What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a rapid, uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both
breasts. It is the most common type of cancer in women, but it is highly
curable when found early.1
How is breast cancer treated?
Breast cancer is
usually treated with a combination of surgery, medicines, and radiation
therapy. Which combination of treatments you have depends on your unique
situation. Because of improved screening methods, diagnosis at an early stage,
and improved treatment techniques, the number of deaths from breast cancer has
been steadily declining over the past few years. Decisions about how to treat
breast cancer are based on information about the cancer, your preferences, your
age, and your health.2
What will help me determine which type of treatment is appropriate for my breast cancer?
Breast cancer is
classified according to what the breast cancer cells
look like under a microscope. Tests for hormone receptors and other markers are
also done to determine how your cancer will respond to hormone therapy and
How far the cancer has spread within your
breast and whether it has spread to nearby tissues or other organs is called
the stage. Your doctor will determine the stage of your
breast cancer by gathering information from other tests, such as lymph node
biopsies, blood tests, bone scans, and X-rays. The stage of your cancer is one
of the most important factors in selecting the treatment option that is right
What are the risks of chemotherapy?
is medicine that travels through your bloodstream. It affects rapidly growing
cells in your body, which include the cancer cells as well as blood cells, hair
cells, and the cells that line your digestive tract.
short-term side effects include nausea and vomiting, hair thinning or hair
loss, mouth sores, diarrhea, and an increased chance of bleeding and infection.
Different chemotherapy medicines tend to cause different side effects. Many
women do not have problems with these side effects, while other women have a
great deal of difficulty. If you have problems, your health professional can
use other medicines to help relieve some of these side effects.3
You may feel very stressed while you are being
treated for breast cancer. Chemotherapy can also cause memory loss and make it
harder for you to concentrate. Support groups can help, but often women
continue to feel frightened, even after their treatment is finished. You may
find that staying active and involved helps you handle this stress.4
Long-term side effects of chemotherapy include
menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, as well as
infertility and thinning bones (osteoporosis).
You may have trouble concentrating for many months after your treatments are
finished. Rarely, chemotherapy can cause damage to the heart and can increase
your risk of other types of cancers, such as
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