In Breast Cancer 101 (Part 1), we covered breast cancer risk factors, prevention, and screening. We’ll now look at breast cancer symptoms, treatments, and new developments in breast cancer care.

Discovering a change in your breasts can be unsettling, but acting on it promptly is the best way to pursue early treatment if needed. Today, there are many more resources available for early detection, prevention, and treatment of breast cancer than ever before. Here are some possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer, as well as current and evolving treatment options.

Signs & Symptoms of Breast Cancer

As early as middle school, you may have learned to check your breasts and armpits for lumps, the most common signs of breast cancer. It’s important to note, however, that not all lumps are cancerous — it’s possible a new mass could be a cyst or another benign abnormality — and not all breast cancers manifest as lumps.

For this reason, it’s also important to be mindful of the other potential signs of breast cancer, which often go overlooked. These symptoms may include:

  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
  • Thickening or swelling in one area of the breast
  • Flaking skin or redness
  • Inverted or painful nipples
  • Nipple discharge other than breastmilk
  • Variations in breast size or shape
  • Discomfort anywhere in the breast

Though these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, any of the above or other changes to your breasts warrant a prompt call to your healthcare provider. Moreover, since breast cancer doesn’t always present outward symptoms, you should also be discussing routine screenings and risk factors with your doctor.

Current Breast Cancer Treatment Options

There are five main treatment options for breast cancer: surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies.

Some treatment options only affect the tumor and its surrounding area, while others deliver cancer-fighting agents to the whole body. The type and stage of breast cancer you’re diagnosed with will help determine the most appropriate treatment plan for you.

Localized treatments include surgery to remove the tumor, or radiation therapy, which delivers high-energy rays to kill cancer cells in the area. Sometimes a combination of both is recommended. “Depending on how advanced the cancer is, and surgical success,” says Dr. Rick A. Brewer, Chief Medical Officer at Morgan Medical Center, “other types of treatments may be needed as well, but your cancer treatment team should work closely with you to determine the optimal option.”

Systemic treatments are designed to kill cancer cells virtually anywhere in the body. Chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy are examples of these systemic treatments.

While chemotherapy is used to shrink or kill cancer cells, hormone therapy blocks cancer cells from receiving the hormones they need to continue growing. Other systemic therapies boost your body’s immune system to fight off cancer cells. And each of these intensive treatments can be administered in different ways, including orally or via injection.

A Positive Future

Even with so many innovations in the last several decades, scientists continue to evolve breast cancer treatments. Not only are new drugs being researched continuously, but more effective combinations of existing drugs are also being studied.

Thanks to past research, we also now know that breast cancer is divided into subtypes, which is helpful for informing treatment decisions. Because each subtype behaves differently, treatment methods for the various types can be further refined. Coupled with advancements made in early detection, such as 3D mammography, the medical community is better equipped for handling breast cancer than ever before, and will only continue to improve.

Morgan Medical Center is a trusted facility staffed with caring radiologists and women’s healthcare providers to help patients take a defensive approach against breast cancer and other serious illnesses. Find out about our women’s health care services online, or call us at (706) 438-1276 to learn more.