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Breast Cancer

Treatment on the Gulf Coast

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States and affects over 300,000 women in America each year. This means that one in eight women in American will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Many women in the Mobile and the Gulf Coast will be affected by breast cancer. Infirmary Cancer Care specializes in diagnosing and treating breast cancer and is one of only three centers in Alabama to have been accredited for our care by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. With specialists in breast radiology, oncology, surgery, reconstructive surgery and psychotherapy, Infirmary Cancer Care can aid you in your fight against breast cancer.

Symptoms & Risks

Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in one’s breasts. Symptoms of breast cancer can include swelling and irritation in the breast; pain, dimpling, nipple pain or deformation, lumps in the underarm area, nipple discharge, redness or scaliness of nipple or breast.

You are at greater risk of breast cancer if you are female, older and African American. Those with a family history of breast cancer or radiation therapy to the chest also have a higher risk. Also, women exposed to high levels of estrogen through early puberty or late menopause as well as women who have not carried a pregnancy to term or became pregnant after 30 are at higher risk. Finally, if you took Diethylstilbestrol (DES) you are at a higher risk of breast cancer.

A small percentage of breast cancers, 5-10% are linked to genetic mutations. Women possessing the BRCA1 mutation are at a 55-65% risk of developing breast cancer. Women with the BRCA2 mutation have about a 45% risk of developing breast cancer.

Breast cancer is not fully preventable. However, an individual can lower their risk of developing breast cancer through general health maintenance. This can include exercise, not excessively drinking, not smoking and not exposing oneself to estrogen.

Diagnosis & Staging

If you suffer from one of the symptoms described above, it is important to see a doctor. Breast cancer has two types: in situ cancers and invasive cancers. In situ breast cancers are non-invasive and usually involve cancer limited to the milk ducts or glands. Invasive breast cancers are those that have spread to the surrounding tissue or organs.

Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most frequent breast cancer. This type of cancer spreads from milk ducts to other body parts. Invasive lobular carcinoma is the second most common type of breast cancer and begins in the lobules. This is a hard cancer to detect. Inflammatory breast cancer is exceedingly rare and causes a mastitis-type look to the breast. This type of cancer is relatively hard to treat.

Breast cancer can be diagnosed through mammograms, X-Rays and ultrasounds. Women should also regularly self-examine their breasts. Once breast cancer is suspected through the above means, a biopsy is performed. Types of biopsies can include:

  • Fine needle aspiration
  • Core needle biopsies
  • Vacuum-assisted core biopsies
  • Surgical biopsy
  • Lymph node biopsy

A physician will also look to whether cancer has metastasized and hormone receptor status to determine how aggressive the cancer is and how best to treat it. Breast cancer is usually graded along a four-stage scale depending on aggressiveness.

Treatments & Palliative Care

Treatments for breast cancer can involve hormone and chemical therapies and more common cancer treatments such as radiation and surgery. Breast cancer treatments have advanced significantly and the chance of surviving from breast cancer is quite high. This is because of personalized treatment plans and targeted therapies.

After diagnosis, your doctor will formulate a patient-specific plan that includes targeted therapies. Some of these are anti-HER2 drugs. These drugs target HER2 cells that make breast cancer more aggressive and slow the spread of the cancer. Many doctors will also propose hormonal therapy. Given to women with hormone-receptor+ cancer, this type of therapy usually works to regulate estrogen levels to control cancer. Infirmary Health also offers palliative care and supportive care to women suffering from breast cancer. Whatever, your type of breast cancer, our specialists can target treatment to ensure the most effective treatment possible.

If you or a loved one is suffering from breast cancer, call (251) 435-2273 today to speak with one of our medical specialists.

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