How Do I Know If I Have Breast Cancer? Symptoms & Treatments
What are the signs and symptoms of Breast Cancer?
There are several common and some distinct signs that are seen when breast cancer develops.
The signs and symptoms of cancer include:
- Lump in breasts
- Change in size/shape/appearance of breast
- Change/new dimple on breast skin
- Recently inverted nipple
- Peeling/flaking of skin around nipple (areola)
- Redness over breast skin
The cause for the development of cancer is yet unknown however, when the cancer affects the breast it results in abnormal development of breast tissue cells. The cancer-affected cells in the breast begin to multiply faster and uncontrolled which then begin to form lumps (tumorous growths). The cancer is also known to spread (metastasize) to the other surrounding tissue and organs, including the lymph nodes.
Breast cancer is mostly seen beginning in the tissue cells of the milk-producing ducts (also known as invasive ductal carcinoma) or it may begin in the lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) as well as any other part of the breast.
How is Breast Cancer diagnosed?
It is treated successfully when it is diagnosed sooner and treated accordingly. These are some of the best and most common diagnosis tests for detecting breast cancer:
Breast examination – This is a physical examination of the breasts that lets the doctor check the breast tissue for lumps. The doctor will check the breasts and the lymph nodes in the armpit for abnormalities.
Mammogram – This is an x-ray imaging test for the breasts. These are very useful in seeing any abnormal growth in the breast tissue.
Ultrasound – Ultrasound test uses high-frequency sound waves to produce detailed of the internal structure within the breast. This test will effectively highlight any type of abnormal lump or mass in the breast.
Biopsy – The surgeon will use minimally invasive surgical method to remove a small portion of the suspected cancerous tissue from within the breast. This breast tissue sample is then sent to a pathology laboratory for detailed analysis.
Breast MRI – The breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an advanced diagnostic imaging test. It uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create a significantly detailed cross-sectional image of the breast tissue. A contrast dye is often injected before the breast MRI to help highlight any abnormality in the breast tissue.
These tests help in diagnosing cancer. If breast cancer is found in a person, then the doctor will advise one of these tests to stage the breast cancer:
- Blood test – A CBC (complete blood count) test is most useful in determining the stage of breast cancer.
- Advanced mammogram
- Breast MRI
- Breast CT (computerized tomography) scan
- Breast PET (positron emission tomography) scan
The staging process helps the doctor to determine the extent of growth of the breast cancer and this in turn helps to determine the best-suited breast cancer treatment for the particular case.
How is Breast Cancer treated?
There are various different methods for treatment of cancer. The type of treatment mainly depends on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer, its size, are of affecting along with the patient’s age, overall heath level, etc which the doctor will consider.
These are the various types of the cancer treatments:
Surgical removal of breast cancer is one of the most common and effective treatment methods. In this, there are sub-types of surgical processes that are performed, including:
- Lumpectomy – This is a selective cancer surgery treatment for smaller sized breast tumors. The surgeon will use a wide local excision method to remove the cancerous tissue as well as a small margin from the surrounding healthy tissue as well to prevent chances of the cancer from recurring.
- Mastectomy – This is one of the major surgeries for cancers. It involves removing the entire mammary gland tissue, including the lobules, fatty tissue, milk ducts, nipple, areola as well as some portion of the skin.
- Sentinel node biopsy – This surgical treatment of mammary gland is helpful in determining if the cancer has spread to the surrounding lymph nodes. The surgeon will remove a few of the closest-situated lymph nodes near the breast to check for cancerous cells or drainage from the tumor.
- Axillary lymph node dissection – In case the surgeon finds cancer cells in the sentinel lymph nodes the additional lymph nodes near the armpit might also need to be removed surgically.
- Contra lateral prophylactic mastectomy – This surgery involves removing both the breast tissues completely even if the cancer is found to be affecting one of the breasts. This is done to prevent the risk of the cancer recurring in the affected breast and the cancer from spreading to the other healthy breast tissue.
Radiotherapy, also known as radiation therapy, is a breast cancer treatment method involving the use of high-energy x-rays (or protons) to target and destroy the cancer cells in the breast tissue. Radiotherapy can be done as an external procedure or the surgeon might use minimally invasive surgical method to insert a small radioactive device into the breast (brachytherapy) for closer access in giving an effective radiation dose to the cancerous breast tissue cells.
This is often used in combination with a surgical breast cancer treatment in case the surgery is not able to remove the entire cancerous tissue.
Chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer involves using a combination of specially designed medicinal drugs that are aimed to destroy the cancerous cells in the breast. This treatment method is also used before treating a large sized breast tumor. The medicinal drugs are effective in reducing the size of the large cancerous tumor in the breast which can then be safely removed using surgical methods.