About and Diagnosis
Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of breast cells. Certain risk factors may increase a woman's chances of developing breast cancer, however there are also ways to reduce the risk.
Breast cancer comes in different forms, like other types of cancer. Identifying the specific type of breast cancer helps your doctor design a treatment plan with the best chances of a good outcome.
The most significant risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman. All women are at risk of breast cancer and the older you are, the higher the risk.
Breast cancer, particularly in the early stages, may have no obvious symptoms. Symptoms such as swelling of the breast, lumps or skin changes may signal you that something is wrong.
Doctors define the progression of breast cancer by determining the stage of the disease. The following definition of the stages of breast cancer comes from the National Cancer Institute.
Breast cancer screening tests
Breast cancer screenings are routine procedures that you and your doctor perform to check breast health before there are any symptoms of a problem.
If a screening test finds a suspicious area in your breast tissue, doctors use a variety of diagnostic tests to determine if cancer is present and if it has spread to other areas.
Thanks to extensive research and aggressive treatment, many women have good outcomes with their breast cancer. Doctors often have several treatment options to consider for each patient.
Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have some form of surgery in their treatment plan. Your doctor has many surgical options to treat breast cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to fight breast cancer. Doctors often use radiation in connection with other forms of treatment such as surgery.
Chemotherapy (or chemo) is the use of special medicines to fight breast cancer and doctors often use it in coordination with other types of treatment.
Some forms of breast cancer use hormones (estrogen and progesterone) to grow. Breast cells may have "receptors" for hormones, which tell the cells to grow and become cancer.
Targeted therapy uses drugs and other chemicals to block, interfere or disrupt the biological and chemical processes that enable cancer cells to grow at a rapid rate and spread.
Depending on the location and stage of breast cancer, your treatment may be relatively free of side effects or aggressive enough to cause major side effects.
Some women who have a mastectomy as treatment for breast cancer also have plastic surgery or breast reconstruction surgery.
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, according the American Cancer Society. Only lung cancer claims more deaths than breast cancer among women.
Researchers constantly look for new ways to diagnose and treat breast cancer. New medications and treatment procedures must pass rigorous testing before they are accepted for general use with patients.
A breast cancer diagnosis can take an emotional and physical toll on you and your family. While treating the cancer is of prime importance, don't ignore the emotional strain.