Breast Cancer Treatments
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Radiation and surgery followed by chemotherapy are some of the breast cancer treatments available to patients. Find out more treatment options in this video.
Transcript: There are more than two million breast cancer survivors in the United States, and that's to the credit...
There are more than two million breast cancer survivors in the United States, and that's to the credit of today's growing number of treatment options! Breast cancer treatment goals are twofold: to remove as much of the cancer as possible and to prevent it from coming back. To do that, doctors rely on five treatment methods: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. Surgery is the most common treatment option, and it may involve removing just the cancerous tumor, as in a lumpectomy. More serious prognoses may require a mastectomy, the removal of the entire breast, usually including the nipple, often with lymph nodes in the armpit that may be affected. Many women who go through surgery receive additional treatment, like radiation, which uses high powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells. This can occur via an external machine, or through radioactive implants placed inside the body. Side-effects of radiation include a red rash at the treatment site, along with general fatigue. Radiation AND surgery are local treatments, made to eradicate cancer in one, targeted area. The remaining three treatment options are systemic, which means they attempt to control cancer cells ALL OVER the body. Chemotherapy, for example, is an oral or injected medication, that works by either stopping cancer cells from multiplying, or killing them completely. Unfortunately, chemo may also eradicate HEALTHY cells, which is why nausea, vomiting, hair loss and fever tend to occur. Another systemic treatment, hormone therapy, is effective for about two-thirds of cancers. Cancer cells contain receptors for estrogen, which they depend upon to grow. Hormone therapy seeks to block the body's estrogen from ever reaching the tumor. Tamoxifen is one such drug. It binds to estrogen receptors on cells, so that estrogen can't. Aromatase inhibitors, like the Arimedex and Femara, can reduce the body's production of estrogen while stopping it altogether in post-menopausal women. Menopausal-like symptoms, including decreased sex drive, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness, are common side-effects of hormone therapy. The final treatment option, targeted therapy, uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack ONLY specific cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact. A popular example, Herceptin, blocks a protein called HER2, which some breast cancer cells need to grow and survive. Understand that targeted therapy of this type will ONLY work if the cancer is sensitive to the HER2 protein. This is true for about one-fourth of all cancers, and is determined by analyzing tissue samples in a lab. Any of these three systemic treatments may be used with the goal of killing any cancer cells that remain in the body after surgery or radiation, which is known as adjuvant therapy. Similarly, systemic treatments may be used BEFORE local treatments, hopefully shrinking a tumor and making it easier to remove. With so many treatment options available, creating the perfect plan to treat YOUR form of breast cancer shouldn't be hard. See your doctor and discuss your options.More »
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Your breast cancer risk varies widely depending on a number of factors. But with self-exams and mammograms, it may be preventable. Take this quiz to test your knowledge!
Last Modified: 2011-08-25 | Tags »
breast cancer causes, breast cancer symptoms, breast cancer risk, mammograms, self exams
If you're at a higher risk of breast cancer, should you consider a preventive mastectomy? Maybe. Find out more about this procedure, its benefits and other information in this video.
Transcript: Breast cancer affects almost 200,000 new patients annually. To avoid being part of this statistic, some...
Breast cancer affects almost 200,000 new patients annually. To avoid being part of this statistic, some high risk women opt to have one or both of their breasts surgically removed in a procedure called preventative mastectomy, or prophylactic mastectomy. This can mean removing the total breast and nipple, called a total mastectomy. Or, it might entail eradicating the breast tissue, but leaving the nipple intact, as in subcutaneous mastectomy. Does preventative mastectomy have drawbacks? Well, the biggest downside is that breast tissue in the armpit, along the collarbone, and on the upper part of the chest wall could possibly be missed in mastectomy. It's impossible to remove every single cell, so a chance that cancer will still develop in the breast remains. And as with all surgery, complications like bleeding and infection may occur. Understandably, a change in body image and loss of normal breast function can wreck havoc on self-esteem and confidence. Knowing this, most mastectomy patients choose to have their breasts reconstructed. This plastic surgery involves inserting an implant filled with silicone or saline under the skin and muscle. Another procedure, called tissue flap reconstruction, creates breasts using skin, fat, and muscle from other spots on the body. Does preventative mastectomy really help prevent breast cancer? The cautious answer is "Yes." Research shows risk can be lowered by about 90%. However, this number is only accurate for women at a high risk in the first place. And what does "high risk" look like? For starters, it's having a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer. It can also mean having a rare mutation in one of the genes associated with breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, these mutations that account for 5 to 10% of breast cancer cases. Being high risk also entails having cancerous cells "in situ," which means they have not moved from their original location. This was the case for actress Christina Applegate, who had both breast cancer AND the cancer-causing genetic mutation in her body. Rather than taking a "wait and see" approach, Applegate elected to have a double mastectomy, removing her healthy breast as well as the diseased one. Applegate is reportedly happy with her decision, and a National Cancer Institute study finds that 86% of preventative mastectomy patients are happy too. The decision to remove healthy breast tissue is not a small one. If you're concerned about risk, consult your physician, and explore the breast cancer series on this site for more information.More »
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Although chemotherapy is the most common treatment for cancer, there are some side effects involved. Watch this video to learn more.
