Breast Cancer

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Remedies

Breast Cancer Treatment Remedies


The contents of this app are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. The information provided should not be considered as a substitute for the advice of a medical doctor or other healthcare professional.

What is Breast Cancer?

In invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer, the cancer seems to have started in a duct (milk passage), and then grown through the wall of the duct into the fatty tissue of the breast.

In invasive lobular carcinoma, the cancer seems to have started in the lobule, and then grown through the wall of the duct into the fatty tissue of the breast.

In general, invasive lobular and invasive ductal carcinomas of the breast aren’t treated differently.

When looking at the cancer cells under the microscope, the pathologist looks for certain features that can help predict how likely the cancer is to grow and spread. These features include the arrangement of the cells in relation to each other, whether they form tubules, how closely they resemble normal breast cells, and how many of the cancer cells are in the process of dividing. These features taken together determine how differentiated the cancer is.

Well-differentiated carcinomas have relatively normal-looking cells that do not appear to be growing rapidly and are arranged in small tubules for ductal cancer and cords in lobular cancer. These cancers tend to grow and spread slowly and so have a better prognosis (outlook).

Poorly differentiated carcinomas lack normal features, tend to grow and spread faster, and have a worse prognosis. Moderately differentiated carcinomas have features and prognosis in-between these two.

Tubular, mucinous, and cribriform carcinomas are types of well-differentiated cancers that often have a better prognosis than the more common type of ductal carcinoma.

Micropapillary carcinoma is a type of ductal carcinoma that often has a worse prognosis. If your doctor knows that your tumor is made up of one of these special types of breast cancer, he or she may recommend different treatment.

Since some tumors are made up of more than one type, the entire tumor must be removed (by lumpectomy or mastectomy) in order to know what types your tumor contains. A needle biopsy doesn’t give enough information to guide treatment.

If cancer cells are seen in small blood or lymph vessels under the microscope, it is called vascular, angiolymphatic, or lymphovascular invasion. When cancer is growing in these vessels, there is an increased risk that it has spread outside the breast.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Breast cancer symptoms vary widely from lumps to swelling to skin changes and many breast cancers have no obvious symptoms at all.

Every person should know the symptoms and signs of breast cancer, and any time an abnormality is discovered, it should be investigated by a healthcare professional.

Most people who have breast cancer symptoms and signs will initially notice only one or two, and the presence of these symptoms and signs do not automatically mean that you have breast cancer.

A change in how the breast or nipple feels.

A change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast.(some describe this as similar to an orange peel’s texture)

A change in the breast or nipple appearance.

Dimpling anywhere on the breast.

Unexplained swelling of the breast. (especially if on one side only)

Unexplained shrinkage of the breast. (especially if on one side only)

Recent asymmetry of the breasts. (although it is common for women to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other, if the onset of asymmetry is recent, it should be checked)

Nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted.

It is also important to note that a milky discharge that is present when a woman is not breastfeeding should be checked by her doctor, although it is not linked with breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Causes

While we do not yet know exactly what causes breast cancer, we do know that certain risk factors are linked to the disease.

But risk factors don’t tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several, doesn’t mean that a woman will get breast cancer.

Some women who have one or more risk factors never get the disease. And most women who do get breast cancer don't have any risk factors (other than being a woman and growing older).

Some risk factors are greater than others, and your risk for breast cancer can change over time from aging or lifestyle.

Although many risk factors may increase your chance of having breast cancer, it is not yet known just how some of these risk factors cause cells to become cancer.

Hormones seem to play a role in many cases of breast cancer, but just how this happens is not fully understood.

Breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women than in men.

The chance of getting breast cancer goes up as a woman gets older.

Inherited changes (mutations) in certain genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 can increase the risk.

A woman with cancer in one breast has a greater chance of getting a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast. This is different from a return of the first cancer (called a recurrence).

Women who have certain benign breast changes may have an increased risk of breast cancer. Some of these are more closely linked to breast cancer risk than others.

