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Breast Cancer – Risk, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

The most often diagnosed malignant tumor found among girls and the second leading cause of death from cancer among women in America and Canada. (Contrary to popular belief, it’s lung cancer that’s the leading source of cancer death among women in America and Canada.) About 183,000 girls are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States, and almost 41,000 die from the disease each year. In Canada, an estimated 5,500 girls died of breast cancer in 2001, according to the National Cancer Institute of Canada.

Risk Factors

Middle aged and elderly girls have reached the greatest risk of facing breast cancer, although younger girls can also be diagnosed with the disorder. Complicating the treatment for breast cancer among elderly women is the fact that many of them also have other disorders, for example diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. Because of this, some doctors may be reluctant to treat breast cancer sharply in elderly patients.

Age Dangers The risk for breast cancer increases with age. Based on the National Cancer Institute, the threats for being diagnosed with breast cancer are as follows:

From age 30 to age 40: 1 out of 257

From age 40 to age 50: 1 out of 67

From age 50 to age 60: 1 out of 36

From age 60 to age 70: 1 out of 28

From age 70 to age 80:1 out of 24

Men with Breast Cancer The overwhelming bulk of breast cancer patients are female, although a tiny percentage (less than 1 percent) of breast cancer sufferers are males; about 400 men die of breast cancer annually. Some Risks for guys growing breast cancer are the use of estrogen, dysfunction of the testicles, gynecomastia (breast enlargement), a family history of breast cancer, and disorders for example cirrhosis or Klinefelter’s syndrome.

Racial Threats White women have a greater risk (13.2 percent) of being diagnosed with breast cancer, compared to the lower risk of 9.7 percent faced by black women, according to 1996 data. Yet, despite their lower risk of being hit with breast cancer, black women have a somewhat higher rate of death, or 3.62 percent compared to 3.47 percent for white women.

This higher death rate from breast cancer may happen because black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a later period than white women. They may additionally receive poorer quality health care than white women or they may lack access to medical care.

They may additionally have sufficient accessibility but don’t seek routine checkups and mammograms, evaluations that might find tumours in the breast. Additionally it is possible that black women may suffer from more aggressive cancers; researchers are examining this option too. Other Risks Other Risks for breast cancer are as follows:

  • Having had breast cancer before (If a girl has had breast cancer in one breast, her risk is raised for the other breast becoming cancerous.)
  • Family history of breast cancer (If a mom, sister, or daughter has had breast cancer, a girl has a greater risk.)
  • Late childbearing (Girls who had their first baby after age 30 have a greater risk for developing breast cancer.)
  • Radiation therapy (Girls who were exposed to radiation to their breasts have a heightened risk, for instance, girls who had radiation therapy for Hodgkin’s disease.)
  • Alcohol consumption (Some studies suggest that drinking alcohol increases the risk for breast cancer.)

Survival Rates

The five-year survival rate for breast cancer has improved considerably in America since 1979 when the survival rate was 75 percent for white women and 63 percent for black women. Based on the National Cancer Institute, the five-year survival rate for 1989 95 (the latest figures as of this writing) are 86 percent for white women and 71 percent for black women. (Black women have a poorer survival rate than white women in many types of cancer.)

Screening for Breast Cancer

Gynecologists and family doctors assess women’s breasts for lumps during yearly physical examinations, and girls should also perform routine self-examinations to assess themselves for breast lumps.

Moreover, girls older than age 50 should also get a yearly mammogram, which is a unique X ray tor breast cancer.

Mammography can detect cancer about 1.7 years before the girl feels any lump in her breast. Based on the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC), timely mammography screening among women older than age 40 could prevent as many as 30 percent of all deaths from breast cancer.

In the U.S., Medicare provides yearly coverage for mammograms for Medicare recipients. Moreover, most health insurance companies also pay for mammograms. Nevertheless, based on a concern that poor girls mightn’t be receiving breast cancer screenings, Congress passed the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act in 1990. This law established the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program in the CDC. This plan provides for screening services, breast examinations, Pap tests, and pelvic examinations to low income girls. From its start in 1990 to 2001, the plan has supplied more than 2.7 million screening assessments for low income girls. The CDC says that as an outcome of this plan, 8,600 breast cancers have been diagnosed.

Breast Cancer Screening in Women Age 70 And Older

There’s some ongoing controversy about whether breast cancer screening should continue for girls age 70 and older. Most organizations continue to advocate a yearly screening, but some physicians consider it is not required to purchase yearly mammograms for women after age 69. They consider that if an elderly girls does have breast cancer, it’s improbable to be an aggressively growing cancer. Opponents contend the failure to continue to screen women for breast cancer could result in an undertreatment of mature girls and to their early departures.

Based on the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, in study results presented in 2000 in Boston, researchers who examined breast cancer patients found the disorder was just as competitive in elderly women as in women ages 40 to 70 years. Thus, the researchers recommended that breast cancer be treated actively in all girls, no matter their age.

Based on these findings, it would therefore appear reasonable that women age 70 and elderly should continue to get yearly mammograms also, especially in light of the increased speed of breast cancer in this age group.

Symptoms/Breast Changes to Observe For

In the really early phases of breast cancer, there are not any symptoms. As the cancer keeps growing, yet, there in many cases are detectable signals. Some hints are:

  • Thickening or a lump in or by the breast or in the underarms
  • Change in the shape or size of breast
  • Nipple discharge or tenderness
  • Changes in the skin of the breast or nipple, like redness or scaliness

Diagnosing Breast Cancer

If a physical examination and/or a mammogram suggests the existence of cancer, physicians will perform a needle or surgical biopsy. With a needle biopsy, the physician removes tissue with a needle. With a surgical biopsy, the surgeon makes an incision and removes tissue while the girl is under anesthesia.

