Breast Cancer Diagnosis Tips

Read these 13 Breast Cancer Diagnosis Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Breast Cancer tips and hundreds of other topics.

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How can I communicate with my oncology team about breast cancer when I don't understand it myself?

After Diagnosis: Learning to Speak the Language of Breast Cancer

After a breast cancer diagnosis, you’ll find yourself in a new world that speaks a different language. Your oncologist will refer to new terms like: mammography report, cancer stages and symptoms, surgery options, chemotherapy, radiation, pathology results, metastasis, tumor markers, clinical trials . . . it’s information overload. How can you communicate with your oncology team about something that is so foreign to you? There is a way that you can understand all of these terms and more as they pertain to you, personally, from the comfort of your own home by using the Nexprofiler Treatment Option Tool for Breast Cancer. Whether you are newly diagnosed, or are experiencing a recurrence after previous treatment, this tool will enable you to become an active participant in your treatment decisions. When you log in the site for the first time, you will answer a questionnaire about your breast cancer diagnosis. You don’t have to know all the answers about your diagnosis. Nexprofiler will generate a report from your answers that will include questions to take to your oncology team to fill in any information you lack. Not only that, but your report will also include information about your personal treatment plan including side effects you may not be aware of as well as access to information about clinical studies. Recommended by the American Cancer Society, the Nexprofiler Treatment Option Tool for Breast Cancer is a free service, and they will never share your personal information with anyone without your permission. It’s an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of your personal breast cancer treatment in a non-pressure situation, know the right questions to ask your oncology team, and learn to speak the language of breast cancer at your own pace.

   
What is stage III breast cancer?

About Stage III Breast Cancer

Breast cancers that reach stage III have a bigger presence in the breast and the tissues around it. Stage III breast cancer is further subdivided as IIIA, in which the tumor is smaller than five centimeters with more than four underarm lymph nodes with cancer, or the tumor is larger than five centimeters with at least one positive lymph node. In stage IIIB, the tumor has moved into the chest wall, invading chest muscle and/or lymph nodes in the chest. Stage III breast cancer may be the point at which saving treatments might no longer be a good option. Some combination of radiation, chemotherapy, and mastectomy might be needed to remove the cancer from your body.

   
What is stage IV breast cancer?

About Stage IV Breast Cancer

Breast cancer tends to leave the breast if it can. Therefore stage IV breast cancer involves a spread to distant organs. By this stage, cancer cells have metastasized, or traveled to other parts of the body. Common sites are the bones, the lungs, the brain or the liver. It may no longer be possible to remove stage IV breast cancer through surgery. Mastectomy may still be deemed necessary to remove the main source of cancer, but if your cancer has reached stage IV, you should begin to familiarize yourself with chemotherapy. Your doctor will most likely order this systemic treatment to find and destroy cancer cells throughout your body. Therefore, the more you know about chemotherapy, the less intimidating it will seem. You should also take this opportunity to ask your doctor any questions you have about the treatment that lies ahead.

   
How can I become a proactive breast cancer patient?

Be a Proactive Breast Cancer Patient

I remember the trip home from my first oncology visit. I was sitting in the back seat of our car and my husband and mother were in the front, discussing my breast cancer treatment plan. They had decided what my treatment would be after talking to my oncologist, and that was that. I was so overwhelmed, I had remained silent at the meeting. It was almost like I wasn't there. Well, that didn't last long. I began seeking information on my own and making my own decisions about my body and my life. Once you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you are bombarded with new, unfamiliar terms. radiation, chemotherapy, the staging system, white blood cell count, in situ, lymph nodes -- all of this new information would make anyone's head spin! It would be easy to hand your treatment decisions over to someone else, but don't. If you need more explanation on any of those terms, ask. Doctors and others on your healthcare team are so accustom to rattling off these terms, they may not be aware that the terms are new and confusing to you. If you can't get help with these terms at your clinic, call the American Cancer Society at 1-(800)-ACS-2345 for some suggested reading materials. Be a proactive breast cancer patient. Use the resources and cancer support services offered by your hospital and in your community to become an informed breast cancer patient. When you learn more about your disease, you will feel more comfortable with your treatment. Talk with other patients and their families about breast cancer treatment. If you feel anxious when you arrive at your clinic for treatment, tell someone. Don't sit through your treatment feeling as though you want to rip out the tubes and run. Your healthcare team can give you medication to relax you during chemotherapy. If you have an aversion to needles and your healthcare team wants to draw blood, ask them for a minute to compose yourself, and let them know this procedure makes you uncomfortable. It's good to have family or a trusted friend with you at oncology appointments to help you remember information your medical team gives you, but it's important that the ultimate decisions about your breast cancer treatment be yours alone. Research suggests that patients who are assertive with their oncology team have better health outcomes than those that are more passive. Be a proactive breast cancer patient so you too will have the best possible outcome.

