Sunday, March 3, 2024

How To Feel For Breast Cancer

Can I Learn To Feel The Difference

Breast Cancer : What Does a Breast Cancer Lump Feel Like?

Yes, fingers are exquisitely well designed to detect the difference between normal breast tissue because suspicious lumps are tactually different. There have been many attempts to describe in words or on videos what our fingers feel during a breast exam. Words like hard, soft, irregular shape, defined borders, fixed, or movable can be useful, but to get it right we must teach our fingers, not just hear about it with our ears or viewing videos or by reading instructions. As one woman reported after practicing the correct technique, you cant palpate a pamphlet.

What Are Lymph Nodes

You have hundreds of lymph nodes throughout your body. Your lymph nodes are part of your lymphatic system, which, in turn, is part of your immune system.

Lymph nodes are little bean-shaped structures that contain immune cells that help fight infection. Theyre connected by a system of lymph vessels that carry fluid throughout your body. As fluid passes through your lymph nodes, they filter out harmful substances.

Cancer spreads when cancer cells break away from the primary tumor. In breast cancer, these cells are most likely to reach the lymph nodes closest to the affected breast.

Usually, these lymph nodes are under the arm, but there are also clusters of lymph nodes near the collarbone and breastbone.

The ones that are closest to your breast are called sentinel lymph nodes. The nodes under your armpit are called axillary lymph nodes.

Even if cancer has reached nearby lymph nodes, it doesnt mean it has spread to other areas. But cancer that reaches the lymph system or bloodstream has a greater potential to travel to other parts of the body.

Breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes may be treated more aggressively than if it hadnt reached these nodes.

The 5-year survival rate for breast cancer that hasnt reached nearby lymph nodes is 99 percent versus 86 percent when it has.

What Happens After The Local Breast Cancer Treatment

Following local breast cancer treatment, the treatment team will determine the likelihood that the cancer will recur outside the breast. This team usually includes a medical oncologist, a specialist trained in using medicines to treat breast cancer. The medical oncologist, who works with the surgeon, may advise the use of the drugs like tamoxifen or anastrozole or possibly chemotherapy. These treatments are used in addition to, but not in place of, local breast cancer treatment with surgery and/or radiation therapy.

After treatment for breast cancer, it is especially important for a woman to continue to do a monthly breast examination. Regular examinations will help you detect local recurrences. Early signs of recurrence can be noted in the incision area itself, the opposite breast, the axilla , or supraclavicular region .

Maintaining your follow-up schedule with your physician is also necessary so problems can be detected when treatment can be most effective. Your health care provider will also be able to answer any questions you may have about breast self-examination after the following procedures.

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Can Cancer Form In Other Parts Of The Breast

Cancers can also form in other parts of the breast, but these types of cancer are less common. These can include:

  • Angiosarcomas. This type of cancer begins in the cells that make up the lining of blood or lymph vessels. These cancers can start in breast tissue or breast skin. They are rare.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer. This type of cancer is rare and different from other types of breast cancer. It is caused by obstructive cancer cells in the skins lymph vessels.
  • Paget disease of the breast, also known as Paget disease of the nipple. This cancer affects the skin of the nipple and areola .
  • Phyllodes tumors. These are rare, and most of these masses are not cancer. However, some are cancerous. These tumors begin in the breasts connective tissue, which is called the stroma.

Understanding Your Cancer And Treatment

UVA Radiology and Medical Imaging

Not all breast cancers are alike. Someone elses experience with their treatment may be completely different from yours. Understanding your type and stage can help make sense of your doctors recommendations. This may help you feel better about your treatment choices.

A big part of cancer treatment is the relationship between you and your oncology team. Here are some things youll want to know about early on so youre well informed about your specific type of breast cancer:

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Stage Of Breast Cancer

When your breast cancer is diagnosed, the doctors will give it a stage. The stage describes the size of the cancer and how far it has spread.

Ductal carcinoma in situ is sometimes described as stage 0. Other stages of breast cancer describe invasive breast cancer:

  • stage 1 the tumour measures less than 2cm, the lymph nodes in the armpit aren’t affected, and there are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body
  • stage 2 the tumour measures 2 to 5cm or the lymph nodes in the armpit are affected, or both, and there are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body
  • stage 3 the tumour measures 2 to 5cm and may be attached to structures in the breast, such as skin or surrounding tissues, the lymph nodes in the armpit are affected but there are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body
  • stage 4 the tumour is of any size and the cancer has spread to other parts of the body

This is a simplified guide. Each stage is divided into further categories: A, B and C. If you’re not sure what stage you have, ask your doctor.

