What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease, such as cancer.
- Aging : About 1 out of 8 invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, while about 2 of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 or older.
- Genetic risk factors
- Family history of breast cancer
- Race and ethnicity
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded. They can even be painful. For this reason, it is important to have any new breast mass or lump or breast change checked by a health care professional experienced in diagnosing breast diseases.
Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge
Can breast cancer be found early?
Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease, like cancer, in people who do not have any symptoms. Screening exams can often find breast cancers when they are small and still confined to the breast.
- Clinical Breast Exam
How is breast cancer treated?
The main types of treatment for breast cancer are:
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Bone-directed therapy
What should you ask your doctor about breast cancer?
It is important for you to have frank, open discussions with your cancer care team. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how minor you might think they are. Some questions to consider:
- What type of breast cancer do I have? How does this affect my treatment options and prognosis?
- Has my cancer spread to lymph nodes or internal organs?
- What is the stage of my cancer and how does it affect my treatment options and outlook?
- Do I need to have other tests done before we can decide on treatment?
- Should I consider genetic testing?
- Should I think about taking part in a clinical trial?
- What treatments are appropriate for me? What do you recommend? Why?
- What are the risks and side effects that I should expect?
- How effective will breast reconstruction surgery be if I need or want it?
- What are the pros and cons of having it done right away or waiting until later?
- What will my breasts look and feel like after my treatment? Will I have normal sensation in them?
- How long will treatment last? What will it be like? Where will it be done?
- What should I do to get ready for treatment?
- Should I follow a special diet or make other lifestyle changes?
- What are the chances my cancer will come back with the treatment programs we have discussed? What would we do if that happens?
- Will I go through menopause as a result of the treatment?
- Will I be able to have children after my treatment?
- What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
What happens after treatment for breast cancer?
When treatment ends, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask questions about any problems you may have and may do exams and lab tests or x-rays and scans to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects.
At first, your follow-up appointments will probably be scheduled for every 3 to 6 months. The longer you have been free of cancer, the less often the appointments are needed. After 5 years, they are typically done about once a year. If you had breast-conserving surgery, you will get a mammogram about 6 months after surgery and radiation are completed, and then at least every year. Women who had a mastectomy should continue to have yearly mammograms on the remaining breast.
Lymphedema after breast cancer treatment
Lymphedema, or swelling of the arm from buildup of fluid, may occur any time after treatment for breast cancer. One of the first symptoms of lymphedema may be a feeling of tightness in the arm or hand on the same side that was treated for breast cancer. With care, lymphedema can often be avoided or, if it develops, kept under control. Injury or infection involving the affected arm or hand can contribute to the development of lymphedema or make existing lymphedema worse, so preventive measures should focus on protecting the arm and hand. Most doctors recommend that women avoid having blood drawn from or blood pressures taken on the arm on the side of the lymph node surgery or radiation.