cancer starts in the lobules and then spreads to the surrounding tissues. This form of breast cancer accounts for about 20% of all cases and is often more difficult to detect.
Other less common types of breast cancer include inflammatory breast cancer and sarcoma. While breast cancer can be a devastating disease, early detection is essential for successful treatment. By understanding the different types of breast cancer, women can be better prepared to catch the disease in its earliest stages.
What are the symptoms of Breast Cancer?
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump or mass in the breast. However, not all lumps are cancerous. Benign (non-cancerous) lumps are often caused by cysts, fibrocystic changes, or other non-cancerous conditions. Other breast cancer symptoms may include some changes that can occur in the breast that may be an early sign of breast cancer.
These changes include a change in the size or shape of the breast, a change in the texture of the skin of the breast, a new lump or thickening in the breast, discharge from the nipple, and a change in the appearance of the nipple. In most cases, these changes will not be due to breast cancer but it is important to get them checked out so that any early signs of breast cancer can be found and treated quickly.
How is Breast cancer diagnosed?
In order to diagnose breast cancer, a biopsy is usually needed. A biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed from the breast and examined under a microscope. There are different types of biopsies that can be performed, but the most common is needle biopsy. In this procedure, a needle is used to remove a small amount of tissue from the breast. The tissue is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Other tests that may be used to diagnose breast cancer include mammography (a low-dose X-ray exam of the breasts), ultrasound (a test that uses sound waves to create an image of the breasts), and MRI (a test that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create an image of the breasts).
There are five stages of Breast cancer:
Stage 0: This is the earliest stage of breast cancer. In Stage 0, there is no evidence of cancer cells. Cancer is only detected when it begins to grow and spread. The goal of treatment in Stage 0 is to completely remove the cancer before it has a chance to spread.
Stage I: In Stage I of breast cancer, the tumor is small and has not spread to any other parts of the body. Treatment in this stage usually involves surgery to remove the tumor and a limited number of lymph nodes (the small, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection). Radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may also be used to kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind after surgery.
Stage II: In this stage, the cancer may be somewhere between 2 and 5 centimeters in size with or without involvement of the lymph nodes. As in stage I, treatment typically involves surgery to remove the tumor along with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.
Stage III: Stage III cancer is when a tumor has grown over 5 centimeters in size and/or four or more lymph nodes are involved. This stage can also include tumors that extend into chest wall tissue as well as skin on your surface area near the breastbone (the axilla).
Stage IV: The cancer has spread beyond breast and lymph nodes to other parts of your body such as bones or liver. This is also known as metastatic breast cancer.
What are the treatments for Breast cancer?
The treatment for breast cancer will depend on the stage of the cancer, the type of cancer, and the overall health of the patient. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and hormone therapy.
- Surgery is often used to remove the cancerous tumor from the breast. The type of surgery will depend on the size and location of the tumor. For small tumors, a lumpectomy (removal of only the tumor) may be performed. For larger tumors, a mastectomy (removal of the entire breast) may be necessary.
- Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be given externally by a machine or internally by placing radioactive material in or near the tumor.
- Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given intravenously (through a vein) or orally (by mouth).
- Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets specific genes or proteins that are found in cancer cells. This type of therapy is used to kill cancer cells while sparing normal cells. Hormone therapy is a treatment that lowers the levels of hormones in the body or blocks the action of hormones. This type of therapy is used to treat hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to breast cancer treatment, and the best course of action will be decided by a team of specialists. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for you.
What are the side effects of Breast cancer treatment?
While breast cancer treatment can be incredibly effective, it can also cause a range of side effects. Common side effects include fatigue, pain, nausea, and changes in appetite. Some treatments can also cause more serious side effects, such as heart problems and secondary cancers. This is why it is so important to discuss the potential risks with your doctor before starting treatment. By understanding the possible side effects, you can be better prepared to manage them and help ensure a better overall outcome.
- Surgery – Breast cancer surgery often involves a lumpectomy, in which the surgeon removes the cancerous tumor along with a margin of healthy tissue. A mastectomy is a more drastic measure, in which the entire breast is removed. While either type of surgery can be effective in treating breast cancer, there are a number of potential side effects to be aware of. The most common side effect is lymphedema, a condition caused by the build-up of lymph fluid in the arm or chest. This can lead to pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion in the affected area. Additionally, some patients may experience nerve damage, which can cause numbness, tingling, or weakness. Patients who have undergone a mastectomy may also experience difficulties with body image and self-esteem. However, it is important to remember that these side effects are not permanent; with time and rehabilitation, most patients are able to recover fully.
- Radiation therapy – One common side effect of radiation therapy is fatigue. Patients may feel tired for several weeks or even months after treatment. Fatigue can be made worse by lack of sleep, anemia, and stress. It is important to pace oneself and take breaks during the day. Another common side effect is skin irritation. The skin in the treated area may become red, dry, and tender. There are several ways to help lessen this side effect, including using lotions or gels and avoiding hot showers or baths. Some patients also experience nausea and vomiting, especially when receiving radiation therapy to the stomach or abdomen. There are medications that can help to lessen these side effects. Finally, patients may have a decrease in blood cell counts during treatment. This can lead to an increased risk of infection, bleeding, or fatigue. The blood cell counts will usually return to normal after treatment is completed.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. While chemotherapy can be an effective treatment for breast cancer, it can also cause a number of side effects. These side effects can vary in severity from person to person, and may include fatigue, hair loss, nausea and vomiting, increased risk of infection, and difficulty concentrating. Some of these side effects may resolve once treatment is completed, but others may persist long term. It is important to discuss the potential side effects of chemotherapy with your doctor before beginning treatment. This will help you to be prepared for what to expect and will allow you to plan for any potential disruptions to your daily life.
