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Breast Cancer

 
Breast Cancer

Chapter: 3 - Breast Cancer

Subchapter: 1 - What is Cancer?

What is Cancer?
Healthy cells are the basic building blocks of all tissue and organs in the body. But when cell DNA (the cell’s wiring) is damaged, mutated cells begin to rapidly reproduce without following the pre-wired plan.

Aggressive cell growth can form a tumor (or mass of tissue) that, like each individual cell, does not function as originally intended. These abnormal cells or groups of cells can progress into the disease known as cancer.

Cancer Origins
Breast cancer usually begins either where the milk is being produced, the lobules, or in the milk ducts.

Lobules
Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS) is a pre-cancerous condition that forms and is contained in the lobules. Invasive lobular carcinoma is a type of cancer that develops and breaks through the lobules, with the potential to spread to other areas of the body.

Milk Ducts
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) is a type of cancer that forms in the milk ducts and is considered non–invasive because it has not spread to any surrounding tissue. Once the cancer has spread beyond the milk ducts, it is known as ductal carcinoma.

Less frequently, breast cancer can originate in the stromal tissue– the fatty and fibrous connective tissue of the breast.

Prognosis
Treating breast cancer as soon as it’s discovered is very important. If left untreated, the cancer cells may invade healthy breast tissue or lymph nodes. Once in the lymph system, cancer can spread more easily to other parts of the body.

Related Questions

  • Thumb avatar default

    what does the mass look like on the ultrasound screen?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 5 years 1 answer
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      It depends what kind of "mass" it is. You could have dense breasts and that would show up a certain way. Cysts are usually "black holes" on an ultrasound with borders that are smooth. I think it is very difficult to make sense of an ultrasound if it is anything other than a cyst. If you want...

      more

      It depends what kind of "mass" it is. You could have dense breasts and that would show up a certain way. Cysts are usually "black holes" on an ultrasound with borders that are smooth. I think it is very difficult to make sense of an ultrasound if it is anything other than a cyst. If you want cancer described again.... it depends on what kind of breast cancer. My ultrasound was done and I had an immediate biopsy. Even though I did have a cancerous tumor, it was never clear to me other than It did have irregular borders on it.

      If your ultrasound doesn't look right, you are scheduled for a biopsy. Even at that.... having to have a biopsy DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE CANCER! Many women have biopsy's and they come back NOT cancer. If a doctor or radiologist can't tell by a non invasive test, they then have to take some cells out of the suspicious area and send it to a lab. Did you have a mammogram and you are being sent to have an ultrasound? It's scary but so often these turn out to be nothing but a fluid filled cyst. Take care, Sharon

      Comment
  • Dianny Lora Profile

    I found a lump on the edge of my areola about the size of a pea. Im 14 but i don't know if i could get breast cancer at my age. The lump is not red but it is a little bit hard. No one in my family has breast cancer that I know of. Please help me.

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 7 years 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      Please tell your Mom and have her take you to a gynecologist. At your age, this is most likely hormonal changes and NOT cancer. It is good you are aware of changes in your breasts. As you get older, it is very important to check your breasts every month. For your own peace of mind, please...

      more

      Please tell your Mom and have her take you to a gynecologist. At your age, this is most likely hormonal changes and NOT cancer. It is good you are aware of changes in your breasts. As you get older, it is very important to check your breasts every month. For your own peace of mind, please tell your Mom. I am sure she doesn't want you to be so worried. Take care, Sharon

      Comment
    • Cheryl Wornham Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      You should talk to your mom she can set up an appointment with your Dr. to get it checked

      Comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    What do I expect after lumpectomy from stage 1 carcinoma lcis

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 4 answers
    • View all 4 answers
    • Coco Smith Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      You know what is so wonderful about these responses? No one is saying you should feel this or that. No one is extrapolating their individual experiences to a universal. They are all acknowledging there can a huge variety of responses.

      So - like everyone else I am not saying my experience will...

      more

      You know what is so wonderful about these responses? No one is saying you should feel this or that. No one is extrapolating their individual experiences to a universal. They are all acknowledging there can a huge variety of responses.

