Breast Cancer (cont.)
Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Breast cancer facts
- What is breast cancer?
- What are the different types of breast cancer?
- What causes breast cancer?
- What are breast cancer risk factors?
- What are breast cancer symptoms and signs?
- How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- How is breast cancer staging determined?
- What is the treatment for breast cancer?
- What is the prognosis of breast cancer?
- Can breast cancer be prevented?
- What research is being done on breast cancer? Should I participate in a clinical trial?
- I may have breast cancer. What questions should I ask my doctor?
- Is the doctor sure I have breast cancer?
- What type of breast cancer do I have?
- What difference does a precise diagnosis make?
- What has been done to exclude cancer in other areas of the same breast or in my other breast?
- What type of medical team do I need for the most accurate diagnosis?
- Is my family history relevant to my breast cancer diagnosis?
- What other studies should be done on my tissue biopsy?
- How urgent is it that I make decisions and begin treatment?
- Should I stop taking hormone therapy (HT)?
- Even though my breast tumor does not have hormone receptors, should I take tamoxifen to reduce the risk of a new tumor?
- I have a ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a type of localized cancer. Why have I been advised to have a mastectomy when other women with invasive cancer have lumpectomies?
- Should I start chemotherapy before surgery?
- If I am advised to have a mastectomy, what are the risks and benefits of immediate breast reconstruction?
- Should my lymph nodes be removed?
- What is a sentinel lymph node biopsy and what are its benefits and risks?
- Are there any other questions I should ask my doctor?
- Breast Cancer FAQs
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
What is the prognosis of breast cancer?
Survival rates are a way for health care professionals to discuss the prognosis and outlook of a cancer diagnosis with their patients. You have to determine if you want to know this number or not and should let your health care professional know.
The number most frequently discussed is 5-year survival. It is the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after they are diagnosed with cancer. Many of these patients live much longer, and some patients die earlier from causes other than breast cancer. With a constant change in therapies, these numbers also change. The current 5-year survival statistic is based on patients who were diagnosed at least 5 years ago and may have received different therapies than are available today.
All of this needs to be taken into consideration when interpreting these numbers for yourself.
Below are the statistics from the national cancer database and reflect patients who were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and 2002:
|Stage||5-year survival rate|
Can breast cancer be prevented?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer. Reviewing the risk factors and modifying the ones that can be altered (increase exercise, keep a good body weight, etc.) can help in decreasing the risk.
Following the American Cancer Society's guidelines for early detection can help early detection and treatment.
There are some subgroups of women that should consider additional preventive measures:
Women with a strong family history of breast cancer should be evaluated by genetic testing. This should be discussed with your health care professional and be preceded by a meeting with a genetic counselor who can explain what the testing can and cannot tell and then help interpret the results after testing.
Chemoprevention is the use of medications to reduce the risk of cancer. The two currently approved drugs for chemoprevention of breast cancer are tamoxifen (a medication that blocks estrogen effects on the breast tissue) and raloxifene (Evista), which also blocks the effect of estrogen on breast tissues. Their side effects and whether these medications are right for you need to be discussed with your health care professional.
Aromatase inhibitors are medications that block the production of small amounts of estrogen usually produced in postmenopausal women. They are being used to prevent reoccurrence of breast cancer but are not approved at this time for breast cancer chemoprevention.
Preventive surgery: For a small group of patients who have a very high risk of breast cancer, surgery to remove the breasts may be an option. Although this reduces the risk significantly, a small chance of developing cancer remains.
Some of the reasons for this approach may include:
- mutated BRCA genes found by genetic testing,
- a strong family history,
- a personal history of cancer in one breast.
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