Ongoing Research into Breast Cancer
Checking for Breast Cancer Recurrence
Breast cancer can recur at any time, but most recurrences occur in the first three to five years after initial treatment. Breast cancer can come back as a local recurrence (in the treated breast or near the mastectomy scar) or as a distant recurrence somewhere else in the body. The most common sites of recurrence outside the breast include the lymph nodes, the bones, liver, lungs, or brain. Breast changes that might indicate a recurrence include:
- An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
- Lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle.
- A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast.
- A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
- A marble-like area under the skin.
- A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple, including skin that is dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed (red, warm, or swollen)
- Bloody or clear fluid discharge from the nipples
- Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple
In addition to performing monthly breast self-exams, regular (once every 3-4 months) follow-up appointments with a physician should be scheduled. A breast exam, lab or imaging tests as needed, should be performed during these visits.
Breast Cancer in Young Women
Younger women generally do not consider themselves to be at risk for breast cancer. Just fewer than 7% of all breast cancer cases occur in women under 40 years old. However, breast cancer can strike at any age, and women of every age should be aware of their personal risk factors for breast cancer.
Breast Cancer and Pregnancy
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in pregnant women and tends to affect women in their mid-30s. About one in every 1,000 pregnant women get breast cancer, the disease can be devastating to both the mother and her child -- so it is essential that pregnant women and their doctors continue to do routine breast exams and thoroughly investigate any suspicious lumps and symptoms.
A major problem is that a lot of changes take place in a woman's breasts during pregnancy. This makes it harder to identify small lumps. Lumps can also be mistaken for a normal change in pregnancy. In addition, breast cancer tumours in pregnant women are often larger and more advanced by the time they are detected than lumps in women of the same age that are not pregnant. Although pregnancy doesn't cause breast cancer, the hormonal changes in the body can accelerate its growth.