Women who began having periods early (before age 12) or who went through the change of life (menopause) after the age of 55 have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.

Women who have had radiation treatment to the chest area (as treatment for another cancer) as a child or young adult have a greatly increased risk of breast cancer. The risk from chest radiation is highest if the radiation were given during the teens, when the breasts were still developing.

Women who were given the drug DES (diethylstilbestrol) during pregnancy have a slightly increased risk of getting breast cancer.

Studies have found that women who are using birth control pills or Depo-Provera® have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them. This risk seems to go back to normal over time once the pills are stopped.

Taking estrogen and progesterone after menopause increases the risk of getting breast cancer. The breast cancer risk seems to go back to normal over time once the hormones are stopped.

Some studies have shown that breastfeeding slightly lowers breast cancer risk, especially if breastfeeding lasts 1½ to 2 years.

Overall, white women are slightly more likely to get breast cancer than African-American women. African-American women, though, are more likely to die of breast cancer. Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women have a lower risk of getting and dying from breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Treatment

If the entire tumor or area of cancer is removed, the pathologist will say how big the area of cancer is by measuring how long it is across. The size of the tumor in the breast is part of what determines the stage of the cancer, which influences treatment and prognosis.

In surgery meant to treat breast cancer, lymph nodes under the arm may be removed. These lymph nodes will be examined under the microscope to see if they contain cancer cells. The results might be reported as the number of lymph nodes removed and how many of them contained cancer.

In a sentinel lymph node biopsy, the surgeon finds and removes the first lymph node(s) to which a tumor drains. This lymph node, known as the sentinel node, is the one most likely to contain cancer cells if they have started to spread. This procedure may be done during surgery to remove a breast cancer. It is a way to check for the spread of cancer to underarm lymph nodes without removing as many of them.

This lymph node is then checked to see if it contains cancer cells. If there is no cancer in the sentinel node(s), it's very unlikely that the cancer has spread to other lymph nodes, so no further lymph node surgery is needed.

If cancer is found in a sentinel lymph node, you may then also need to have more underarm lymph nodes removed.

PERJETA is an FDA-approved treatment for HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. It is a targeted therapy used as part of a first-line HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer treatment plan, in combination with Herceptin (trastuzumab) and docetaxel.

PERJETA is referred to as a HER2 dimerization inhibitor (HDI). It has a different way of working than other medicines currently available for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancers.

PERJETA and Herceptin (trastuzumab), another HER2 therapy, both target HER2 but are believed to work in complementary ways. The combination may increase death of cancer cells. The main trial for approval, CLEOPATRA, studied safety and efficacy in 808 patients.

If you’ve been diagnosed with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer, adding PERJETA to Herceptin and docetaxel could make your treatment stronger.

The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Some hormones can cause certain cancers to grow. If tests show that the cancer cells have places where hormones can attach (receptors), drugs, surgery, or radiation therapy is used to reduce the production of hormones or block them from working.

The hormone estrogen, which makes some breast cancers grow, is made mainly by the ovaries. Treatment to stop the ovaries from making estrogen is called ovarian ablation.

Hormone therapy with tamoxifen is often given to patients with early stages of breast cancer and those with metastatic breast cancer (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body). Hormone therapy with tamoxifen or estrogens can act on cells all over the body and may increase the chance of developing endometrial cancer.

Women taking tamoxifen should have a pelvic exam every year to look for any signs of cancer. Any vaginal bleeding, other than menstrual bleeding, should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible.

Hormone therapy with an aromatase inhibitor is given to some postmenopausal women who have hormone-dependent breast cancer.

Hormone-dependent breast cancer needs the hormone estrogen to grow. Aromatase inhibitors decrease the body's estrogen by blocking an enzyme called aromatase from turning androgen into estrogen.

For the treatment of early stage breast cancer, certain aromatase inhibitors may be used as adjuvant therapy instead of tamoxifen or after 2 or more years of tamoxifen.

For the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, aromatase inhibitors are being tested in clinical trials to compare them to hormone therapy with tamoxifen.

