A Visual Guide to Breast Cancer

Doctors aren’t sure why you get them, but think there’s a hormonal connection. You’re most likely to get one or more when you’re in your 20s and 30s.

Shifting hormone levels seem to play a role in two common conditions that can affect your breasts: fibrosis and cysts. Fibrosis happens when your breast tissue thickens and feels firm or rubbery in spots. Cysts are moveable bumps containing fluid. Together, these are called fibrocystic changes.

The most obvious risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman. Men get the disease, too, but it’s about 100 times more common in women. Other things that make it more likely include being over age 55 or having a close relative who had the disease. Still, up to 80% of women with breast cancer have no family history of the illness.

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Things That Can Look Like Breast Cancer

Breast Masses: Cancerous Tumor or Benign Lump?

Breast cancer isn’t what it was 20 years ago. Survival rates are climbing, thanks to greater awareness, more early detection, and advances in treatment. For roughly 284,000 Americans who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful.

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Breast Biopsy

Galactocele. This milk-filled cyst can show up while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Doctors think it’s caused by a plugged milk duct. It feels like a tender or painful lump. Remedies like cool compresses, ice packs, or a supportive bra may ease pain. Your doctor can also treat a galactocele by draining it. You’ll need antibiotics if it gets infected.

Another type of benign tumor is called an intraductal papilloma. This wart-like mass grows in a milk duct. A single papilloma can raise a small lump next to your nipple or behind it. It may lead to a clear or bloody nipple discharge. You’re most likely to get one when you’re 35-55 years old.

A Visual Guide to Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer, Signs, Symptoms, Stages, Treatment, About Risk Factors ...

The odds of beating breast cancer are strongly tied to how early you find it. The American Cancer Society says 99% of women with stage I breast cancer live at least 5 years, and many women in this group remain cancer-free for good. The more advanced the cancer, the lower this figure becomes. By Stage IV, the 5-year survival rate drops to 29%. But these rates will rise as more effective treatments are found.

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Radiation Therapy

This type of tumor, which shows up in the connective tissue of your breast, is also rare and is usually noncancerous. You’re most likely to get one when you’re in your 40s. It can show up as a lump that doesn’t hurt, but there’s a chance it may be painful. It can grow fast and stretch your skin.

There’s no doubt that cancer is a life-changing experience. The treatments can wear you out. You may have trouble managing daily chores, work, or social outings. This can make you feel isolated. It’s crucial to reach out to friends and family for support. They may be able to go with you to treatments, help out with chores, or just remind you that you aren’t alone. Many people choose to join a support group, either near them or online.

In up to 15% of breast cancers the tumor cells are lacking estrogen or progesterone receptors and have only small amounts of the HER2 protein. Doctors call this type of breast cancer “triple negative.” It tends to grow and spread faster than other types. Hormone therapy or targeted drugs aren’t helpful for this type. But there are other treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

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How To Notice Breast Cancer | MedicineBTG.com

If you find a lump or notice other changes in your breasts, you might worry that you have breast cancer. And you should make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out. But chances are that your breast condition is harmless, or benign.

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Benign Breast Tumors

The most common type of non-cancerous breast tumor is called a fibroadenoma. A fibroadenoma can look like a small marble, and you can move it under your skin. It’s usually firm and rubbery, and doesn’t hurt.

Mayo Clinic: “Breast lump: Early evaluation is essential.”

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Stage 4 Breast Cancer: Diagnosis, Treatment, Survival

Lots of conditions can cause symptoms like lumps, swelling, pain, or nipple discharge. Your doctor can find out what’s going on and make sure you get the right treatment.

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If you have a fibroadenoma that keeps growing or changing, your doctor can operate to remove it. But sometimes this type of tumor stops growing or shrinks without treatment. Your doctor might just watch it for any changes over time.

Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation: “Breast Cancer Detection.”

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