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Diagnosis

 
Diagnosis

Chapter: 4 - Diagnosis

Subchapter: 1 - Causes of Breast Cancer

Causes of Breast Cancer

- What if it’s cancer?
- What caused it?
- What should I do now?
- How is breast cancer treated?
- How long will treatment take?
- What will it be like?
- Will I be okay?
- What about my family?

When a lump or suspicious site in your breast is detected, it raises some serious questions. In this chapter, we are going to do our best to answer them. We will discuss what doctors know and do not know, how to react to your diagnosis as well as how to understand it, and how to move beyond the shock.

Risk Factors
So what do scientists actually know about the causes of cancer? It’s a difficult question. Cancer grows when a cell’s DNA is damaged, which we discussed in Chapter 3, but why or how that DNA becomes damaged is still unknown. It could be genetic or environmental, or in most cases a combination of the two. But most patients will never know exactly what caused their cancer.

However, there are certain established risk factors that are associated with breast cancer:

- A family history with breast cancer
- Early menstruation (before age 12)
- Late menopause (after 55)
- Breast tissue that is more dense with lobular and ductal tissue relative to fatty tissue
- Noncancerous cell abnormalities

These factors are genetic, they are not something you can control.

60-70% of people with breast cancer have no connection to them at all, and other people with risk factors will never develop cancer.

Related Questions

  • Mary G Profile

    Hi Ladies, diagnosis details: IDC, ER+, PR -, HER 2 -, 3cm tumor with 2 positive nodes. Could use some reassurance from similar cases. Will star chemo shortly, them surgery, then radiation. Anyone similar I can chat with?

    Asked by anonymous

    Survivor since 2013
    almost 7 years 4 answers
    • View all 4 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      Mary,
      Your case is not uncommon. In fact, your type of breast cancer is the most common. It is also very common to have chemotherapy first to shrink tumors and it works! No one can predict how you will tolerate chemo. Everyone is so different but many women keep working. I always felt like I...

      more

      Mary,
      Your case is not uncommon. In fact, your type of breast cancer is the most common. It is also very common to have chemotherapy first to shrink tumors and it works! No one can predict how you will tolerate chemo. Everyone is so different but many women keep working. I always felt like I had the flu for about 3 to 4 days, then got back to normal. You can probably schedule your treatments on Friday and have the weekend to recover. Keep in mind your immune system is somewhat compromised so you have to be watchful about not being around people with colds or flu. Not knowing what kind of work you do but my doctor warned me not to be in crowds, etc.

      Anyway.... be assured your doctor is giving you chemo first for the desired effect of killing off the breast cancer cells and shrinking the spread. Hang in there, darlin'.
      Take care, Sharon

      1 comment
    • patti garcia Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 2B Patient

      Finished chemo May 31 of this year. 4 rounds of adriamyicin, cytocin 1 every other week followed by 12 once a week of taxol. July 3 mastectomy, wait 4-6 weeks before starting radiation, followed by tamoxifen. Next summer reconstruction. Any time you want to talk, I'm here.

      1 comment
  • maureen heagle Profile

    I'm having a core biopsy tomorrow. What can I expect ? Pain? Aftercare?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 5 years 9 answers
    • View all 9 answers
    • Betti A Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2013

      If it's like mine they injected some local in the skin before making their incision and put more numbing med. into the site they were going after. I didn't have any pain, just uncomfortable lying on the table the way I had to. They put a reusable small gel ice pack in my bra and told me to use...

      more

      If it's like mine they injected some local in the skin before making their incision and put more numbing med. into the site they were going after. I didn't have any pain, just uncomfortable lying on the table the way I had to. They put a reusable small gel ice pack in my bra and told me to use it most of the day or as needed to keep down the swelling. In fact I remember saying "ouch" when he was putting in the clip to mark the area and he along with the breast patient navigator were surprised I felt that as I was pretty numb. I used to help do biopsies this way so mostly knew what to expect but that sometimes can be too much info. for the one undergoing it from that prespective. They explained everything they were doing as they were doing it and that helped, too.

      1 comment
    • Norma  Cook Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2014

      Hi Maureen: As already mentioned, there are various ways this procedure is done. Mine was a stereotactic core needle biopsy. This was performed with my breast in a portable mammogram machine, which was about as uncomfortable as having a regular mammogram. (My tumor could not be detected by...

      more

      Hi Maureen: As already mentioned, there are various ways this procedure is done. Mine was a stereotactic core needle biopsy. This was performed with my breast in a portable mammogram machine, which was about as uncomfortable as having a regular mammogram. (My tumor could not be detected by ultrasound.) I was lying on my side with both arms stretched above my head, so it was difficult to breathe and also to hear, since one ear was pressed into the pillow and the other was covered by my arm. A nurse kept her hands on mind to keep me from moving and for reassurance, as well, I guess. The upper plate of the mammogram machine was see-through, with a small opening to allow the needle to pass through. I don't remember any freezing, but there might have been. By the time the Radiologist started the actual insertion, my breast was pretty well numb from the compression. The hollow needle is designed so a tiny portion of tissue can be extracted from the area in question. There is a little snapping sound when the sample is taken. I had five samples removed from my 8mm tumor. The nurse applied firm pressure to my breast for a few minutes to stop the slight bleeding, then put a band-aid on the small incision. The gel pack she inserted in my bra was only of temporary usefulness. I had a better one at home which I used for the rest of the day about 20 minutes every hour. Between Advil and ice, there really was minimal pain and bruising. The band-aid stayed on a for a few days until it started to peel off.

      I wish someone would have told me a little more about what to expect, but the doctors, nurses and technicians were all very skillful and kind. This same team did the wire insertion before my lumpectomy. Here's hoping you don't even get that far. About 80% of biopsies are negative. You will be in my prayers today. Let us know how you're doing.

      1 comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    Where is the best place to be treated for breast cancer? I live in Florida and my children want me to go to Washington DC to stay with them to get better treatment.

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 5 years 9 answers
    • View all 9 answers
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Both places are good - I would go to the place with the best support for you. Your children mean well- but are can they handle your chemo and doctors visits etc... It's hard for both parties but the best is when you have good support.

      Comment
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      It probably has something to do with the type of breast cancer you have. Going through treatment it's nice not to be by yourself. What do you want to do? If you don't feel like you will get adequate carie in FL. Then you probably need to go so wen

      Comment
  • Kristianne Rice Profile

    I had an MRI done and they ruled one side benign and the other "probably" benign with no biopsy and want me to wait 6 months. Should I worry?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 8 years 4 answers
    • View all 4 answers
    • Adrienne private Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 3C Patient

      What type of doctor did you see? I would ask someone experienced with breast cancer, personally. Also age doesn't matter- I was 35 when diagnosed. Usually a 6 month wait is to see if nodule/growth grows/changes. Were there tumors? be sure to tell doctor of any family history too.

      Comment
    • Kristianne Rice Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I saw my family doctor. I want to get a second opinion though, she hasn't really told me anything that's going on. She also didn't tell me where the things were found. The lumps are near the outside toward the armpit, but the questionable one is near the 6oclock area.

      Comment

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