"Your mammogram is suspicious for breast cancer." "Your biopsy was positive for breast cancer." These are among the most terrifying words a woman can hear from her doctor. Breast cancer elicits so many fears, including those relating to death, surgery, loss of body image, and loss of sexuality. Managing these fears can be facilitated by information and knowledge so that each woman can make the best decisions concerning her care. Optimally, these issues are best discussed with the patient's doctor on an individual basis. What follows is a review of information on breast cancer intended to aid patients and their families in their navigation through the vast ocean of breast cancer information and issues. Although breast cancer can occur in men as well as in women, this article is specifically about breast cancer in women.
What is breast cancer?
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/25/2013
What are breast cancer symptoms and signs?
Comment on this Read 3 CommentsThe most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast. In addition, the following are possible signs of breast cancer:
- Nipple discharge or redness
- Breast or nipple pain
- Swelling of part of the breast or dimpling of the skin over the breast
You should discuss these or any other findings that concern you with your health care professional.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
Comment on this Read 23 CommentsAlthough breast cancer can be diagnosed by the above signs and symptoms, the use of screening mammography has made it possible to detect many of the cancers early before they cause any symptoms.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) has the following recommendations for breast cancer screenings:
Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so as long as they are in good health.
- Mammograms are a very good screening tool for breast cancer. As in any test,
mammograms have limitations and will miss some cancers. The results of your
mammogram, breast exam, and family history should be discussed with your
health care professional.
- CBE are an important tool to detect changes in your breasts and also trigger a
discussion with your health care professional about early cancer detection and risk
Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should report any breast changes to their health care professional.
If a woman wishes to do BSE, the technique should be reviewed with her health care professional. The goal is to feel comfortable with the way the woman's breasts feel and look and, therefore, detect changes.
Women at high risk (greater than 20% lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. Women at moderate risk (15% to 20%) should talk to their doctor about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to their yearly mammogram.