      So - like everyone else I am not saying my experience will be yours. One thing I learned myself and had reinforced on this site is we are often not warned about seromas developing post operatively - seromas are fluid filled sacs in or around the scar. Around 40% of women get them, so they are not rare. There are threads on seromas on this site so I won't go into more detail.

      The pain levels can vary enormously. I would recommend you make sure you have effective pain meds already prescribed for you and on hand so you do not find yourself in pain and without them after discharge.

      The lumpectomy size, location,number of stitches etc varies enormously. Mine is an inner upper quadrant, so my scar is visible with even semi-low cut top. but I actually like scars, and find them interesting, so this does not have a negative effect on me as it would on someone horrified by scars.

      The operation itself was my first as well as first stay in a hospital, so I was very frightened. I had a bad reaction to coming out of the anaesthetic - there is a family history of that so I expected it would happen.

      I paid huge attention to avoiding acquiring an infection while I was in hospital as well as once I got out. I was scrupulous about scrubbing myself from head to tow with the anti bacterial wash our hospitals give us to use the night before and morning of surgery. I wore pure cotton gloves in hospital so I was not touching germ filled surfaces and then my face or wound. I changed gloves often. I used anti bacterial hand wash many times a day after discharge as well. I bathed using Phisohex while my wound was healing. I kept well away from small children, even though it would have been lovely not to. I avoided anyone ill with colds etc so I was not sneezed or had to shake hands or kiss anyone carrying any germs. I followed the surgeons instructions to the letter for wound dressings. He used a dressing product that meant I could shower etc normally and it dropped off naturally when it was ready. I let it and did not pull at it. When I was briefly readmitted to hospital because of pain, I did not allow the Dr to remove the dressings early to "have a look" . I told him I had no fever, no temperature, no clinical indications of infection, I was back in hospital because they discharged me after removing 20% of my breast without giving me any pain meds to take home, I wanted some pain meds to rectify their error, and I definitely was not going to disobey y surgeons instructions to not touch the dressing till it fell off naturally excepting if I had an infection.
      I found I could not pick up and carry things I used to be able to carry leaning on my wound area. Even a couple of years later, I have to be very careful. Just this week a 3 year old climbed up next to me and bashed her head into my scar. It was very painful. I try to be careful about squirming children or animals, but I still get a painful whack.

      For about a year after the lumpectomy I had to avoid breast jiggle. I always used well supported bras anyway, but if I was in a car going over a speed hump for example, I would use my hand to hold my affected breast to avoid a painful jiggle. Years later I still don't do anything that cause my affected breast to jiggle - it tugs painfully at the scar tissue. I still get a weird tightness and burning sensation in the site of my sentinel node biopsy under my armpit. Many women I talk to say that is worse than the lumpectomy.

      Within days of my lumpectomy I returned to yoga classes. I could not lay on my front or do some of the poses. I didn't care. The reason was I did what I could was I wanted to try and stretch the underarm and breast scars while they were fresh and still soft, as much as I could, because I knew if I let them heal in a tight ball, they would remain tight forever. So as much as I did not want to do arm stretches etc, I did as much as I could. A formal independent test by a physio showed I retained more than 95% function in my affected arm compared to my non-affected arm, so I think the early stretching really helped.

      I did not have any body image crisis as I actually like my scars. Some women are very different and feel damaged or mutilated.

      The worst part for me was the Nuclear Medicine staff on the morning of my surgery who gave me an radiotracer injection into my breast under the general nipple area. The technician lied to me and told me if was the same pain level as a local anaesthetic and claimed I did not need any pain relief. The pain was excrusciating - I felt like it took the top of my head off. Every muscle in my body spasmed. I involuntarily urinated and defecated a little in my underwear. Tears poured out of my eyes automatically without any intention to cry. I needed three months of five times a week phsyio on the shoulder closest to the injection site as the contractions from the painful injection was so bad, it locked the shoulder in a weird position. I then had to sit around for 6 hours waiting for surgery essentially in shock from this.

