Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can be terrifying for those who are diagnosed, especially because of how many women will learn they have it at some point in their lives. Nearly 12 percent of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. To put this into perspective, that’s over 300,000 new cases in 2019 alone. Even men can experience breast cancer. There will likely be over 2,500 new cases diagnosed in male breast tissue over the same time period.

But there’s good news: although still very high, the rate of breast cancer is declining substantially over time. These statistics are complemented by the fact that new and advanced treatments for the disease are greatly reducing the mortality rate

Those diagnosed with breast cancer can expect a 90 percent chance of surviving for five years or an 83 percent chance of surviving for ten years. If diagnosis occurs before the cancer has the chance to spread to other parts of the body, the survival rate skyrockets to around 99 percent. 

You should know if and when you present signs or symptoms of breast cancer. Visiting the doctor as soon as you recognize these symptoms is extremely important and may save your life.

Not every breast cancer diagnosis begins with a lump. Although the size and shape of one or both breasts may change due to cancerous growth, this isn’t always the case. Some women will experience pain without any other symptoms, while others might notice changes in skin pigment. The appearance of the nipples might change during a period of cancerous growth. Discharge might result. 

Invasive types of breast cancer might present with more severe symptoms. These include: peeling of the nipple skin, breast tissue that is hardened or warm to the touch, itchiness, or “pitting,” which means that the breast is swelling or dimpling after a buildup of lymph fluid. Lymph nodes themselves will often swell when a person is sick. If you notice a swollen node around an armpit on one side of the body, it might be a sign of breast cancer on the same side of the body.

These symptoms are not necessarily the result of breast cancer — you should always check with a doctor before jumping to conclusions. Symptoms can also prevent due to skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis. They might also point to a cyst or infection.

Because breast cancer sometimes presents without any symptoms at all, women should receive routine mammograms to aid in detection.

New clinical trials might result in a new form of aggressive treatment, and soon — even against the most dangerous types of breast cancer. One drug basically acts as a homing beacon for chemotherapy. Boston Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Dr. Ian Krop said, “It’s a guided missile. It’s able to bring the chemotherapy directly to the cancer cell.”

Another study led by Dana-Farber Dr. Eric Winer might lead to a new treatment for cancer that has spread to the brain, which is an extremely difficult area of the body. “It’s a drug that’s particularly able to get into the brain,” Winer said.

One reason that breast cancer treatments are improving is because the human genome is more widely available to scientists as a research tool due to rapidly falling costs. This allows researchers to conduct studies using many more test subjects than was once financially feasible. And that means more reliable results.

Seattle Genetics, Inc. recently provided details on how genomic data was used in conjunction with the aforementioned new drugs. University of Texas Assistant Professor Rashmi Murthy of the Department of Breast Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine, said, “Following progression on trastuzumab, pertuzumab and T-DM1 in the metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer setting, there is no single standard of care regimen and clinical trial participation is often strongly encouraged. There is a significant unmet medical need for these patients, particularly those who develop brain metastases.”

In other words, certain types of cancer are so dangerous that doctors still don’t have a way to standardize the care patients will receive after their diagnosis. But the new research shows a significant drop in the mortality rate for those who took the drugs. Murthy said, “The addition of tucatinib to the commonly used combination of trastuzumab and capecitabine improved overall survival, reducing the risk of death by 34 percent compared to trastuzumab and capecitabine alone.”

Breast cancer is sometimes misdiagnosed because of the wide array of symptoms. Sometimes there are mammography errors. Even after being given the all clear, women should therefore remain vigilant when it comes to taking care of their breasts. Take note of any new changes in texture or appearance, and visit the doctor again if they occur.