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Invasive Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Treatments, Prognosis

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What increases the risk of invasive breast cancer?

Breast cancer can happen at any age. But the risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. According to the American Cancer Society, one out of eight invasive breast cancer diagnoses are given to women under age 45. And two out of every three women with invasive breast cancer are 55 or older when they are first diagnosed.

Other risk factors include race, geography, socioeconomic status, family history, genetics, exposure to radiation, obesity, alcohol intake, and diet.

What is tumor grading?

After surgery to remove the breast tumor, a pathologist will check the breast tissue. The pathologist will then assign a grade to the tumor. The grade depends on how closely the cancer cells resemble normal tissue cells when viewed under a microscope. Low-grade cancer cells are similar to normal breast cells. Higher grade breast cancer cells look more abnormal. They indicate the breast cancer is more aggressive.

The pathologist will also do a test for estrogen receptor and progesterone receptors. This test will show whether female hormones -- estrogen or progesterone -- influence the cancer cells. If the test is positive, it means hormones cause the cancer cells to grow. In that case, hormonal therapy may be effective in treating the cancer.

Tests for the HER2 oncogene will also be conducted. A positive test indicates a more aggressive form of cancer.

Other tests may be warranted. This depends on the stage of the tumor. These tests will determine if the cancer has spread from the breast into other areas of the body.

How is invasive breast cancer treated?

There are many treatments for invasive breast cancer. They include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Biologic therapy

Your doctor may use one breast cancer treatment or a combination of them. The goal will be to give you the best prognosis.

The type of breast cancer treatment your doctor recommends will be determined by different factors. Those factors include:

  • Size of the tumor
  • Location of the tumor
  • Results of lab tests done on the cancer cells
  • Stage of the breast cancer
  • Your age and general health
  • Your menopause status
  • Your personal feelings about the treatment options

Invasive breast cancer treatments may be local or systemic. Local treatments, including surgery and radiation therapy, are used to remove the breast cancer tumor and destroy or control the remaining cancer cells. Systemic treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Biologic therapy

These treatments aim to destroy or control cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body or to try to decrease the risk of your cancer coming back.

Some women with invasive breast cancer choose to be part of a clinical trial. In a breast cancer clinical trial, you may receive either the best standard treatment or a treatment that holds promise of being better. The new treatment may be a novel treatment or an alternative medicine.

Women with invasive breast cancer have more promise for a good outcome than ever before. Talk to your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for your situation.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on March 19, 2013
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