When cancer occurs, it involves cells mutating and growing out of control. There are many different types of cancer depending on where in the body it is found, including breast cancer. Women’s breasts are unique because no breast is exactly the same as another. Breasts may even feel uneven, and they can have unusual lumps. Breasts change throughout a woman’s lifetime with weight fluctuations, hormonal shifts, and aging. Because breast cancer is a common disease for women, it’s important to follow guidelines for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Although physicians do not know precisely why some women develop breast cancer and others do not, doctors do know that women can have specific risk factors that make it more likely that they will develop breast cancer. As women age, they become more likely to develop breast cancer. Two specific genes have been identified as significant risks for developing hereditary breast cancer. A woman who began menstruating before age 12 or continued menstruating until after age 55 also has a higher risk for breast cancer. A lump, a change in the size or shape of a breast, or unusual discharge from the nipple may be symptoms of breast cancer.
- What Is Breast Cancer? Behind skin cancer, breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer afflicting American women.
- Breast Cancer Overview: Ductal carcinoma is the most common form of breast cancer.
- Breast Cancer Information: During their lifetimes, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in the United States.
- Learning About Breast Cancer: The gene for hereditary breast cancer can be detected with a DNA test.
- Questions to Ask My Doctor About Breast Cancer (PDF): Review questions to ask a practitioner after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
It’s impossible to prevent breast cancer, but women can take steps to lower their risks for developing the disease. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet are three ways to minimize breast cancer risk. A woman with a family history of breast cancer might choose to undergo special DNA testing to determine whether genes are present that could increase breast cancer risk. Early detection is also important to ensure that breast cancer is diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. Women should perform breast self-exams monthly.
- Breast Self-Examination (PDF): Follow the instructions in this printable diagram to learn how to perform a breast self-examination.
- Breast Cancer Information and Treatment: Breast cancer involves cells in the breast becoming abnormal and growing in an uncontrolled fashion.
- Key Statistics of Breast Cancer: Breast cancer is the second most deadly type of cancer for women, trailing only lung cancer in deadliness.
- Obesity Changes Breast Tissue, Makes it Easier for Tumors to Grow: Obese women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer because tumors can grow more easily in breast tissue.
Breast cancer surgery might involve removal of the lump only, or it could involve removal of the entire breast. With a lumpectomy, surgeons remove the tumor and surrounding tissue only, leaving the breast intact. Generally, patients undergoing a lumpectomy will also have radiation therapy. A mastectomy involves removal of the entire breast as well as surrounding lymph nodes. Patients often choose to have a special type of plastic surgery called breast reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy.
- Breast Cancer Advances (PDF): Recent advances in breast cancer surgery are providing patients with many new options in treatment.
- Surgery Not Always Needed for Early Form of Breast Cancer: Ductal carcinoma in situ is a common type of noninvasive breast cancer.
- Breast Cancer Surgery Options: Surgery is the main treatment for breast cancer, and patients have various options for this treatment.
- Breast Cancer Surgery: Breast cancer patients may undergo a lumpectomy or a mastectomy to surgically treat the disease.
- Surgery Information: The surgical goal for breast cancer involves removing the tumor and surrounding tissue that could also contain cancerous cells.
- Breast Cancer Treatment: A physician will weigh various factors to choose the best course of treatment for a breast cancer patient.
- Reconstructive Breast Surgery: After undergoing a mastectomy, many patients have reconstructive breast surgery to rebuild breast tissue through plastic surgery.
Support for Families
Families of breast cancer patients usually experience feelings of fear and anxiety with this diagnosis. The patient will need support while undergoing diagnosis, treatment, surgery, and recovery. Patients may become depressed and angry after diagnosis. While families usually wish to support and assist their loved one during treatment, it’s also important to meet their own personal needs. Family members may need to find outside sources for support during this time of illness.
- Breast Surgery: A Guide for Patients and Families (PDF): Explore breast surgery to learn about the many options and steps involved with this treatment.
- Breast Cancer and Tips for Family: Loved ones should realize that medications administered in the treatment of breast cancer can produce mood changes in patients.
- Frequently Asked Questions: It’s common for patients and families to have many questions about breast cancer after diagnosis.
The first two weeks after surgery are the most difficult time for breast cancer patients. Rest is important for successful healing. Patients should perform as little physical activity as possible during this time. Walking around the house, shoulder rolls, and deep breathing are permissible activities. Prescribed medication will help manage pain. After the initial recovery, patients should participate in physical therapy to continue the recuperation process.
- Your Rights After a Mastectomy: The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 ensures specific rights to breast cancer patients.
- Postoperative Pain Issues Following Breast Cancer Surgery (PDF): A patient may experience phantom breast pain after a mastectomy.
- After Breast Cancer Surgery: Performing physical exercises after breast cancer surgery will help with recovery.
- Understanding Rehabilitation and Recovery After Breast Surgery (PDF): The arm on the surgical side will need rest and limited movement during the initial recovery time after surgery.