   
What is stage I breast cancer?

About Stage I Breast Cancer

Doctors usually think of cancer in terms of its level of invasiveness. Stage I breast cancer is the first of the invasive stages and is considered an early form of breast cancer. If you have stage I breast cancer, the tumor in your breast is less than two centimeters wide, has not spread to other organs, and cancer cells have not entered your lymph nodes. You can probably expect your treatment to include surgical removal of the tumor and the lymph nodes under your arm, followed by radiation therapy to the affected breast.

   
What is inflammatory breast cancer?

An Inflamed Breast Might be Cancer

If your breast is red, swollen, and hot to the touch, it could be a breast infection called mastitis. It could also be a rare but dangerous form of breast cancer.
Inflammatory breast cancer, as the condition is called, affects the breast differently than other breast cancer forms. It does not often begin with a lump or tumor, but rater cancer cells grow rapidly and invade the lymph nodes. This causes a blockage leading to a red, swollen breast. It can sometimes resemble mastitis on physical appearance.

However, if you notice inflammation in a breast, make an appointment with the doctor right away and be sure to ask about inflammatory breast cancer and information about breast cancer diagnosis. Your doctor may feel strongly that mastitis is to blame for your symptoms, but if you are not sure, you can consider asking for additional testing.

   
What is breast cancer staging?

How Doctors Stage Breast Cancer

Not all breast cancer treatments are created equal. The treatment that is right for you depends on a number of things, and breast cancer staging can help determine this. If you are trying to learn information about breast cancer diagnosis, it recommended that you read about the different stages of breast cancer. Generally all cancers are stage based on the TNM system, in which T stands for the tumor size, N stands for lymph node involvement, and M stands for metastasis or the level of cancer invasion.

Breast cancer staging is a way to classify how advanced a particular incidence of breast cancer is. Staging helps doctors put a name to the cancer, such as how far along it is, how aggressive it is, and how likely it is to respond to different treatments.

Breast cancers are usually divided into one of several stages, from zero to four. Higher stages mean more advanced cancers. Staging is a scientific tool and not entirely an indication of whether you will live or die. It can help guide doctors in how they will treat you. Whether your cancer is a stage 0 (carcinoma in situ) or a stage 4 (spread to distant organs), the goal is the same: treat it so you can go on with your life.

   
How do doctors make a diagnosis of breast cancer?

How Dianosis Of Breast Cancer Is Made

Doctors look at many factors when diagnosing breast cancer. It is a process that may take weeks and require you to talk to multiple doctors. Therefore, waiting for information about a breast cancer diagnosis can take a toll on any woman. Tissue or fluid removed from the breast in a biopsy will be looked at and tested in a laboratory to see if cancer is present. There may be more tests to discover the extent of any cancer that does exist. During these waiting periods, you are likely to feel anxious, irritable, even downright terrified. After all, you might ask, if you have cancer in your breast, is it not it even spreading while you wait? But the delays in receiving a diagnosis are normal. All women suspected of having breast cancer will go through them. Remind yourself that breast cancer, even an aggressive form, is not likely to change significantly in just a few weeks. And while not knowing your final diagnosis can cause worry, it is suggested that you try to cope with the delay of your breast cancer diagnosis by pampering yourself, and planning fun outings to help take your mind off of waiting for the diagnosis.

   
What is Paget's disease of the nipple?

Nipple Changes are Worth a Doctor Visit

Red, oozing nipples are not a symptom you would be likely to miss in your own breasts. This symptom might indicate another very rare form of breast cancer, called Paget's disease of the nipple. This form of breast cancer can appear with or without a lump and accounts for five percent of all breast cancers. However, approximately ninety-five percent of all people diagnosed with Paget's disease of the nipple have breast cancer.

