Modern scientific research has revealed a wealth of breast cancer information that helps women and men avoid the disease, seek effective treatments, and understand how certain genetic factors and lifestyle choices can influence their risks of getting the disease. Becoming familiar with information about breast cancer will help you recognize warning signs of the disease, lower your risks, and understand how any necessary treatment could affect your life.
Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer in all reported cancer cases, accounting for a little more than 10 percent of cancer diagnoses around the world. Women are about 100 times more likely to develop the disease than men; however, the survival rates are about the same regardless of the patient’s sex.
One of the most common symptoms of breast cancer is an abnormal lump or mass in the breast. The most effective way to detect a lump is to perform a monthly self-exam. An annual mammogram, performed at a doctor’s office, can detect lumps in their earliest stages, increasing the odds for a complete recovery.
Other common breast cancer symptoms include unexplainable changes in breast size, shape, or color. Patients and doctors often report that cancerous breasts remind them of oranges because they develop a reddish tint and bumpy texture. While this is a common symptom for some types of breast cancer, the absence of this symptom does not mean breast cancer isn’t present, because many women with the disease never experience this sign.
The most common treatment for breast cancer is surgery. Depending on the stage of the disease, surgeons might be able to remove the cancerous tumors while leaving the breast intact. In other cases, however, a mastectomy, though a more drastic surgery, is necessary in order to reduce the risk of recurrence. Many patients also receive medication and radiation treatments. Radiation greatly reduces the risk of a patient developing breast cancer again, but it sometimes causes side effects that are difficult to tolerate. Medication can also cause unwanted side effects in some women.
Women and men diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer have a 100 percent chance of survival after treatment. Those diagnosed with stage II have a 98 percent chance; virtually everyone survives this stage for at least five years. After stage II, survival rates drop quickly. Those diagnosed with stage IIA breast cancer have a 92 percent survival rate, while those with stage IIB face an 81 percent chance. Stage IIIA has a 67 percent survival rate, and with stage IIIB the rate drops to 54 percent. Those with stage IV breast cancer, the most advanced stage, face a mere 20 percent chance that they will live five years after the diagnosis. When diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, the patient and treating physician have the difficult task of developing an aggressive treatment plan while maintaining a reasonable quality of life for the patient. Treatment plans at this stage are very personal and require much time and consultation between the patient, physicians, and family members. It is important to note that, while stage IV survival rates may be less than optimal, many individuals can and do survive stage IV breast cancer for a good number of years after their diagnosis, adding several quality years to their life.
These breast cancer survival facts underline how vital it is to do monthly self-exams, get a yearly mammogram, and see a doctor as soon as any symptoms arise.