Transcript: For many, chemotherapy is the best treatment option for cancer. That said, people facing chemotherapy...
For many, chemotherapy is the best treatment option for cancer. That said, people facing chemotherapy are understandably concerned about side effects. The nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue and lowered white blood cell count associated with chemo can range from temporary and minor, to uncomfortable and even life-threatening. In general, chemotherapy is effective at killing cancer cells, but it doesn't distinguish between cancer cells and healthy, growing cells... which may lead to side effects. So what should you expect? For starters, chemotherapy causes hair loss over the entire body, which is usually temporary. It may affect bone marrow cells, causing fatigue, bruising and bleeding, as well as increased vulnerability to infection. Skin cells may be affected too, meaning dryness, while dry mouth or oral sores can also occur. Because cells in the stomach and intestines may be affected, bouts of nausea, vomiting or diarrhea should be expected. The good news is that drugs can be used to combat those symptoms. Many wonder if chemotherapy impacts fertility. The short answer is that chemotherapy may inhibit normal ovary function, either temporarily or permanently, but that depends on the type of drugs prescribed. Even if menstruation stops during treatment, the ovaries may still produce eggs. Certain chemotherapy drugs are believed to increase the risk of male infertility. If you are male and concerned about this, storing sperm in a sperm bank prior to treatment may be worth exploring. It's not uncommon for sexual desire to wax and wane depending on where you're at in the treatment cycle, too. Because of its impact on female hormones, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and premature menopause may happen. Dangerous side effects that require a call to the doctor include a fever higher than 100.5, shaking or chills, vomiting that continues more than 48 hours following treatment, bleeding or bruising, frequent or painful urination, blood in urine or stools, or severe constipation or diarrhea. Other red flags include shortness of breath, chest pain, irregular or rapid heartbeat, intense fatigue, mouth sores and dizziness, as well as soreness, swelling and pus or drainage at the catheter location. Talk to your doctor about any other medications you take. Everyone reacts to chemotherapy differently, depending on type and combination of drugs used, and overall health and fitness. Your doctor can address any additional chemotherapy-related questions or concerns.More »
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Does a lump in your breast mean cancer? Not necessarily. Find out more about what else can cause a lump in the breast.
Transcript: Sometimes people stay away from medical care because they fear what they might find. And a lump in the...
Sometimes people stay away from medical care because they fear what they might find. And a lump in the breast can be a scary thing indeed, but guess what: 8 out of 10 breast lumps are BENIGN! Sometimes lumps are caused by cysts, nipple discharges and calcifications, which can result from hormonal changes, infection, injury or bruising. This percentage tends to fluctuate with age. For young women, more than 80% of breast lumps are benign, as women age, the risk for breast cancer increases, which means that the percentage of benign breast lumps in older women may be much lower than in younger women. Take charge of your health by performing routine breast self-exams, establishing ongoing communication with your doctor, and scheduling regular mammograms. If YOU discover a persistent lump in your breast or any changes in breast tissue, it's VERY IMPORTANT that you see a doctor immediately, because catching cancer early SIGNIFICANTLY increases the chances of recovery.More »
Last Modified: 2014-01-17 | Tags »
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Breast reconstruction is common after a lumpectomy or a mastectomy due to breast cancer. Watch this for more on breast reconstruction surgery.
Transcript: Techniques for breast reconstruction has come a long way, and this video is a great place to get acquainted...