A biopsy will verify if cancer is present and will help determine how advanced the cancer is, in addition to how fast it’s growing. The physician may also use an ultrasound to help with Diagnosis. Based on this advice, the physician can recommend what activities the girl should take next.

Periods of Breast Cancer

Doctors break up breast cancer into fundamental phases, determined by the severity of the cancer and how quickly it’s growing. In Phase 0 (zero), the very first period, the cancer is quite confined and hasn’t spread within or with no breast. This period is sometimes called noninvasive cancer.

In Phase I, the cancer is 1 inch or less in size and hasn’t spread beyond the breast.

In Stage II, the cancer is either an inch or smaller, but it’s spread to lymph nodes under the arm, OR it’s 1 to 2 inches in size but it’s nut spread to underarm lymph nodes, OR it’s bigger than 2 inches but hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.

Stage III is divided into two phases, III A and IIIB. In Phase IIIA, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. It may be smaller or bigger than 2 inches.

In Stage IIIB, the cancer has spread to the tissues found near the breast, including the chest wall, the ribs, and the torso muscles, OR the cancer has spread to lymph nodes inside the chest wall.

In Phase IV, the cancer has reached other organs, like the lungs, the liver, and the brain, or it’s spread to the skin and the lymph nodes inside the neck. This is the most complex type of breast cancer.

Treatment For Breast Cancer

As with most other types of cancer, surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy are all potential alternatives which could be selected to fight the cancer. Girls who are treated by radiation will find radiation and medical oncologists (cancer doctors) and may also continue to find their primary physicians.

Operative Treatment

Some type of operation is generally the preferred plan of action for breast cancer. Either a lumpectomy (removal of the breast lump including cancer) or an entire removal of all or most of the breast (mastectomy) are the surgical alternatives. If a lumpectomy is performed, the surgeon will also usually remove lymph nodes from the underarm region near the affected breast. Radiation therapy, in which unique high-strength X rays irradiate the affected region, is also frequently performed to attempt to ensure the cancer is totally eradicated.

If a mastectomy is performed (either a partial or total mastectomy), the surgeon removes the cancerous region and at least some breast tissue, together with lymph nodes under the arm. Radiation therapy generally follows operation.

Based on the National Cancer Institute, physicians may recommend a mastectomy when the following conditions are present:

  • There’s cancer in greater than one section of the breast.
  • The breast is small and a lumpectomy would make little tissue.
  • The girl rejects radiation therapy.
  • The girl picks mastectomy.

If the girl has a mastectomy, after recuperating from the operation, she may determine to use breast types that fit into the bra or may choose to use a padded bra. She may also choose a plastic surgeon to rebuild the breasts. Some girls pick against special bras or reconstruction.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation is another method to attempt to kill or arrest the cancer cells. Radiation is either supplied by a machine, or it’s planted. If the radiation is supplied by a machine, the girl goes to the practice or the hospital for about five days weekly for several weeks. If the substance is planted into the breast, the girl stays in the hospital for several days, and the radiated implants are removed before her discharge from the hospital.


Another alternative to treat cancer would be to use powerful anticancer drugs that are pills or injections. These drugs may cause nausea and vomiting, although new medicines help control some of the side effects.

Biological Treatment

A newer method to treat breast cancer is called biological treatment. This treatment is an effort to spark the body’s natural defenses. Patients are treated with a drug called Herceptin (trastuzumab), which might stop or impede the development of cancer cells. Biological treatment may accompany chemotherapy.

Joining a Clinical Trial Another alternative for the breast cancer patient may be to join an on-going clinical trial that’s testing a drug or a process. This may enable her to use experimental therapies or treatments that would otherwise be unavailable to her.

Questions To Ask Before Operation

The National Cancer Institute says that girls contemplating surgery for breast cancer should ask the surgeon these questions before operation:

  • What type of operation is advocated?
  • How much of my breast must be removed?
  • If I ‘ve a mastectomy, can I afterwards have breast reconstruction?

Do you recommend breast reconstruction at the time of operation or later?

Are you going to remove any lymph nodes?

  • Where will the operation be performed?
  • Will I have general or local anesthesia?
  • How will I feel after the surgery?
  • If I have pain after operation, how do I get alleviation?
  • What side effects should I report?
  • Where will the scars be, and what will they look like?
  • How long will I be in the hospital, and will I need attention after I ‘m discharged?
  • When will I have the ability to return to my regular activities?

Psychological Aspects

The Diagnosis of breast cancer and the removal of part or all of a breast is an emotionally devastating experience for girls of any age, whether they’re sexually active or not. Participating in a support group of other girls that have faced the same issue may also help girls cope with the issue.

Doctors must not reflexively presume that girls who are in their senior years will not “mind” having to get breast operation, any more than they should suppose that men with prostate cancer wouldn’t become disturbed if they were to lose their sexual potency from a prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland, normally due to prostate cancer).

Support from a psychologist or therapist may be justified, and support groups may help too.

Present And Future Improvements

Scientists seek to diagnose breast cancer as early as possible to ease the greatest chance of a treatment. As an example, in 2001, among women already diagnosed with breast cancer, British researchers examined a miniature

camera that can be added through a girl’s nipple to check for cancer in the milk ducts of the breast. This can be quite helpful because when breast cancer happens, it generally begins in the milk duct place and then spreads outward. The camera can discover whether the already diagnosed cancer is included or if it’s distributing.

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