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Malignant Neoplasm of Breast

Malignant Neoplasm of Breast

What is breast cancer? — Breast cancer happens when normal cells in the breast change and grow out of control. People sometimes discover they have breast cancer because they find a lump in one of their breasts. Breast cancer is much more common in women, but anyone can get it. Breast cancer sometimes runs in families.
If you feel a lump in your breast, see your doctor or nurse right away. Breast lumps can be caused by conditions that are not cancer. But it is a good idea to have any lumps checked out.
Is there a test for breast cancer? — Yes. Doctors use a special kind of X-ray called a mammogram to check for breast cancer. If a mammogram finds a spot that looks like it could be cancer, doctors usually follow up with another test called a biopsy. During a biopsy, a doctor takes one or more small samples of tissue from the breast. Then the doctor can look at the cells under a microscope to see if they have cancer.
What is breast cancer staging? — Cancer staging is a way in which doctors find out how far a cancer has spread. The right treatment for you will depend, in part, on the stage of your cancer.
How is breast cancer treated? — Most people with breast cancer have one or more of the following treatments:
Surgery – Breast cancer is usually treated with surgery to remove the cancer. Many people with breast cancer can choose between 2 types of surgery (figure 1):
•Mastectomy is surgery to remove the whole breast. (If you choose this option, you might have to decide whether to have surgery to reconstruct your breast and when.)
•Breast-conserving surgery (also called "lumpectomy") is surgery to remove the cancer and a section of healthy tissue around it. People who choose this option keep their breast. But they usually must have radiation therapy after surgery.
Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells.
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the medical term for medicines that kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. Some people take these medicines before surgery to shrink the cancer and make it easier to remove. Some take these medicines after surgery to keep cancer from growing, spreading, or coming back.
Hormone therapy – Some forms of breast cancer grow in response to hormones. Your doctor might give you treatments to block hormones or to prevent your body from making certain kinds of hormones.
Targeted therapy – Some medicines work only on cancers that have certain characteristics. Your doctor might test you to see if you have a kind of cancer that would respond to this kind of therapy.
Immunotherapy – This is the term doctors use for medicines that work with the body's infection-fighting system to stop cancer growth. Immunotherapy might be used with chemotherapy to treat certain types of advanced breast cancers.
What happens after treatment? — After treatment, you will need to be checked every so often to see if the cancer comes back. You will have tests, usually including more mammograms. You should also watch for symptoms that could mean the cancer has come back. Examples of these symptoms include new lumps in the breast area, pain (in the bones, chest, or stomach), trouble breathing, and headaches. If you start having any new symptom, mention it to your doctor.
What happens if cancer comes back or spreads? — That depends on where the cancer is. Most people get hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Some people also have surgery to remove new tumors.
Can breast cancer be prevented? — People who are at high risk of getting breast cancer can sometimes take a medicine to help prevent the disease. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, ask your doctor what you can do to prevent cancer.
What will my life be like? — Many people with breast cancer do very well after treatment. The important thing is to take your medicines as directed and to follow all your doctors' instructions about visits and tests. It's also important to talk to your doctor about any side effects or problems you have during treatment.
Getting treated for breast cancer involves making many choices. Besides choosing which surgery to have, you might have to choose which medicines to take and when.
Always let your doctors and nurses know how you feel about a treatment. Any time you are offered a treatment, ask:
What are the benefits of this treatment? Is it likely to help me live longer? Will it reduce or prevent symptoms?
What are the downsides to this treatment?
Are there alternatives to this treatment?
What happens if I do not have this treatment?
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 15365 Version 13.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
© 2020 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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