Techniques for breast reconstruction has come a long way, and this video is a great place to get acquainted with the most modern advances. Wendy Lewis, an international beauty consultant and expert, and author of America's Cosmetic Doctors, is here to help you navigate the newest developments. Women with congenital breast deformities as well as women who have undergone a lumpectomy or a mastectomy can often suffer considerably from the physical and psychological implications of their condition. Breast reconstruction is an umbrella term which describes a variety of surgical methods designed to help the recovery of such women. Breast reconstruction can be performed in conjunction with a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, or can be delayed for weeks or even years after the initial procedure. Breasts can be reconstructed using an implant, your own tissue or a combination of both. Surgery is usually not a one-time procedure, but rather a series of necessary steps to achieve the final result. Potential stages might include tissue expansion, insertion of an implant, and performing nipple or areola reconstruction. Cosmetic work on the other breast may also be done at the same time so that your breasts will appear symmetrical and identical. After a mastectomy, if your skin is very tight you may need tissue expansion prior to reconstruction. To do this, a balloon expander is placed under the skin and chest muscle, and is gradually filled with salt-water solution to stretch the skin. The process will take from several weeks to a few months, at which point either the expander will be left in or it will be replaced with a permanent implant, and the areola can be reconstructed. Another method of breast reconstruction involves the grafting of your own tissue onto the breast and then reconnecting the blood vessels contained in the tissue to the grafting site. The advantage of this surgery is that your own skin will be used, however it is more complex and involves additional scarring and a longer recovery period, since there are two surgical sites that must heal. Women undergoing breast reconstruction have a choice of implants filled with silicone gel or sterile saltwater. In most cases, surgery can be performed in the hospital or an outpatient surgery center. Recovery may take up to two weeks. For best results, breast reconstruction should be performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon. You should see several surgeons to discuss all your options before undergoing breast cancer surgrey so you know what to expect. When performed by an expert surgeon, your breasts can be beautifully restored to look very natural. While there is no evidence that reconstructive breast surgery will either prevent future cancer or cause it to return, you should continue to visit your doctor for regular mammograms to keep your new breasts healthy. For more on what to expect during breast reconstruction, check out the other resources on our site.More »
Last Modified: 2013-09-27 | Tags »
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For a guy, finding a lump in one of your pecs may not seem like a big deal. It is, though. Find out more information on male breast cancer in this video.
Transcript: Men don't have breasts, per se. Therefore, men shouldn't get breast cancer. But they DO, to the tune...
Men don't have breasts, per se. Therefore, men shouldn't get breast cancer. But they DO, to the tune of 1,500 new cases a year. The issue is that most men, and even many doctors, don't recognize breast cancer in men. Also, men tend to dismiss a lump, while a woman is much more likely to notice and know what it is. Men are also unfamiliar with the three major risk factors: age; family history of the disease; and obesity. Having even ONE risk factor is reason enough to do a quick self-exam every 3 months. When you're in the shower, feel across the chest with the tips of your fingers, and under the nipple, for any unusual lumps. You're looking for a lump that will feel small and firm, like a pea. And, lump or no lump, if you have any discharge or bleeding from the nipple, ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist in male breast cancer.More »
Last Modified: 2013-08-13 | Tags »
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A better understanding of breast cancer will help you prevent and detect the condition early. Check out this video to learn more.
Transcript: In order to understand breast cancer, it's helpful to be aware of the basic anatomy of the breast. Each...
