Survival rates have increased compared to twenty-plus years ago thanks to more awareness, earlier detection, and advancements in treatment. While breast pain can be a symptom of cancer this isn’t common. Breast cancer typically has no symptoms. There may be some indications such as a painless lump in the breast, changes in breast size or shape, swelling in the armpit, nipple changes, or discharge.
Signs of inflammatory breast cancer are usually when breast skin becomes thick, red, and looks pitted, like an orange peel. The area might also feel warm or tender to the touch and have small bumps that look like a rash. This is a rare, fast-growing type and rarely causes a distinct lump.
Hormone-sensitive breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that is fueled by the hormone estrogen or progesterone. A doctor will test for hormone receptors — proteins that pick up signals from the hormone that tell cells to grow. A biopsy will be able to show if a tumor has receptors for estrogen (if it’s ER-positive) and progesterone (if it’s PR-positive). Around two out of three breast cancers are hormone sensitive. There are several medications that can keep the hormones from causing further cancer growth.
In about twenty percent of patients, breast cancer cells have too much of a protein called HER2/neu. It’s important to know whether a tumor is HER2-positive because there are special treatments for this type of cancer. This type of breast cancer is referred to as HER2-positive breast cancer.
In up to fifteen percent of breast cancers, the tumor cells are lacking estrogen or progesterone receptors and have only tiny amounts of the HER2 protein. This type of breast cancer is referred to as triple-negative breast cancer. It tends to grow and spread faster than other types. Hormone therapy and targeted drugs are not effective for this type of cancer. There are other treatment options which include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
So, what if you find a lump? If you don’t panic. Almost eighty percent of lumps turn out not to be cancerous. More often than not they turn out to be tissue changes related to your menstrual cycle or cysts that are harmless. Still, let your doctor know right away if you do find something. The earlier cancer is detected and found the better. Testing will at least give you peace of mind if it is not cancer. The odds of defeating breast cancer are strongly tied to how early you find it. The American Cancer Society says ninety-nine percent of women with stage one breast cancer live at least five years, and many women in this group stay cancer-free for good. The further advanced cancer, the lower this figure becomes. By stage five, the five-year survival rate drops to twenty-nine percent, but these rates will grow as more efficient treatments are found.
Mammograms are an X-ray of the breast. They can show the tumors before they get large enough to feel. The American Cancer Society says women ages forty-five to fifty-four with an average risk level should get a yearly mammogram. At age fifty-five, mammograms can be completed every two years. You should maintain them if you’re in good health. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that until you’re fifty you should discuss your need for testing with your doctor.
The doctor may request an additional test that takes photos of the inside of your body. This may be a breast ultrasound. Breast ultrasounds can help find cysts, fluid-filled sacs that most often are not cancer. You may also get an MRI as well as a mammogram as part of your routine testing if you’re at a greater risk of breast cancer.
The only way to know if a lump is cancerous is to do a breast biopsy. This means a doctor will remove a sample of the lump to be examined in the lab. Your doctor may be able to do this with a small needle, but it may require surgery to take part of or the entire lump out for testing. The findings will show if it’s cancer, and if so, what type of cancer. There are several forms of breast cancer, and each treatment is carefully matched to each type.
If the diagnosis is breast cancer, the next step is figuring out how big the tumor is and how much of your body it impacts. This process is called staging. Doctors use stages 0-IV to describe whether cancer is only in the breast, has moved into nearby lymph nodes, or has spread to other organs like the lungs. Knowing the stage and type of breast cancer will assist your healthcare team in creating a treatment plan.
Different types of treatment may include:
- Radiation therapy where treatment kills cancer cells with high-energy rays.
- Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells everywhere in the body. They are usually given by IV, but they can be taken by mouth or a shot.
- Hormone therapy for women with ER-positive or PR-positive breast cancer.
- Immunotherapy turns your body’s own disease-fighting powers against cancer. Medications known as immune checkpoint inhibitors target specific proteins in immune system cells.
- Targeted treatments are newer drugs that pinpoint specific things inside cancer cells.
- Breast cancer surgery. There are many types of breast cancer surgeries, from taking out the area around the lump referred to as a lumpectomy or breast-conserving surgery to removing the entire breast which is called a mastectomy.
Cancer is a life-changing experience, and treatments can wear you down. Daily chores, work, or social outings may become unmanageable. You may feel isolated that’s why it’s crucial to reach out to friends and family for support. Having someone to accompany you to treatments, help with chores, or just remind you that you aren’t alone can make all the difference. Many people choose to join a support group. Support groups can be either near them or online. Talk about the pros and cons with your doctor to decide which testing and or treatment may be proper for you.
Retrieved on October 24, 2022, from: https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/ss/slideshow-breast-cancer-overview?ecd=wnl_spr_102022&ctr=wnl-spr-102022_lead_cta&mb=UsxKpnrknYNU5ZouHqO8%404hXU5M3tn0Xw1oOMn3UZW8%3D