Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the breast tissue. It is the most common cancer in women in the US. The breast is made up of lobules, which make milk and ducts that allow milk to pass to the nipple. The lobules are surrounded by fat, connective tissue, blood vessels, and lymphatic tissue.
Types of breast cancer include:
Ductal carcinoma in situ—A cancer that starts in, and is only found in the ducts.
Invasive ductal carcinoma—A cancer that starts in the ducts of the breast and spreads into surrounding tissues.
This is the most common type of breast cancer in women.
Invasive lobular carcinoma—A cancer that starts in the lobules of the breast and spreads into surrounding tissues.
—A rare and aggressive form of breast cancer that can be difficult to treat. This cancer invades the lymphatic vessels of the skin and can be very extensive. It is very likely to spread to other parts of the body.
Paget disease of the breast—A very rare cancer of the areola and nipple. It can be associated with both in situ and invasive breast cancers.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Your doctor will test the suspicious breast tissue and nearby lymph nodes. A sample of the tissue will be removed and sent to a lab to look for cancer cells. This can be done with different types of biopsies such as:
Cancer treatment varies depending on a number of factors including the stage and type of cancer.
The plan may include one or more types of treatment to attack any current cancer and reduce the risk of spread or recurrence.
Treatment options include:
The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible. The surgery may also be used to remove tissue for detailed testing. The type of surgery will depend on the stage and type of cancer and overall treatment plan. Options include:
—Removal of the breast cancer and some normal tissue around it. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm may also be removed.
Segmentectomy—Removal of the cancer and a larger area of normal breast tissue around it.
—Removal of the breast, or as much of the breast as possible. This is the most common surgery for breast cancer treatment.
Skin-sparing mastectomy—The same amount of tissue is removed as with a simple mastectomy, but the skin over the breast is spared. This can be used when immediate breast reconstruction surgery is planned. One type of this procedure can also spare the nipple and areola. This may not be an option for all women.
Modified radical mastectomy—Removal of the whole breast, the lymph nodes under the arm and, often, the lining over the chest muscles.
Radical mastectomy—Removal of the breast, both chest muscles, the lymph nodes under the arm, and some additional fat and skin. This procedure is only considered in rare cases, for cancer that has spread to the chest muscles.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy
—The sentinel node is the first area of lymph nodes that the cancer will drain into. Once found, these nodes will be removed and tested. Additional lymph nodes will be removed if the cancer has spread beyond the sentinel nodes.
Axillary lymph node dissection—Removal of the lymph nodes under the arm. This is done to help determine whether cancer cells have entered the lymphatic system.
Radiation therapy may be used to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. It is often used after surgery to try to eliminate any remaining cancer cells and decrease chance of recurrence. Radiation therapy may also be used to shrink tumors that are causing symptoms. The main types of radiation include:
Microwave thermotherapy—Used to bring cancer cells to a high temperature. This may make them more sensitive to traditional radiation therapy treatment. It is early in the research process and may not be available in all areas.
is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms including pill, injection, or through an IV. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells are killed as well causing a variety of symptoms.
The following therapies may be to used as overall part of care:
Biological therapy—Use of enhanced natural processes to attack cancer or its support systems. There are a number of biologic therapies including:
Immunotherapy or biologic response modifier (BRM) therapy—Stimulate or redirect the immune system to attack or slow cancer cells.
Targeted therapy—Attacks specific characteristics of cancer cells that allow cancer to grow.
Attacking the support systems of cancer can slow or stop its growth.
Hormone blocking therapy
—Medication that stops production of specific hormones in the body.
This is only effective therapy for those with hormone-sensitive tumors. Blocking the related hormones can slow or stop the growth of tumors.
Options that may be available for those with a high risk of breast cancer include:
Certain medications may prevent breast cancer in high-risk, postmenopausal women. These medications may increase the chances of blood clots or a
stroke. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of these medications.
mastectomy to remove breasts before cancer develops may be considered for women with a very high risk for breast cancer.
Cryotherapy. Breast Cancer website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated February 18, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
General information about breast cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-treatment-pdq. Updated November 2, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
How radiation works. Breast Cancer website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated January 4, 2016. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Planning your treatment. Breast Cancer website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated February 18, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
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