Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breasts grow abnormally, forming a benign or malignant tumor. An estimated 40,000 women in the United States die from breast cancer each year. Self exams, checking breasts for lumps or changes, can help with early detection of breast cancer.
Early detection is one of the best ways of preventing serious harm as a result of breast cancer, as doctors are able to treat it promptly, reducing the chance the cancer will spread. Signs and symptoms to look out for include: a change in the size or shape of the breast, flaking, peeling, redness or pitting in the breast skin, tenderness with no cause, and a thickening of tissue or the appearance of a lump.
A series of tests are used by physicians to confirm the presence of breast cancer, or to establish if lumps are benign breast lumps. These include: mammograms, breast exams, MRIs, biopsy of breast tissue and ultrasounds. Once breast cancer is diagnosed, doctors will next identify the stage of the cancer and establish whether or not it is spreading.
Treatment options for patients with breast cancer vary depending on the stage of the cancer. Options include: chemotherapy and radiation therapy, removing the lymph node, surgically removing the cancer or removing the entire breast. Physicians may decide to order a series of treatments, as it is vital to ensure that all the cancer is removed.
Medication used to treat patients with breast cancer include antirheumatics such as Rasuvo (methotrexate sodium), and cytostatic aromatase inhibitors like Arimidex (anastrozole) and Aromasin (exemestane).