By Annette Brooks
You’ve heard that one out of every eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, but a recent study indicates this percentage may be increasing. With odds like these, screening mammograms aren’t an option — they’re essential. Mammograms are considered the most effective method of detecting breast cancer early when it’s most curable.
If mammogram results indicate possible abnormalities, you’ll be scheduled for further imaging and evaluation and possibly a biopsy. The type of biopsy you receive depends on what the imaging tests reveal, such as the size and location of the abnormality, and if there’s more than one suspicious area. Usually, a needle biopsy — ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration or image-guided core needle biopsy — versus a surgical biopsy can be performed.
Most biopsy results are benign (non-cancerous). When cancer is detected, your pathology report will reveal more than a basic cancer diagnosis. You’ll get information about the size, location, and type. The most prevalent breast cancer types include ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), invasive (ductal carcinoma, which accounts for about 80% of all diagnoses, and invasive lobular carcinoma), triple-negative, and inflammatory. You’ll also receive information about whether it’s hormone receptor (estrogen and progesterone) positive or negative, HER2 positive or negative, and how fast the cancer cells are growing and dividing.
Breast cancer treatment options depend on your diagnosis. Local treatments include partial or complete mastectomy (breast removal), tissue-sparing lumpectomy, and radiation therapy. Systemic treatments include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted drug therapy, and immunotherapy.
Based on your diagnosis and recommended treatment plan, the doctors on your treatment team could include a breast surgeon or surgical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist — a physician who uses chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and other medicines to treat cancer, and a plastic surgeon who performs breast reconstruction after a mastectomy or lumpectomy.
Once removed, tumors are sent to a lab for testing, and the report will confirm the cancer stage, class, and more. Today, Oncotype DX genomic testing is usually performed, which can predict how likely the breast cancer will recur. A low Oncotype score suggests a low risk of recurrence and that the benefits of chemotherapy will likely not outweigh the risks of side effects.
No time is a good time to have breast cancer, but thanks to advanced research and modern medicine, we know more about breast cancer and how to successfully treat it today than ever before.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Caught in its earliest stage, breast cancer survival rate is 99%
- Breast cancer deaths are declining thanks to early detection, better screening, increased awareness, and new treatment options
- There are over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States
- Breast cancer isn’t preventable, but you can decrease your risk