A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.
By Angela Young
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women and second most common cause of cancer death in women in the United States. Breast cancer is usually associated with women; men can develop breast cancer too. Advances in detection of breast cancer are leading to more positive outcomes. The first time most people notice breast cancer is when they discover a lump. Mammography and other scans are the usual tests that help to find cancer early.
An improved understanding of breast cancer and what causes it allows physicians to make better recommendations about treatment of the disease. Treatment of breast cancer depends on the type of breast cancer and where the breast cancer has spread to if it has spread at all. Treatment of breast cancer can involve surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiation therapy.
In early stages, breast cancer does not have any obvious symptoms. As breast cancer grows the symptoms include tenderness of the breast, change in the appearance of the nipple and a lump or thickening of the breast or under arm. Additional symptoms of breast cancer include changes in the size or shape of the breast, inward turned nipple, red, swollen or scaly skin of the breast or nipple and nipple discharge.
At this time there is no specific known cause of breast cancer, but there are risk factors that increase the chances of developing breast cancer. There are risk factors a person can control and risk factors that are out of their control. Controllable risk factors include not having children or having them later in life, recent use of hormonal birth control, hormone therapy for menopause, not breast-feeding, obesity, not exercising and alcohol use. Uncontrollable factors include age, race, gender, family and personal history of breast cancer and density of breast tissue.
Breast cancer diagnosis is a process. There are clinical breast exams that physicians do as part of your annual exam. During a clinical breast exam the doctor will feel both breasts looking for lumps or abnormal thickness of the breast tissue. Mammograms give physicians a better look at the breast tissue particularly necessary if they notice any abnormalities during the clinical breast exam. In addition to mammography, doctors may suggest patients have an MRI or ultrasound to assist in the proper diagnoses of breast cancer.
Ultimately one of three types of biopsies is necessary to diagnose breast cancer. Fine needle biopsies take fluid from just below the mass in the breast tissue looking for cells that the lab can test for cancer. Core biopsies use a thick needle to remove suspect tissue for further testing. Surgical biopsies are similar to core biopsies, but allow doctors to remove more tissue.
Treatment for breast cancer has improved over the years because the improvement of breast cancer diagnoses has also shown improvement. Typical treatment for breast cancer is a usually a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other biological therapies.
Surgery for breast cancer treatment is the most common form of treatment. There are two basic forms of surgery, one is a lumpectomy and the other is mastectomy. Some people refer to lumpectomies as breast saving surgeries. In a lumpectomy doctors remove the cancerous tumor itself, but leave as much of the breast tissue behind as possible. A mastectomy completely removes the breast tissue. Women undergoing a partial or double mastectomy will need reconstructive surgery in the future.
Radiation is another way doctors treat breast cancer. There is internal radiation works by placing thin plastic tubes containing the radioactive material directly into the breast tissue. The implants stay in place for a few days until the doctor removes them. External radiation is more common and involves the use of high-energy rays that attack the cancer cells from outside the body.
Chemotherapy is also a common treatment form for breast cancer. There is also hormone therapy, which works by blocking the hormones like estrogen that feed the cancer. If a patient has not gone through menopause yet then doctors may suggest surgery to remove the ovaries so that they are not producing estrogen.
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