Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast tissue begin to grow into a mass or tumor. If not detected early, it may metastasize (spread) to other areas of the body. This is why it's crucial to check for breast lumps or abnormalities periodically, as well as have mammographies performed on a regular basis. If you have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, the course of treatment may depend upon several factors, including your age, the stage or progression of the tumor and other health issues you may have. Common options include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
How Is Breast Cancer Detected?
Before treatment can begin, you must be certain that your lump is indeed cancer. Because not all lumps on the breast may be cancerous, it is important to get a conclusive diagnosis from your doctor or specialist. Initially, your doctor may perform a screening examination. The doctor will examine the breasts to note any irregularities in size or shape, as well as check for lumps or discharge from the nipples.
If your physician suspects cancer may be present, he or she may order tests. This may typically include a series of x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound, which may show the tissues of the breast as well as an in-depth view of the tissue growth. If fluid or discharge of the nipples are found during your examination, it may need to be evaluated under a microscope to note whether cancer cells are present.
A biopsy may also reveal whether cancer is present. During this procedure, a sample of breast tissue may be removed surgically. That sample will be sent to the lab for evaluation.
Treatment Options for Breast Cancer
If your physician has made a conclusive diagnosis of breast cancer, your treatment options will be discussed. Your doctor will determine the best treatment plan based on your general health or pre-existing medical issues, as well as your age. Equally important, the stage at which the cancer has developed may dictate the best course of treatment to be had.
Your general practitioner may recommend you to an oncologist, which is a specialist experienced in treating tumors and cancer. Alternatively, you may be recommended to a cancer clinic. This facility deals with treating patients who have been diagnosed with various types of cancers.
Your doctor may suggest any of the following options for treating your breast cancer:
A partial or complete mastectomy may be necessary. This type of surgery involves removing the portion of breast tissue containing the tumor (partial mastectomy) or removal of the entire breast (complete mastectomy). If you undergo a mastectomy, you will most likely require radiation therapy to destroy remaining cancer cells still present and to prevent the cancer from returning.
External beam radiation is a common method of treatment, which is performed using a machine that delivers radiation particles to the targeted tissue. The goal is to eradicate the cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often performed following a mastectomy or removal of the tumor.
The doctor will typically wait until the surgical site has healed completely before performing your radiation therapy. This typically may take a period of several weeks or longer. Your radiation treatment should not cause anything more than slight discomfort, although if you experience pain during he procedure, you should alert the technician or physician. Post-procedure side effects may include minor swelling or redness surrounding the area.
Cancer-fighting drugs that are most commonly administered through the veins (intravenously) may be the best course of treatment for advanced stages of breast cancer or following surgery. Alternatively, the drugs may be given orally in pill or tablet form. Your intravenous chemotherapy sessions may occur once or twice a week, most commonly lasting for a period of a few months or longer.
You should note that there are several side effects possible when undergoing chemotherapy. Most commonly, hair and nail loss, as well as nausea and vomiting, may occur. Fatigue is another common side effect. Your immune system may be suppressed as well, due to a low count of white blood cells during treatment.
Follow your doctor's instructions regarding post-surgery or during your treatment. Any concerns or unusual side effects from your cancer treatment should be reported to your physician at once. For more information about cancer treatment, contact a company like Cancer & Blood Specialists of Nevada.