In order to understand breast cancer, it's helpful to be aware of the basic anatomy of the breast. Each breast contains 15 to 20 lobes of tissue, arranged like the petals of a daisy. Lobes are further divided into milk-producing lobules, which are connected by ducts designed to carry milk to the nipple during breast feeding. Each breast also connects to lymph nodes in the underarm, above the collarbone, and in the chest behind the breastbone. As with other cancers, those that manifest in the breast start when something goes wrong in the body's normal cell dividing process. This causes an excess of cells to build up and form an abnormal lump of tissue, called a tumor. When this happens in the breast, it usually does so in the milk ducts, which is called ductal carcinoma, or in the lobules, called lobular carcinoma. In 80% percent of cases, a tumor in any part of the breast will be found to be benign, or not cancerous. However, if a tumor IS cancerous, it may grow and invade tissue nearby, like the chest wall, or it may spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs. We know that breast cancer does not discriminate. From singers like Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge, to actors like Christina Applegate and Cynthia Nixon, to political figures like judge Sandra Day O'Connor and first lady Nancy Reagan, the disease can strike anyone. Indeed, almost one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer...but why does this happen? Researchers have found that the female hormone estrogen probably plays a role in the development of certain kinds of breast cancer. That's because estrogen tells cells to divide, and the more that cell division occurs, the more likely something will go wrong in the process. As a result, women who begin menstruating before 12, and those who go through menopause after 55 have a higher breast cancer risk. Similarly, women who undergo hormone therapy for menopause may be more likely to fall prey to cancer. In fact, the typical breast cancer patient is over 60 at the time of diagnosis. Many women who get breast cancer also have a history of the disease in their immediate families. And researchers now know that mutations on two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, are responsible for some cases of inherited breast cancer. One in 200 women carries these genes, which explains why up to 10% of breast cancer cases are related to BRCA. Still, there is no hard and fast rule about who will be affected by this disease! If you're concerned about breast cancer, make an appointment to speak with your doctor.More »
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It's important to know what to look for when trying to catch breast cancer early on. Watch this video for more information on breast cancer symptoms and diagnosis.
Transcript: Breast cancer, the second most common cancer in women, occurs when abnormal cells accumulate and form...
Breast cancer, the second most common cancer in women, occurs when abnormal cells accumulate and form a mass of tissue, or a tumor. The most common symptom of breast cancer is the presence of a tumor, which may manifest as a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm. Unfortunately, most early breast cancers are silent, and have no symptoms. The breast may change in size or shape, or the skin may appear dimpled or puckered. The nipples may emit a clear or blood discharge, or they may turn inward. A woman with breast cancer may also notice scaly, red, or swollen skin on any part of her breast or nipple. Unfortunately, these symptoms usually don't manifest until breast cancer has grown and even spread in the body. All cancers are easier to treat in their earliest stages, so doctors check women for breast cancer as a precaution, even when symptoms aren't present. This precautionary screening includes a clinical breast exam, where the breasts are felt for changes a patient may have missed. A mammogram, which is an x-ray image of the tissue inside the breasts, is also part of a normal examination, though women are not given this test until their 40s, when breast cancer risk increases. Younger women with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors may also choose to have regular mammograms. If an abnormality is found during either of these examinations, a doctor may order imaging tests to get a better look. Imaging tests include ultrasounds, which use sound waves to photograph the breast's interior, and MRIs, which use a magnet and radio waves to do the same thing. Even if some or all of these tests show that breast cancer is LIKELY, only a biopsy can say for SURE. A biopsy involves removing a small sample of the suspicious breast cells, which are sent to a lab and examined for the presence of cancer. The GOOD news is that breast cancer survival rates are very high, ranging from 80 to 98%, depending on the stage of cancer and whether its spread. To learn more about breast cancer, check out the breast cancer series on this site and have a conversation with your doctor.More »
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Millions of women around the world suffer from breast cancer. Some develop in the breast ducts, while others in the lobules. Watch this video to learn about the various types of breast cancer.
Transcript: Breast cancer occurs when malignant, or cancerous, cells grow in some area of the breast. Often, that...
Breast cancer occurs when malignant, or cancerous, cells grow in some area of the breast. Often, that area is the breast's ducts, which carry milk to the nipples during breastfeeding. Known as ductal carcinoma, this type makes up 85 to 90% of all breast cancers. Another 8% of breast cancers begin in the lobules, which produce milk and connect to the ducts. This type of cancer is, predictably, called lobular carcinoma. Both lobular and ductal carcinoma often manifest as a distinct lump in the breast or armpit. When discovered, these cancers may be confined to the lobules or ducts in which they began. This is known as "in situ," which literally means "in its original place." It is also possible that the cancer may have invaded, or spread to, surrounding breast tissue. According to the American Cancer Society, about 180,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer annually. This means that the majority of breast cancers have already begun to spread by the time they are found. While lobular and ductal carcinomas are the most common forms of breast cancer, there are others. Inflammatory breast cancer, is a rare, aggressive condition that makes up between one and 5% of breast cancer diagnoses. Rather than a distinct lump, inflammatory breast cancer is seen as sheets or nests of tissue, often manifesting as reddening and swelling of the breasts. Yet another breast cancer is called Paget's disease of the nipple, which occurs when cancer cells collect in or around this area. Paget's often appears as scaly, red, itchy skin surrounding the nipple. Although it accounts for less than 5% of breast cancer diagnoses, 97% of people with Pagat's ALSO have cancer elsewhere in the breast. And although it's not a TYPE of breast cancer, it's important to know that -- in less than one percent of cases -- breast cancer occurs in men. Like women, men have breast tissue and the capability to make female hormones, like estrogen. As a result, they can also be diagnosed with any of these forms of breast cancer. No matter your gender, if you notice any suspicious changes in your breasts, make an appointment with your health care professional!More »
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Do breast implants complicate breast exams? It’s a fair question and may concern a number of women. Watch our video for the answer.
