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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

  • julie s Profile

    Anyone had neoadjuvant chemo and had a complete pathological response? At what point is that determined? With a pet scan or after surgery?

    Asked by anonymous

    Stage 2A Patient
    about 6 years 4 answers
    • View all 4 answers
    • Erin Timlin Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2011

      I had a complete response, sort of... I was stage 2b IDC and I had 8 rounds of AC/Taxol-Herceptin. The MRI, biopsies and mammogram showed it was completely gone and I went ahead with breast conservation surgery in April. I knew I'd lose a significant area of tissue and the affected nodes. I...

      more

      I had a complete response, sort of... I was stage 2b IDC and I had 8 rounds of AC/Taxol-Herceptin. The MRI, biopsies and mammogram showed it was completely gone and I went ahead with breast conservation surgery in April. I knew I'd lose a significant area of tissue and the affected nodes. I lost 14 nodes that looked as though they had at one time been cancerous and all came back clear. However, the margins revealed stage 0 DCIS - which my doctor realized could happen but I didn't - so I went ahead with a mastectomy in May. Anyway, the original cancer was completely gone so I DID have a total response, and my doctor has used me as an example of a great success with neo-adjuvant therapy in her talks at various places.

      2 comments
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      The lymph nodes were positive when I did the biopsy. I hope this helps. O ya mysurgery was a month ago. U tc, jayme

      Comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    Breast lumps on both breasts, sized 3cm, 2.8 0.8 & 0.5 on the ultrasound. I also have a family history of breast cancer - my dad's Aunt. It increases my risk that it's breast cancer. What should I do?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    about 7 years 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Lori A Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      You should go to your doctor immediately. Early detection makes a big difference.

      Comment
    • Ana Naluh Andrade Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I found the tumor in my left breast 2 years ago, at 42 y.o. Same week I did the ultrasound - we jump the step of mammogram because it was clear where the thing was. With the ultrasound we found 2 more tumors, and the confirmation of being a mass. One more week I had the biopsy. Then surgery - I...

      more

      I found the tumor in my left breast 2 years ago, at 42 y.o. Same week I did the ultrasound - we jump the step of mammogram because it was clear where the thing was. With the ultrasound we found 2 more tumors, and the confirmation of being a mass. One more week I had the biopsy. Then surgery - I opt for double mastectomy because I had a high risk over 60% to have in the other breast in the future. Best thing I did because in the biopsy post surgery, they did find a tinny tumor on my right breast, still not detectable by any test.
      Started chemo 1 month after surgery. Then had the genetic test done, and I'm BRCA 2 positive - high risk for ovarian cancer. As soon as I finished the chemo, I had a surgery to remove the ovaries. Then did reconstruction, and now I am healthy, happy and with really little risk of reincidence! Easy? No, it was a trip to hell, painful, scary, I still have neuropathy, joint pains and chemo brain. But I wouldn't change any of the steps I took because I'm alive and happy, very happy!!!! My conclusion and answer for you: don't waste time. As soon as you can have the alien removed from your body, better chances for everything to be all right!!

      1 comment
  • Sandra Dakin Profile

    How do they diagnose a stage?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 7 years 1 answer
    • Blair Jenkins Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2009

      Look under Learn about breast cancer at the top of the page - i just watched the video's the other day and the information seemed really thorough - there is a section on staging.

      1 comment
  • Blair Jenkins Profile

    I was recently reading my pathology report and it said Triple Negative Breast Cancer grade 9 (3+3+3) on the nottingham scale - my tumor was about 6cm but had not spread to any lymph nodes - what is grade 9?

    Asked by anonymous

    Survivor since 2009
    over 7 years 2 answers
    • Janelle Strunk Profile
      anonymous
      Family Member or Loved One

      Hi Blair,

      I was curious about your question and did a bit of research. Here is the best answer I came up with. It was given by:

      Kevin R. Fox, MD, Assistant Director, Clinical Affairs and Associate Professor of Hematology/Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of...

      more

      Hi Blair,

      I was curious about your question and did a bit of research. Here is the best answer I came up with. It was given by:

      Kevin R. Fox, MD, Assistant Director, Clinical Affairs and Associate Professor of Hematology/Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

      The Nottingham histologic score is simply a scoring system to assess the "grade" of breast cancers.

      It is a total score based on 3 different sub-scores. The 3 sub-scores are assigned based on 3 components of how the breast cancer cells look under a microscope. (The details of these 3 components are not critical for you to understand). Each of the 3 components is assigned a sub-score of 1, 2, or 3, with 1 being best and 3 being worst. Once the 3 sub-scores are added, a Nottingham score is obtained: the minimum score possible is 3 (1+1+1) and the maximum possible is 9 (3+3+3).

      A histologic grade of III is assigned to any patient with a Nottingham score of 8 or 9. Grade I refers to Nottingham scores of 3, 4, and 5, while Grade II refers to Nottingham scores of 6 and 7.

      In the end, the Nottingham score and histologic grades are not very useful in the big picture, as they do not alter final overall treatment recommendations. High-score cancers tend to relapse more often than low-score cancers. Ultimately, however, we don't use the score in making clinical decisions.

      I hope that this helps clear up any confusion. I wish you the best.

      4 comments
    • Sarah Adams Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2010

      Do you have a family history? If yes, I suggest genetic testing for the BRCA gene mutation.

      1 comment

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