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  • Breast Cancer Overview: Prevention, Detection, Diagnosis, Staging, Treatment & Survivorship

    Breast Cancer Awareness - Overview

    Did you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Yup, it’s that time of year again! We’d like to share some steps you can take toward preventing breast cancer as well as some research about diagnosis, staging, treatment and survivorship.

    Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention

    • Limit alcohol intake
    • Maintain a healthy weight by eating well and exercising
    • Breast feed your child
    • Discontinue hormone therapy
    • Avoid exposure to environmental pollution

    Examine yourself and consult a doctor about any irregularities (lumps or skin changes).

    Tips for Early Detection of Breast Cancer

    • Try to catch it early before symptoms occur. If the cancer is caught because it is causing other symptoms to occur, the cancer has most likely spread beyond the breast.
    • Women age 40 and older should have a clinical breast exam and a mammogram every year.
    • Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every 3 years.
    • Women who are in their 20s should begin breast self-examination regularly.

    Know your level of risk and consult a healthcare professional to take the necessary precautions. Your level of risk is calculated based on a person’s genetic mutations, family history, and level of exposure to radiation.

    If you want to learn more tips on detecting breast cancer early click here.

    Methods of Diagnosing Breast Cancer

    • The most common sign of breast cancer is a lump or mass on the breast—hard or soft. Sometimes, these can also be found in the underarm lymph nodes.
    • Other possible signs include swelling of all or part of the breast, skin irritation/dimpling, breast or nipple pain, nipple retraction, redness/scaliness/thickening of the nipple or breast skin, and/or nipple discharge.

    If you have any of these symptoms, visit your doctor immediately for a complete physical exam. Some tests include imaging tests (MRI), testing of nipple discharge sample, ultrasound, ductogram, and doing biopsies of suspicious areas.

    Breast Cancer Staging

    The stage of breast cancer depends on four characteristics: size of cancer, invasiveness/non-invasiveness, presence in lymph nodes, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

    TNM staging system is another staging system researchers use to provide more details about the way cancer looks and behaves. It is based on the size of the tumor, lymph node involvement, and whether the cancer has moved beyond the breast to other parts of the body (also known as metastasis).

    Check out out the details of the different stages of breast cancer.

    Breast Cancer Treatment Options

    Those afflicted with breast cancer can plan their treatment based on cancer stage. They should also get a second opinion from a doctor about a potential treatment plan. Possible treatment methods are as follows:

    • Surgery
    • Chemotherapy
    • Radiation Therapy
    • Hormonal Therapy
    • Targeted Therapies (targeting specific characteristics of cancer cells such as a protein that allows the cancer cells to grow in an abnormal way)
    • Complementary and holistic medicine
    • Drugs for treatment, risk reduction, pain, and other side effects

    Find out more about different breast cancer treatment options.

    Recovery & Survivorship

    Survivors may want to go out to celebrate once they are cancer-free, but they also should be aware that they’ve entered another phase: recovery.

    Life will be returning to the way it was before-cancer, but patients need to prepare themselves for the fact that it will not be quite the same.

    • Those who were treated with chemotherapy develop “Chemobrain,” a term for post-chemotherapy effects such as memory deficits and an inability to focus.
    • Fatigue will linger after the cancer is gone.
    • Stress and obligations should be managed well. Patients can’t go back to coaching sports or taking on too much right away.
    • Preventing recurrence: Patients should talk with their doctors about a plan for preventing recurrence, which includes regular testing and proper nutrition.

    To find out more information on Breast Cancer Recovery and Survivorship, click here.