- Targeted therapy – When it comes to breast cancer, targeted therapy is one of the most effective treatments available. However, like all treatments, it does come with a few side effects. The most common side effect is fatigue, which can often be managed with rest and relaxation. Other potential side effects include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and headache. In rare cases, targeted therapy can also cause skin problems or liver damage. As a result, it’s important to speak with your doctor about the potential risks and benefits of targeted therapy before starting treatment. With that said, targeted therapy is an incredibly effective treatment for breast cancer, and the vast majority of patients are able to tolerate the side effects without any major problems.
- Hormone therapy – Hormone therapy is a type of cancer treatment that works by either removing hormones or stopping them from working. It’s most commonly used to treat hormone-sensitive breast cancers. However, it can also be used to treat prostate cancer. Hormone therapy is usually given as a tablet that you take every day, but it can also be given as an injection, a patch or a gel. Some people have side effects from hormone therapy, but these are usually mild and can be managed. Common side effects include hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, skin changes, vaginal dryness and weight gain. Some people also experience fatigue, depression and joint pain. If you have any side effects from hormone therapy, speak to your doctor or nurse as there are treatments that can help to relieve them.
What is the role of radiation therapy in Breast Cancer?
Radiation therapy is a treatment for cancer that uses high-energy waves to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be used alone or in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatments. When used in early-stage breast cancer, radiation therapy can help prevent the cancer from returning and improve survival rates.
In addition, radiation therapy can be used to shrink tumors prior to surgery. When used in advanced-stage breast cancer, radiation therapy can help relieve symptoms such as pain and improve quality of life. Radiation therapy is generally well-tolerated, with side effects typically limited to skin irritation and fatigue. Overall, radiation therapy is an important treatment in the fight against breast cancer.
What is the prognosis for someone with Breast cancer?
Breast cancer survival rates estimate the chances that women with breast cancer will live for a certain amount of time after their diagnosis.
For example, if the survival rate for a stage of breast cancer during a 5-year period is 90%, it means that women diagnosed with that cancer are almost as likely—not 100% likely but nearly so—to survive for 5 years following their diagnosis as women who do not have the disease.
Rather than using the standard grouping for breast cancer—which includes stages 0 through 4, with stage 0 being noninvasive and stage 4 being most severe—SEER divides it into five categories:
- Localized: when the cancer is found in the breast and has not spread to other organs.
- Regional: when the cancer spreads to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
- Distant: when the infection spreads, or “seeps” into other parts of your body such as your liver, lungs, and/or bones.
It is important to note that there are significant disparities in the survival rate between white women and women of color, especially those with late-stage breast cancer diagnoses.
- According to the NCI, 9 out of 10 women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer will still be alive 5 years after their diagnosis.
- For women who are diagnosed with localized breast cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 99%
- For women diagnosed with regional breast cancer, the survival rate is about 86%. For those with distant metastasis, that figure drops to 29%.
- A 2017 National Cancer Institute study found that from 1992 to 1994 and 2005-2012, the 5-year survival rate for women ages 15–49 diagnosed with distant breast cancer doubled—from 18% to 36%.
- According to the American Cancer Society, women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer can be expected to live an average of at least 10 more years.
- It’s estimated that the average survival rate for women whose cancer has been diagnosed and treated is 80% However, no statistics exist on how long a woman with breast cancer typically lives after her diagnosis
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
There are many known risk factors for breast cancer. Some of these include:
- Gender – Breast cancer is around 100 times more common in women than in men.
- Age – The risk of breast cancer increases with age, with the majority of cases occurring in women over the age of 50.
- Family history – Having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer increases your risk by two to three times. If you have two first-degree relatives with breast cancer, your risk is five to six times higher than average.
- Genetic mutations – Inheriting certain genetic mutations, such as those in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, can increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Breast density – Women with dense breast tissue (less fat and more glandular and connective tissue) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. This is because dense tissue can make it harder for doctors to spot abnormalities on mammograms.
How can you reduce your risk of getting Breast cancer?
There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer. First, it’s important to stay at a healthy weight. Women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing the disease.
Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, it’s important to limit your alcohol intake. Women who consume more than one alcoholic beverage per day have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Finally, you should avoid exposure to harmful chemicals and radiation. Limit your exposure to household cleaning products and other chemicals, and make sure to get regular checkups so that any potential problems can be caught early. By taking these steps, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
We are here to help
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, our experienced team of doctors and nurses can help you feel confident that you’re getting the best possible treatment.
We believe that each patient is unique and deserves individualized care, so we tailor treatment plans to meet the needs of your situation.
No matter what kind of cancer treatment you need, our doctors will create a personalized plan that maximizes your chances of full recovery. If you have any questions or concerns about anything at all—don’t hesitate to call us!
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