Condition: Breast cancer is the growth of tumors, made up of abnormal cells, in the breast.
Background: Breast cancer is caused by mutations (changes) in certain genes that makes cells grow out of control. Tumors can be found in the tubes that carry milk to the nipple (ducts) or in the glands that make the milk (lobules).
Risk Factors: Breast cancer occurs mostly in women but men can also get it. A gene called BRCA makes the risk higher. Other things that increase the risk of breast cancer include a high-fat diet, obesity, not having had children, first pregnancy after age 30, getting your period early, starting menopause late, estrogen therapy, and exposure to radiation.
History and Symptoms: Breast cancer may be discovered through a manual breast exam or from a routine mammogram. Sometimes there is a family history of breast or other cancers. Some women have symptoms such as pain, weakness, numbness, tingling, bladder and bowel problems, or changes in thinking and memory.
Physical Exam: The doctor will do a manual exam of the breast and also check to see if any of the lymph glands under the arms or in the neck and chest are larger than normal.
Diagnostic Process: Mammograms and/or other imaging studies are used to look for tumors. Cells from the tumor are usually removed for testing (biopsy) to see if there are certain genes or receptors that can help predict whether you will respond to certain treatments. PET scans may be used to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Rehab Management: Treatment may involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy. If breasts are removed, implants may be used. Exercise and physical therapy help increase strength, energy, and the ability to do activities. Medications may relieve pain or side effects of chemotherapy.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: Support from family, friends, and cancer support groups can help ease the stress of having breast cancer. The American Cancer Society is one source of information.