Thousands of women receive breast cancer diagnoses each year. While getting a diagnosis of breast cancer is frightening, the treatments highlighted below have improved over the years.
Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the U.S. behind skin cancer. According to BreastCancer.org, 12.4 percent of women develop invasive breast cancer at some time during their lives. In 2018, experts expect around estimated 266,120 women will be newly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and 63,960 women will be diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer.
Breast cancer can have many impacts on the people who have the disease as well as on their families. People who have breast cancer may have to undergo multiple treatments that may cause serious side effects. They may also lose their hair, be unable to work and to undergo mastectomies. Some people who have breast cancer may die from the disease. Families of people who have breast cancer may undergo significant emotional and financial stress as they watch their loved ones deal with the disease and its treatment.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a cancer of the cells that are inside of the breast. The cancer begins when abnormal cells divide and undergo uncontrolled growth. Cancerous cells may form tumors that can be felt as lumps in the breast. Malignant tumors of the breast are ones that invade the surrounding tissues. The cancer can also metastasize to different parts of the body.
Breast cancer may start in the breast ducts or the glands. The causes of breast cancer are unclear, but there are several risk factors that are associated with the development of the disease, including the following:
- Dense tissue of the breasts
- Overconsumption of alcohol
- History of lumps or breast cancer
- Estrogen exposure
- Body weight
Signs and Symptoms
In its early stages, breast cancer may not show any noticeable symptoms but might be discovered during a mammogram. The most common sign of breast cancer is the formation of a new mass or lump in the breast. Women may be able to feel the lump by conducting self-examinations of their breasts.
Other signs that people might have breast cancer include the following:
- Nipple discharge that is not milk
- Thickening, scaliness, or redness of the breast or nipple
- Retraction of the nipple
- Nipple or breast pain
- Dimpling or skin irritation
- Swelling of the breast
Breast cancer lumps are often painless and hard with irregular edges. Some breast cancer tumors can be soft and painful, however. It is important for you to see your doctor any time that you notice a lump or experience a change in your breasts.
Common Treatment Options
The treatments that may be used for breast cancer will depend on the type of cancer and its stage. Many women who have breast cancer will receive several different types of treatment. The treatments may include both local and systemic treatments. Local treatments of breast cancer may include surgery to remove the tumor and radiation therapy. Systemic treatments involve the whole body and are designed to kill cancer cells that have spread. These treatments may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and hormone therapy. The tumor is surgically removed in most women with breast cancer. The doctor may then recommend an ongoing treatment plan that will depend on the cancer’s stage and invasiveness as well as on the patient’s personal preferences.
Some women prefer to try alternative treatments instead of the conventional treatments for breast cancer because of the side effects. One potential treatment is going on a special diet. This involves avoiding foods that are high in fat or that are pickled, smoked or salt-cured. Women may also eat a lot more vegetables and fruit. Taking antioxidant supplements is also another alternative treatment. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body that can damage the cells and include the following:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Viatmin E
It is important to talk to your doctor before you start taking antioxidant supplements. They may interact with the prescription drugs that you are prescribed.
Some women choose to get acupuncture as an alternative treatment for breast cancer. This involves the placement of thin, sterile needles in specific areas of the body by a practitioner. Acupuncture may help to alleviate some of the side effects of cancer treatment such as fatigue, nausea, pain, and vomiting. Therapeutic massage is also another alternative or complementary treatment for breast cancer. One study that was published in 2003 in Integrative Cancer Therapies found that therapeutic massage helped to reduce fatigue and pain and to improve symptoms in women who had cancer. A variety of different mind-body therapies may be helpful in lessening the symptoms of breast cancer, including meditation, yoga, tai chi, aromatherapy, music therapy, and Reiki.