Changes In The Contour Or Texture Of The Skin Over Your Breast

Many women are surprised to learn that breast skin changes can be a sign of something happening beneath the surface. So, keep an eye out for these types of skin changes that could be a sign of breast cancer:

  • Dimpling or flat spots on the skin over your breast or nipple
  • Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple or breast skin
  • Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange

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Common Causes Of Benign Breast Lumps

Most benign breast lumps and conditions are directly related to your menstrual cycle, to fluctuations in your hormones, and to the fluid buildup that comes with your monthly period. Other benign breast lumps and conditions may be related to plugged milk ducts, infections, or even breast injuries. The risk for benign breast conditions increases for women who have never had children and those who have a history of irregular menstrual cycles or a family history of breast cancer.

Here are some of the most common benign breast conditions.

Fibrocystic changes These changes cause a general lumpiness that can be described as ropy or granular, and affect at least half of all women. Symptoms of fibrocystic change include tender, fibrous, rubbery tissue a thickening of tissue or a round, fluid-filled cyst. These changes, which are related to hormonal fluctuation, may increase as you approach middle age and disappear with menopause. Sometimes doctors recommend limiting salt and caffeine consumption to ease fluid buildup. Birth control pills may also ease symptoms.

Mastitis An infection of the milk duct, mastitis can create a lumpy, red, and warm breast, accompanied by fever. It occurs most commonly in women who are breastfeeding, but can occur in non-breastfeeding women as well. Treatment involves warm compresses and antibiotics. Because these symptoms are similar to inflammatory breast cancer, if they occur in a non-breastfeeding woman a doctor may want to do a biopsy.

Is There A Particular Time Of The Month I Should Do Breast Self

How to Treat Stage II (2) Breast Cancer

Women should do a breast self-exam once a month, every month. Women who are still menstruating should perform a breast self-exam after their period. Women who have stopped menstruating and those who have very irregular periods can pick a day each month. Choose a day that is consistent and easy to remember, like the first day of the month, the last day of the month or your favorite number.

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Always Seek Medical Attention Even During The Coronavirus Pandemic

The key point is that a woman should seek medical attention for any concerning lumps in her breasts, says Harold Burstein, MD, PhD, a breast oncologist with the Susan F. Smith Center.

Simple imaging techniques, such as a mammogram or breast ultrasound, can usually provide reassurance that the breast lump is benign. If necessary, a breast MRI or biopsy can be used to evaluate whether the lump is cancerous.

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What Are The Common Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

The following early signs and symptoms of breast cancer can happen with other conditions that are not cancer related.

  • New lump in the breast or underarm
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area of the breast
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
  • Pain in any area of the breast

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Is Breast Pain Anything To Worry About

Although most cases of breast pain are minor problems, its important to talk to your doctor about your concerns. If you have persistent breast pain, you should be evaluated, says Wright. And anyone who has a lump painful or not should see their doctor for an exam to make sure there isnt a problem.

How To Check Your Breasts

Thickening or Lump in the Breast or Elsewhere: Is It Breast Cancer?

Theres no special way to check your breasts and you do not need any training.

Checking your breasts is as easy as TLC:

  • Touch your breasts: can you feel anything new or unusual?
  • Look for changes: does anything look different to you?
  • Check any new or unusual changes with a GP

Everyone will have their own way of touching and looking for changes.

Get used to checking regularly and be aware of anything thats new or different for you.

Check your whole breast area, including up to your collarbone and armpits.

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Statistics On Breast Cancer & Pain

A breast tumora hard clump of breast cancer cellsusually doesnât usually cause breast pain unless it reaches the size of two centimeters in diameter or greater. But a tumor can be larger than two centimeters and still not cause pain.

In fact,only about 5% to 15% of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer complain of breast pain. Only 7% of those diagnosed with breast cancer seek a doctor because of breast pain, excluding other symptoms.

When To Call Your Doctor

While in most cases a breast lump doesnt signal cancer, its still important to see your doctor as soon as you can. They may ask you questions about your history, like whether anyone in your family has been diagnosed with cancer, and whether youre having other symptoms.

Breast cancer treatment: The care you need is one call away

Your multidisciplinary team will work with you to develop a personalized plan to treat your breast cancer in a way that fits your individual needs and goals.

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British Columbia Specific Information

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in British Columbia. Breast cancer can occur in men as well, but it is not as common. Tests and treatments for breast cancer vary from person to person, and are based on individual circumstances. Certain factors such as your age, family history, or a previous breast cancer diagnosis may increase your risk of developing breast cancer. For information about your specific risk factors, speak with your health care provider.