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors are two types of targeted therapies used in the treatment of breast cancer. PARP inhibitors are a type of targeted therapy being studied for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a cancer treatment that uses antibodies made in the laboratory, from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow.

The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies may be used in combination with chemotherapy as adjuvant therapy.

Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that blocks the effects of the growth factor protein HER2, which sends growth signals to breast cancer cells. About one-fourth of patients with breast cancer have tumors that may be treated with trastuzumab combined with chemotherapy.

Pertuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that may be combined with trastuzumab and chemotherapy to treat breast cancer. It may be used to treat certain patients with HER2-positive breast cancer that has metastasized (spread to other parts of the body). It may also be used as neoadjuvant therapy in certain patients with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer.

Ado-trastuzumab emtansine is a monoclonal antibody linked to an anticancer drug. This is called an antibody-drug conjugate. It is used to treat HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body or recurred (come back).

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are targeted therapy drugs that block signals needed for tumors to grow. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors may be used with other anticancer drugs as adjuvant therapy.

Lapatinib is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that blocks the effects of the HER2 protein and other proteins inside tumor cells. It may be used with other drugs to treat patients with HER2-positive breast cancer that has progressed after treatment with trastuzumab.

PARP inhibitors are a type of targeted therapy that block DNA repair and may cause cancer cells to die. PARP inhibitor therapy is being studied for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant is a way of giving high doses of chemotherapy and replacing blood -forming cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor and are frozen and stored.

After the chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These reinfused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body’s blood cells.

Studies have shown that high-dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplant does not work better than standard chemotherapy in the treatment of breast cancer. Doctors have decided that, for now, high-dose chemotherapy should be tested only in clinical trials.

Breast Cancer Prevention

Breast self-exam should be part of your monthly health care routine, and you should visit your doctor if you experience breast changes.

If you're over 40 or at a high risk for the disease, you should also have an annual mammogram and physical exam by a doctor.

The earlier breast cancer is found and diagnosed, the better your chances of beating it.

Keep a healthy weight.

Exercise regularly (at least four hours a week).

Get enough sleep.

Don't drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day.

Avoid exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer.

Try to reduce your exposure to radiation during medical tests like mammograms, X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans.

If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral birth control pills, ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.

Breastfeed your babies, if possible.

If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may have a higher breast cancer risk. Talk to your doctor about ways of reducing your risk.

It is important that you know your family history and talk to your doctor about screening and other ways you can lower your risk.

Breast Cancer Statistics & Facts

White women have the highest breast cancer incidence rate of any racial or ethnic group.

Under age 45, African American women have a higher incidence of breast cancer than white women.

African American and Hispanic/Latina women are more likely than white women to be diagnosed with later stage breast cancers. They also tend to have larger tumors than white women.

Breast cancer incidence is lower among Asian American and Pacific Islander women than for white and African American women.

Asian American women who are new immigrants have lower rates of breast cancer than those who have lived in the U.S. for many years. For those born in the U.S., the risk is similar to that of white women (60 percent higher than women born in Asia).

African American women tend to have poorer survival rates than women from other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer. Studies have found that they often have aggressive tumors with a poorer prognosis (chance for recovery).

Hispanic/Latina women are also more likely to die from breast cancer than white women diagnosed at a similar age and stage.

Women from some racial and ethnic groups may be less likely to get breast cancer screening. Also, their breast cancers are often found at a later stage. The chance of dying from breast cancer is higher if a tumor is found at a late stage.

Differences in established risk factors may explain the difference in breast cancer incidence among racial and ethnic groups. Also, they also may play a role in breast cancer survival differences across these groups.

In 2014, it is estimated that among U.S. women there will be 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed. This includes new cases of primary breast cancer among survivors, but not recurrence of original breast cancer among survivors.

Also in estimated that 62,570 new cases of in situ breast cancer will be diagnosed. This includes ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS).

Of those, about 83 percent will be DCIS. DCIS is a non-invasive breast cancer and LCIS is a condition that increases the risk of invasive breast cancer. Learn more about DCIS and LCIS.

