“So, it’s more accurate to say that 1 in 8 women in the U.S. who reach the age of 80 can expect to develop breast cancer. In each decade of life, the risk of getting breast cancer is actually lower than 12% for most women.” (Breastcancer.org)
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, it is important to understand what this means to you and your life. A tumor in your breast can be benign or malignant, which is considered to be cancerous. If the breast cancer is not addressed, malignant cells could eventually spread beyond the original tumor to other parts of the body.
Usually breast cancer either begins in the cells of the lobules, which are the milk-producing glands, or the ducts, the passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple. Less commonly, breast cancer can begin in the stromal tissues, which include the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast.
C -dilated section of duct to hold milk
F -pectoralis major muscle
G -chest wall/rib cage
Typical Symptoms of Breast Cancer
In its early stages, breast cancer usually has no symptoms. As a tumor develops, you may note the following signs:
- A lump in the breast or underarm that persists after your menstrual cycle. This is often the first apparent symptom of breast cancer. Lumps associated with breast cancer are usually painless, although some may cause a prickly sensation. Lumps are usually visible on a mammogram long before they can be seen or felt.
- Swelling in the armpit.
- Pain or tenderness in the breast. Although lumps are usually painless, pain or tenderness can be a sign of breast cancer.
- A noticeable flattening or indentation on the breast, which may indicate a tumor that cannot be seen or felt.
- Any change in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of the breast. A reddish, pitted surface like the skin of an orange could be a sign of advanced breast cancer.
- A change in the nipple, such as a nipple retraction, dimpling, itching, a burning sensation, or ulceration. A scaly rash of the nipple is symptomatic of Paget’s disease, which may be associated with an underlying breast cancer.
- Unusual discharge from the nipple that may be clear, bloody, or another color. It’s usually caused by benign conditions but could be due to cancer in some cases.
- A marble-like area under the skin.
- An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
The Role of Radiation Therapy In Breast Cancer
Radiation therapy is a highly targeted and effective way to destroy cancer cells in the breast that may still be in the breast or region after surgery. It has been noted in studies that radiation can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by about 70%.
Accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI), is a form of radiation treatment (brachytherapy) that is completed after a patient has had a lumpectomy surgery. It involves the insertion of a radioactive seeds through a special catheter that is inserted into the breast cavity where the lumpectomy occurred. APBI delivers a highly effective dose of radiation while greatly reducing treatment time. Accelerated partial breast irradiation is usually performed about one to four weeks after a lumpectomy. The device remains in place during the course of APBI treatment, usually about 8-10 days.
Partial breast irradiation is best for women who:
- Are 50 years of age or older
- Have small tumors of three centimeters or less that are confined to the breast
- Have clear margins
- Have no lymph nodes involved
There can be a fear of radiation therapy, but it is a relatively easy process with little side effects. It is completely safe, but to view more about safety, click here. It’s important for you to know that there is NO connection between therapeutic radiation and the types of radiation in bombs and nuclear reactors. The radiation used in cancer treatment is highly focused, controllable, and generally safe.