A number of screening methods, including mammograms in women, can help find and diagnose breast cancer. The decision to have a mammogram or use any other screening method may be a difficult decision for some women. While screening for breast cancer is often recommended, it is not mandatory. Speak with your health care provider for information regarding how to get screened, the facts and myths about screening tests, how to maintain your breast health, and to get help making an informed decision.

For more information about breast cancer and breast cancer screening, visit:

If you have questions about breast cancer or medications, speak with your health care provider or call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse or pharmacist. Our nurses are available anytime, every day of the year, and our pharmacists are available every night from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.

Who Should Do A Breast Self

I have breast cancer

Doctors may recommend that people with a strong family history of breast cancer do monthly self-exams starting at age 20. You can continue for the rest of your life, including during menopause and pregnancy.

Anyone with breast tissue can get breast cancer, though studies of cisgender people show that women are 100 times more likely to get it than men.

Breast cancer can also affect:

Transgender men. If you havenât had top surgery to remove breast tissue, doctors recommend getting yearly mammograms after age 40. You can do breast or chest self-exams between screenings. If you’ve had top surgery or hormone therapy, self-exams can help you get to know what your “new normal” looks and feels like so you can be alert for any changes.

Transgender women. Using hormone therapy with estrogen or progestin for 5 or more years raises your risk for breast cancer. In this case, doctors recommend getting a mammogram every 2 years after you turn 50. Breast implants donât increase your odds for breast cancer, though they can make mammography more difficult. But breast self-exams can help you get used to your changed body and look for changes.

Nonbinary people. Nonbinary people who were born with female reproductive organs and haven’t had top surgery should follow screening guidelines for cis women. If you had breast tissue removed, you may need ultrasounds or focused MRIs instead of mammograms.

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How How Does The Procedure Work

Before the examination begins, a radioactive substance is produced in a machine called a cyclotron and attached, or tagged, to a natural body compound, most commonly glucose, but sometimes water or ammonia. Once this substance is administered to the patient, the radioactivity localizes in the appropriate areas of the body and is detected by the PET scanner.

Different colors or degrees of brightness on a PET image represent different levels of tissue or organ function. For example, because healthy tissue uses glucose for energy, it accumulates some of the tagged glucose, which will show up on the PET images. However, cancerous tissue, which uses more glucose than normal tissue, will accumulate more of the substance and appear brighter than normal tissue on the PET images.

How Should I Prepare For The Procedure

PET is usually done on an outpatient basis. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for your examination. You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. You should not eat for four hours before the scan. You will be encouraged to drink water. Your doctor will instruct you regarding the use of medications before the test.

Note: Diabetic patients should ask for any specific diet guidelines to control glucose levels during the day of the test.

A nurse or technologist will take you into a special injection room, where the radioactive substance is administered as an intravenous injection . It will then take approximately 30 to 90 minutes for the substance to travel through your body and accumulate in the tissue under study. During this time, you will be asked to rest quietly and avoid significant movement or talking, which may alter the localization of the administered substance. After that time, scanning begins. This may take 30 to 45 minutes.

Some patients, specifically those with heart disease, may undergo a stress test in which PET scans are obtained while they are at rest and again after undergoing the administration of a pharmaceutical to alter the blood flow to the heart.

Usually, there are no restrictions on daily routine after the test, although you should drink plenty of fluids to flush the radioactive substance from your body.

What will I experience during the procedure?

Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

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Ductal Or Lobular Hyperplasia

Atypical lobular hyperplasia and atypical ductal hyperplasia are considered precancerous conditions. Atypical describes cells that look abnormal under a microscope, and hyperplasia means there is an overgrowth of cells. Breast tumors that have these characteristics are more likely to turn into cancer therefore, close monitoring or surgical excision is required to treat these conditions.

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How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed

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During your regular physical examination, your doctor will take a thorough personal and family medical history. He or she will also perform and/or order one or more of the following:

  • Breast examination: During the breast exam, the doctor will carefully feel the lump and the tissue around it. Breast cancer usually feels different than benign lumps.
  • Digital mammography: An X-ray test of the breast can give important information about a breast lump. This is an X-ray image of the breast and is digitally recorded into a computer rather than on a film. This is generally the standard of care .
  • Ultrasonography: This test uses sound waves to detect the character of a breast lump whether it is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass . This may be performed along with the mammogram.

Based on the results of these tests, your doctor may or may not request a biopsy to get a sample of the breast mass cells or tissue. Biopsies are performed using surgery or needles.

After the sample is removed, it is sent to a lab for testing. A pathologist a doctor who specializes in diagnosing abnormal tissue changes views the sample under a microscope and looks for abnormal cell shapes or growth patterns. When cancer is present, the pathologist can tell what kind of cancer it is and whether it has spread beyond the ducts or lobules .

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