Often the only symptom is an oozing nipple accompanied by a rash, sometimes on just one breast. Naturally, if you have a nipple that burns, itches, and oozes fluid, you should head to the doctor. The sooner you can get a diagnosis for this problem, the sooner you can start treating it and getting relief from symptoms, whether the diagnosis is cancer or not.

   
What is stage II breast cancer?

About Stage II Breast Cancer

Stage II breast cancer is used to identify the size of the tumor in your breast which is larger than a two centimeters and/or cancer cells have entered the lymph nodes under your arm. Stage II breast cancer is further broken down into stage IIA, in which the tumor is between two and five centimeters or with lymph node involvement and has not spread to distant sites. Or stage IIB, in which the tumor can be less than centimeters with lymph node involvement or greater than five centimeters without lymph node involvement. There is no invasion of cancer cells to distant sites.

If you have stage II breast cancer, discuss with your doctor the different treatment options, which could include removal of the tumor and underarm lymph nodes or a partial mastectomy, as well as radiation therapy.

   
Should I ask about the prognosis for my stage of cancer?

Making Sense of Your Breast Cancer Prognosis

A diagnosis of breast cancer brings about one question more than any other: Will I be able to beat this? Doctors answering this question may speak on the term "prognosis," which simply means what they will expect will be the outcome of your treatment. In truth, a prognosis may not be all that helpful. More than anything, it is a statistic about women your age, in your general health, with cancer similar to yours, and how likely they are to survive. Also every statistic has a margin of error. The decision about whether you want to hear your prognosis or not is up to you, but whatever you do with the information about your breast cancer diagnosis, but remember that a prognosis is only a guideline on how you are expected to do.

   
How do I determine my family history risk factor for breast cancer?

Weighing your Family History Risk Factor for Breast Cancer

Category: Modifiable Breast Cancer Risk Factors

When a family member is diagnosed with breast cancer, it may leave you wondering how much your own risk is increased for developing this disease. While research indicates that women with a family history of breast cancer are at higher risk, it’s important to weigh in all the information you know about family members who were diagnosed with breast cancer before jumping to conclusions. Following are five family history factors that may increase your personal risk of breast cancer: 1) The family member who had breast cancer is a first-degree relative, (i.e., your parent, sibling or child); 2) The relative developed breast cancer at a younger age than average, (according to the National Cancer Institute, most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 50 years old, and the average age at diagnosis is 64); 3) The relative had cancer in both breasts; 4) A first-degree relative had ovarian cancer; 5) A first-degree male relative had breast cancer. Two or more first-degree relatives who have had breast cancer weigh into your risk factor more heavily than one. Also, when you weigh in these factors, keep in mind that the first-degree relative may be on your father’s side of the family, as well as your mother’s. If you have one or more of the above factors in your family history, tell your healthcare team so they can keep you informed any new developments in reducing your family history risk factor for breast cancer.

   
Will I get breast cancer if I have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation?

Relating Your Family History Risk to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 Gene Mutation

Category: Non-Modifiable Breast Cancer Risk Factors

The research is startling: Women who have inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have up to an 80% chance of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis during their lifetime (and at a younger age) over those who are not born with a gene mutation. But if you have a strong family history of breast cancer, don’t accept a diagnosis as your fate. You can still reduce your risk of developing this disease. While research suggests that some breast cancer diagnoses are the result of an inherited mutation of genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, it’s estimated that only 5% to 10% of all breast cancers are caused by these mutated genes. There is no guarantee you are going to be diagnosed with breast cancer because your mother was diagnosed. A high percentage of breast cancers are caused by gene mutations that are acquired over time and not inherited, so it’s worth exploring modifiable breast cancer risk factors for your own proactive healthcare. Studies have shown that solid nutrition, maintaining a healthy weight, moderate exercise and minimal consumption of alcohol have a much higher impact on reducing your cancer risk than the family you were born into. Don’t feel that if you have cancer in your family history, there is nothing you can do about it. Learn how lifestyle changes can reduce your risk and change your family tree.

   
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