Breast Cancer: A Common Cancer That’s Highly Treatable and Curable

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths behind lung cancer. It’s also the most common cancer among women. An estimated one in nine women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Breast cancer is cancer that develops in the tissues of the breast. Breast cancer also develops in the male breast, but women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

What elevates a person’s risk for breast cancer?

There are several factors known to increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Risk is increased, for example, in women with an immediate family member (i.e., mother, sister or daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Some families share genes (BRCA-1 and BRCA-2) that are known to predispose a person to breast cancer. However, most women who have breast cancer don’t carry these genes.

Risk for breast cancer is also elevated by increased hormone exposure, such as with certain birth control options and hormone replacement. But breast cancer also affects many women who have no risk factors.

Early detection saves lives!

Breast cancer is one of the more curable cancers, if it is detected and treated early. So it’s important for a woman to:

  • Examine her breasts for lumps or other changes once per month.
  • Have an annual breast exam from her primary or Women’s Health medical provider
  • If over age 40, have annual mammography screenings (earlier if elevated risk factors are present)

Following these steps improves a woman’s chances of early detection, though not all breast cancers can be detected early enough. For example, denser breast tissue reduces the effectiveness of mammography screenings. Also, some forms of breast cancer don’t form lumps, and others are not detectable on mammogram.

Cancer is definitively diagnosed via biopsy, which is the minimally invasive extraction of a tissue sample. The sample is sent for a pathology report to rule out or confirm the presence of cancer.

Symptoms of breast cancer. Know what to watch for.

An abnormality may be a sign you have breast cancer. Or not. All signs and symptoms should be investigated, but they don’t automatically indicate the presence of breast cancer. So see your doctor if you notice anything new, changing or unusual. Symptoms include:

  • Palpable lump or mass in the breast tissue
  • Changes in the feeling or appearance of the breast or nipple
  • Nipple discharge, especially clear or bloody
  • Swelling or lump in the armpit
  • Breast pain or tenderness
  • Noticeable indentations or flattening on the breast

How is breast cancer treated?

Breast cancer is, like many other forms of cancer, treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Surgery is the most common way to treat breast cancer, and it sometimes can cure (eliminate) a woman’s breast cancer alone. The two most common forms of breast cancer surgery are:

  • Mastectomy – Removal of the entire breast.
  • Lumpectomy – Removal of the tumor along with a margin of surrounding tissue. Preserves the breast issue, but requires radiation therapy to ensure all cancer cells have been destroyed. Also, lumpectomy isn’t always an option.

Breast cancer spread and relapse.

Like other cancers, breast cancer can spread… and can even return following treatment. After surgery, a pathologist evaluates the tumor to assess your risk for spread. We also evaluate for spread to lymph nodes, which can mean spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Breast cancer often returns in the lungs, the liver, or bones.

Breast cancer that returns to breast tissue or the chest wall is sometimes curable with additional treatment. But relapsing breast cancer that shows up in other parts of the body is generally not curable. Yet, there are more medications that fight relapsed breast cancer than for any other form of cancer. As a result, people are living high-quality lives for years with relapsed breast cancer.

Trust compassion, commitment, experience and leading-edge care.

A breast cancer diagnosis is usually a shock, overwhelming the individual as well as her family and support system. The news brings with it significant disruption and transition in the lives of these people, not to mention anxiety, confusion and even hopelessness. Which is why the choice of cancer care provider is so vitally important.

At Alpha Med Physicians Group, we treat breast cancer using today’s most advanced treatment modalities and protocols. But in addition to this full-spectrum care, we’re also compassionate people committed to the highest levels of service, individualized treatment and patient advocacy and guidance. We’ll do whatever we’re able to do to restore hope, eliminate confusion, reduce anxiety and ensure optimal treatment outcomes, because we’re behind you in your fight.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment for breast cancer surgery in Tinley Park, Homewood, Palos Heights and the greater Chicago area, call 708-342-1900. You can also request an appointment using our easy online form on this page.