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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

  • Morgan Moser Profile

    My genetic testing is tomorrow. What can I expect?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 5 years 8 answers
    • View all 8 answers
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Blood draw for me and I found out 3 weeks later. I was negative. However, I was at the hospital for about 2 hours because they ask all about my family history. Jayme

      Comment
    • Terri Way Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 2B Patient

      If it is the BRCA test, it was just a blood draw for me.

      Comment
  • Carolyn Todd Profile

    Is it true that you can't survive breast cancer when your lymph nodes are positive?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    about 1 year 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Betti A Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2013

      No, it is not true it just means the cancer can go to other areas such as lung, liver, brain, or bone. Please don't be down on things as they are making advancements all the time.

      1 comment
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      The lymphatic system is how cancer can travel to other parts of the body. Just because lymph nodes are involved does not mean it is already in those distant area's. I had cancer in a lymph node and I am 9 years out from treatment. No sign of cancer anywhere.... feeling great, living a...

      more

      The lymphatic system is how cancer can travel to other parts of the body. Just because lymph nodes are involved does not mean it is already in those distant area's. I had cancer in a lymph node and I am 9 years out from treatment. No sign of cancer anywhere.... feeling great, living a wonderful life. Take care, Sharon

      3 comments
  • Thumb avatar default

    Diagnosed in August of this year had my lumpectomy on 10/24/12, now have to go back on 11/7/12 to have surgery for lymph nodes is this normal ?

    Asked by anonymous

    Stage 1 Patient
    over 5 years 6 answers
    • View all 6 answers
    • Coco Smith Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      In Australia the surgeries occur at the same time - we get the radiotracer injection the day before or the morning of our surgery, for small tumours a guide wire is inserted under local anaesthetic to identify the tumour location accurately for the surgeon, a low compression mammogram image is...

      more

      In Australia the surgeries occur at the same time - we get the radiotracer injection the day before or the morning of our surgery, for small tumours a guide wire is inserted under local anaesthetic to identify the tumour location accurately for the surgeon, a low compression mammogram image is taken also to assist with surgical tumour location, then once we are in the surgical theatre and have been given the general anaesthetic, a wand is waived over our armpit to detect the hottest radioactive node, it is then removed, often felt by hand for rice like graininess [a sign of cancer cells] and sent off to pathology for testing while the lumpectomy is being done. The results for the sentinel node are phoned back to the theatre - if the sentinel node is clear of cancer, normally no more nodes are taken and we are stitched up. If the sentinel node has cancer cells, then they normally remove nodes till they get to the point where they appear cancer free. It is like working your way through a bunch of grapes.
      The in-surgery sentinel node pathology testing I referred to has a false negative rate of 5-10% ie., the node reads as clear but later and more thorough pathology testing may detect cancer cells. The in-surgery node testing is done by slicing the nodes into fine slices, and examining them but it is always possible for cancer cells to hide inside slices, or outside the slices being examined and also for the technician to make a human error and not see cancer cells. So that is one reason I can think of why someone could be called back for more extensive node removal. The remaining nodes sample are usually sent off with the excised tumour for deeper pathology testing. That can throw up more issues.

      It is not clear from your question if you have the sentinel node testing done at the time of your lumpectomy or not.

      There may well be other legitimate reasons for returning for a separate operation to remove your lymph nodes , but the first thing I would do is ask the surgeon to tell you why it all was not done in the one procedure, with the one general anaesthetic for you to recover from and one off work/recuperation period?
      You deserve very clear statements in that explanation.
      I sincerely hope it has nothing to do with the surgeon maximising their income by performing two separate operations, requiring two lots of general anesthesia on you, longer recovery period, more stress, more time off work etc.
      Then you can make up your mind if the answers you received are convincing, reasonable and stack up to professional practice or not.

      Comment
    • julie s Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 2A Patient

      Did they take any lymph nodes at time of lumpectomy? What was the status of those?

      Comment
  • anonymous Profile

    Doctor wants to surgically remove 3-6 nodes using radioactive blue dye (not sure I want to be radioactive and certainly not turned blue) to test for cancer. Any cons to this? Has anyone done this?

    Asked by anonymous

    Patient
    about 4 years 7 answers
    • View all 7 answers
    • Mimi Carroll Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      It saves you from having more nodes taken them you need out. With just taking nodes I had 13 taken and only 3 had cancer.... Would have much preferred to just have the 3 taken. Lots of tests they do for cancer are radio active.. You pee it out quicly- drink lot s of fluid... PET scan and...

      more

      It saves you from having more nodes taken them you need out. With just taking nodes I had 13 taken and only 3 had cancer.... Would have much preferred to just have the 3 taken. Lots of tests they do for cancer are radio active.. You pee it out quicly- drink lot s of fluid... PET scan and Muga are radioactive... It is really hard to think about all of these toxic substance going in .. .

      Comment
    • sharon s Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      You pee the radioactivity out that day. A dye MRI and post surgery is radiation usually. You just have to get over it to give you the best control.

      Drink lots of water. Open the liver with citrus and coffee on an empty stomach
      Read about Tumeric and take a great probiotic.

      I get what...

      more

      You pee the radioactivity out that day. A dye MRI and post surgery is radiation usually. You just have to get over it to give you the best control.

      Drink lots of water. Open the liver with citrus and coffee on an empty stomach
      Read about Tumeric and take a great probiotic.

      I get what your saying but this blue dye is part of helping limit your surgery. It's information they can use to see the path of your lymph system.

      I also have to take a mugga test to check heart. That has a radioactive tracer in it too.

      Look at how you can clean your blood

      Best with this. Trust is a big lesson here. Hope you like your team.

      Comment

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