      My tip - ask if you are having the radiotracer injection to light up the sentinel node before surgery and if you are INSIST on being given adequate pain relief such as EMLA cream one hour before, lidocaine injection first [I can tolerate a lidocaine injection no problems but the radiotracer is a million times worse] and/or the green tube with pain relieving chemicals you can suck on. I had to laugh cynically months later when I found out the university animal ethics research committee requires female dogs who are given this same radiotracer injection have solid pain relief first, yet our Protocols for Nuclear Technicians who do the same thing to humans do not. The reason it is mandatory for dogs by the way is because the pain from the radiotracer injection into the breast is considered is classified as cruel and torture when done to a dog without anesthetic.

      Comment
    • anonymous Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2011

      Great news you caught the tumor early!
      I agree with the previous comment. Everyone is different. I was stage one but invasive. I did not require a drain. I did have to return one week later to get clean margins. I was very lucky. My first surgery was the day before Thanksgiving and while I would...

      more

      Great news you caught the tumor early!
      I agree with the previous comment. Everyone is different. I was stage one but invasive. I did not require a drain. I did have to return one week later to get clean margins. I was very lucky. My first surgery was the day before Thanksgiving and while I would not have been up to hosting, I did attend and felt fine. No pain meds were taken after I woke up in recovery.

      After my second surgery, I was much more tired and achey. All in all I found the surgery to be much easier than the the wire placement and the dye insertion. I think part of it is your relieved to have the lump gone. The other part is that, in my case, the surgeon and anesthesiologist did everything they could to make the surgery pain free and the recovery easy.

      If you stay on any narcotics, start taking laxatives from day one to avoid constipation. Beyond that, some people have more fatigue than others, allow yourself some slack. My second surgery was the last week of November 2011 and after 6 months, it was still unfcomfortable to run across the street or if I bump myself at the surgical site, it still hurts today.

      I took the oncotype blood test to determine if my type of tumor would respond well to chemotherapy. THe doctors originally prepared me for this evenutuality but again, I was lucky. My specific tumor woudl not benefit form chemo so I only had to do 7.5 weeks of radiation (5 days a week).

      After that, I was supposed to take Tamoxifen because I was pre-menopausal but I have a genetic blood clotting issue that put me at great risk of a clot on that drug. I had to have a hysterectomy but this is very unusual. I did not have to take the post-menopausal drug (Arimidex) because teh benefit did not statistically outweigh the removal of the primary source of estrogen( ovries).

      There are multiple paths and possibilities but the team of doctors should be able to share teh options an dteh pros adn cons of each so you can make your best decision. I would highly recommend that you bring someone with you to these appointments so that you can listen and someone else can take notes to review for unanswered questions later. This is invaluable.

      I hope these comments were helpful and I wish you the best of luck. You can do this!

      Comment
  • Anna Gregorich Profile

    What is DCIS in breast cancer?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 8 years 3 answers
    • Evelyn Yung Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      It's ductal carcinoma in situ - the cancer cells are inside the duct n haven't become invasive yet. I got diagnosed with it 2 weeks ago n had a surgery done last week. It was shocking but all went well. So I trust that it is very manageable in today's medical technology :-)

      1 comment
    • Coco Smith Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Ductal Carcinoma In Situ - DCIS - is also sometimes referred to as Stage 0 breast cancer because it is not invasive - it has not travelled beyond the cell membranes in which it has appeared. It is a controversial name as some researchers claim it should not be called cancer, but something else. ...

      more

      Ductal Carcinoma In Situ - DCIS - is also sometimes referred to as Stage 0 breast cancer because it is not invasive - it has not travelled beyond the cell membranes in which it has appeared. It is a controversial name as some researchers claim it should not be called cancer, but something else. Only a percentage of DCIS proceed to become invasive breast cancer. Sometimes DCIS spontaneously regresses and even goes away and other times it proceeds to become invasive and therefore much more threatening. We currently do not have a 100% reliable diagnostic tool to tell us which category our DCIS falls in. This is why some women with DCIS have full blown treatment including mastectomy. Others take a less aggressive approach. This depends on your personal taste for risk, the results of your histopathology report and discussions with your treating team.

      Comment

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Breast cancer affects one out of every eight women in their lifetime.

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