Cancer of the breast (breast cancer) is an abnormal growth of cells that form tumors in the breast. If the cancer spreads to other areas of your body, it is still breast cancer, and is called metastatic breast cancer.
There are different types and stages of breast cancer that based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the tumor started, and where it has spread. Knowing your type and stage of breast cancer helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat breast cancer as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the tumor cells, prevent a local cancer from spreading, and prevent metastatic cancer from spreading more than it already has.
Several things increase your risk for breast cancer, including:
You are over age 60.
You had breast cancer or some non-cancerous breast diseases.
You have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer (especially mother, sister, or daughter, but also from other relatives on either your fatherâ€™s or motherâ€™s side).
You have mutations in certain genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2).
You had radiation therapy to the chest.
You drink alcohol (risk rises as intake increases).
You are overweight or obese after menopause.
You do not get regular exercise.
You had your first period before the age of 12.
You never gave birth.
You were older at the birth of your first child.
You did not breastfeed.
You went through menopause after age 55.
You take hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progesterone) for many years.
How can I take care of myself when I go home?
Your chance of cure depends on how far the cancer has spread. How long it takes to get better depends on your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have. You may need to make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible or manage other treatments you may need.
Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins.
Your provider may also prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
Treat or prevent an infection
Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
Treat or prevent low blood counts caused by the cancer or its treatment
Help your immune system fight cancer
If you have had surgery, to care for your surgical wound:
Keep your surgical wound clean.
If you are told to change the dressing wound, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines.
You may need other treatments for your cancer after you leave the hospital. Treatments may include:
Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells. Different types of chemotherapy may be given in the hospital, outpatient clinic, or at home.
Biological therapy, which uses medicine designed to help your immune system fight the cancer or block the growth of cancer cells.
Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation treatment may be done in the hospital or and outpatient clinic.
Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments and routine tests.
Keep appointments for all other testing you may need. Testing may include:
Blood tests to check for certain hormones, proteins, or chemicals that may be high if you have cancer
Bone X-rays: Pictures of your bones to check for cancer
Bone scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows any areas of bone where the radioactive material is being absorbed.
Chest X-ray: Pictures of the inside of your chest to check for cancer.
Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections other areas where the cancer may have spread
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show other areas where the cancer may have spread
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.
Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.
Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:
Deep bone pain
Chest or breast pain or discomfort
Nausea or vomiting
Numbness, swelling, or pain in your hand or arm on the same side as your breast surgery
If you had surgery, signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
The area around your wound is more red or painful
Your wound area is very warm to touch
You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
You have a fever of 100.5 degrees F (38.1 degrees C) or higher
National Cancer Instituteâ€™s Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237) http://www.cancer.gov
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Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-12-19 Last reviewed: 2014-11-21
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Cancer of the Breast Discharge Information: References
Armitage, J. O., Doroshow, J. H., Kastan, M. B., Niederhuber, J. E., & Tepper, J. E. (2014). Cancer of the Breast. Abeloff’s clinical oncology (Fifth ed., p. online). Philadelphia: Saunders.