Transcript: Breast augmentation is the most common cosmetic plastic surgery procedure among women in the United States...but...
Breast augmentation is the most common cosmetic plastic surgery procedure among women in the United States...but many women wonder, 'Will enlarging my breasts make it harder to find cancer?' First, some uplifting news: When caught early, the five-year survival rate of breast cancer is 98%, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Breast self-exam, clinical breast exam, and mammography screening are the three methods currently used for such early detection, and that's also true for women who've undergone breast augmentation. In fact, there is some evidence that breast implants make physical examination of the breast MORE effective. That's because implants push breast tissue outward and push breast tissue outward, which may make it easier to feel masses and lumps. Getting your clinical breast exams from a gynecologist who is familiar with breast implants can help. Your surgeon can also help you feel your implant, so you know what to expect during a breast self-exam. Unfortunately, breast augmentation may make it harder for a doctor to perform a mammogram, especially if the implants are large, under the gland and over the muscle and stretching your tissues. This is also true in the presence of capsular contracture, which can cause scar tissue around the implant and hardening of the breast. Implants are also less malleable than real breast tissue, which can make it difficult to compress the breast fully during a mammogram. Ultrasound or MRI may be performed to additionally view the implanted breast if mammogram views are limited. For this reason, doctors rely on the Eklund technique which, during mammogram, pushes the implant back, moving the breast tissue forward. There is only a very small risk of implant rupture with mammography because implants are built and tested to wish stand this amount of compression. If you can, pick a mammographer who is very familiar with screening augmented breasts. If you're interested in accentuating your figure with plastic surgery, know that breast cancer rates are no higher among women with breast implants than among those without them. Just make sure to discuss breast cancer screening with your doctor before you enter the operating room!More »
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Finding a cyst in your breast doesn't necessarily mean that you have breast cancer.Watch this video to find out the steps your doctor will take to analyze the lump in your breast.
Transcript: It's disconcerting to find a soft lump in your breast. You may wonder, Is this breast cancer? While...
It's disconcerting to find a soft lump in your breast. You may wonder, Is this breast cancer? While you should be alert to all changes in your breasts, know that finding a lump doesn't necessarily mean the worst. Breast cysts, fluid-filled sacs that most women discover during breast self-exam, are common. These cysts form when an overgrowth of glands and connective tissue block the milk ducts in the breast, causing them to dilate and fill with fluid. Usually, cysts are round or oval lumps, with the soft texture of a water-balloon. It's common for them to grow larger just before a woman's period, and shrink after menstruation ends. Occasionally, patients report pain or tenderness around the area of the cyst. Whatever the specific symptoms, cysts most often occur in perimenopausal women in their 30s and 40s. The good news is that just one in 1,000 of them contain a tumor! And in almost all of these rare cases, the tumor is benign, or non-cancerous. Still, it's a normal reaction to be concerned if you find a breast lump, and it's smart to visit your gynecologist and get it checked out. Generally, she'll ask about the cyst's history and perform a clinical breast examination. The doctor may also order a breast ultrasound, which allows her to better analyze the lump and determine if it's fluid-filled. If the lump is solid inside, your doctor might order further tests, like a biopsy, to ensure that it's not cancerous. Sometimes a doctor will perform a fine-needle aspiration on the cyst, or remove it surgically. Aspiration involves inserting a needle into the breast lump to draw fluid. Aside from ensuring that the lump is nothing more than a cyst, aspiration helps to deflate growth, essentially treating the cyst. If the fluid that emerges from a cyst is bloody, however, it must be sent to a lab for further testing. Your doctor will want to rule out the possibility of cancer with additional tests if no fluid emerges, since that can suggest that the lump, or a portion of it, is solid. Breast cysts are usually no cause for concern, but you should always discuss any changes in your breasts with your doctor.More »
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