It is estimated that in 2014 there will be 40,000 breast cancer deaths in women.

Breast cancer in men is rare, but it does happen. In 2014, it is estimated that among men in the U.S. there will be2,360 new cases diagnosed. This includes new cases of primary breast cancer among survivors, but not recurrence of original breast cancer among survivors.

It is estimated that in 2014 there will be430 breast cancer deaths in men.

Survival rates for men are about the same as for women with the same stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. However, men are usually diagnosed at a later stage because they are less likely to report symptoms.

From the 1940s until the 1980s, breast cancer incidence (new cases) rates in the U.S. increased by a little over one percent each year. In the 1980s, incidence rose greatly, likely due to increased mammography screening, and then leveled off during the 1990s.

The incidence of breast cancer declined in the early 2000s. Although mammography screening rates fell somewhat over this same time period, studies show these changes were not likely related to the decline in breast cancer rates.

The decline appears to be related to the drop in use of menopausal hormone therapy (postmenopausal hormone use) that occurred after the Women's Health Initiative study showed its use increased the risk of breast cancer.

Since 2004, the incidence of breast cancer has remained stable.

Breast cancer mortality rates in the U.S. increased slowly from 1975 to 1990. Since 1990, breast cancer mortality has decreased by 34 percent. This decline is due to improved breast cancer treatment and early detection.

As mammography screening rates have increased, more cases of breast cancer have been found at earlier stages, when chances of survival are highest.

Over time, the incidence of breast cancer has been higher among white women than among black women.

Since 1990, mortality from breast cancer has declined for both white women and black women. However, breast cancer mortality has declined more slowly among black women than among white women. So, despite incidence being higher for white women, mortality is higher for black women.

Breast Cancer Treatment Remedies plus

The contents of this app are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. The information provided should not be considered as a substitute for the advice of a medical doctor or other healthcare professional.

What is Breast Cancer?

Carcinoma is a term used to describe a cancer that begins in the lining layer (epithelial cells) of organs like the breast. Nearly all breast cancers are carcinomas. Most are the type of carcinoma that starts in glandular tissue called adenocarcinoma.

The normal breast is made of ducts that end in a group of blind-ending sacs (lobules). Cancer starts in the cells lining the ducts and lobules, when a normal cell becomes a carcinoma cell.

As long as the carcinoma cells are still confined to the breast ducts or lobules, without breaking out and growing into surrounding tissue, it is considered in-situ carcinoma.

Once the carcinoma cells have grown and broken out of the ducts or lobules, it is called invasive or infiltrating carcinoma. In an invasive carcinoma, the tumor cells can spread (metastasize) to other parts of your body.

Breast carcinomas are often divided into 2 main types, ductal and lobular, based on how they look under the microscope. In some cases, the tumor can have features of both and are called mixed ductal and lobular carcinoma.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

A lump in the breast. (It’s important to remember that all lumps should be investigated by a healthcare professional, but not all lumps are cancerous.)

Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast.

Skin of the breast, areola, or nipple that becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange.

Any nipple discharge, particularly clear discharge or bloody discharge.

Nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area.

Breast Cancer Causes

Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease. Still, most women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease, so not having a relative with breast cancer doesn’t mean you won’t get it.

Dense breast tissue means there is more gland tissue and less fatty tissue. Women with denser breast tissue have a higher risk of breast cancer. Dense breast tissue can also make it harder for doctors to spot problems on mammograms.

Women who have not had children, or who had their first child after age 30, have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. Being pregnant many times or pregnant when younger reduces breast cancer risk.

The use of alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of getting breast cancer. Even as little as one drink a day can increase risk.

Being overweight or obese after menopause (or because of weight gain that took place as an adult) is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Treatment

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.

There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy).

When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Hormone therapy is a cancer treatment that removes hormones or blocks their action and stops cancer cells from growing. Hormones are substances made by glands in the body and circulated in the bloodstream.

pub 48 Diagnosing and Treating

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