Monday, April 12, 2010

Goals of chemotherapy

Your healthcare team will tell you why chemotherapy is a treatment option for you. A medical oncologist will explain your treatment plan. The chemotherapy can pursue the following objectives:

Destruction of Cancer
Chemotherapy, used alone or in combination with other treatments designed to destroy cancer cells in the body. Many types of cancer can be treated with a combination of chemotherapy drugs (combination chemotherapy).
Shrink a tumor before other treatments
Chemotherapy is sometimes used to shrink a tumor before surgery or radiotherapy (neoadjuvant chemotherapy).
Destruction of cancer cells after other treatments
Chemotherapy is often used in addition to surgery or radiation to destroy cancer cells that have escaped the scalpel or X-rays (adjuvant chemotherapy).
Preparation for bone marrow or stem cell
Some types of cancer can be treated by bone marrow or stem cells. High doses of chemotherapy drugs are used to destroy existing bone marrow before it is replaced by stem cells or bone marrow from a donor (ablative chemotherapy).
Relief of symptoms caused by cancer
Chemotherapy may be used to alleviate pain and other symptoms caused by cancer (palliative chemotherapy).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of cancer that can develop and spread quickly, even during the early stages of the disease. This type of cancer can develop when breast cancer cells block the lymph vessels to help remove fluids, bacteria and other waste from breast tissue. It may then result in inflammation of the breasts. Unlike most breast cancers, which cause the appearance of one or several different solid tumors, inflammatory breast cancer tends to grow in layers or nests.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer vary from person to person and can occur suddenly. Consult your doctor if you notice one or more of the following symptoms:

    * Changing the size or shape of the breast, the breast volume can take some time (for some women, the equivalent of a cup size bra in a few more weeks);
    * Boobs hot or warm to the touch;
    * Change in color or normal breast texture of the skin of the breast can become red, pink or bruised for no apparent reason (in whole or in patches);
    * Itchy breasts as ointments or creams can not relieve;
    * Sudden onset of a lump in the breast, but as inflammatory breast cancer tends to grow in layers instead of forming a solid tumor, a person with this type of cancer may not necessarily see the presence of a breast lump;
    * Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or above the clavicle;
    * Discharge from the nipple.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer may be similar to a breast infection (mastitis), which can be treated successfully with antibiotics. If antibiotic treatment fails to relieve symptoms, it is important to consult your doctor again. Other tests may be needed to confirm or exclude a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer.

Inflammatory breast cancer is usually detected by mammography or ultrasound unless a solid tumor has developed. The biopsy is the surest way to detect inflammatory breast cancer.

Treatment is often undertaken on the spot because inflammatory breast cancer can spread quickly. We usually use a combination of treatments: chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy. As cancer cells proliferate in inflammatory breast all the breast tissue rather than concentrating in a single tumor, chemotherapy is often administered prior to surgery or radiotherapy.

Treatments for Breast Cancer

Before starting treatment, talk about contraception with your doctor. If you are in childbearing age, it is important to use contraception during treatment, even if your periods stop. You may still be fertile during this period and get pregnant. However, some treatments against cancer can affect fetal development.


The type of surgery will depend on the tumor location and size. During the intervention, there will be partial or total removal of the tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue. The operation will be performed under general anesthesia (you are asleep) and you will be hospitalized for several days after the operation.

Surgery is the treatment most often recommended in cases of breast cancer. The interventions are of two types:

    * Breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy): removal of a breast tumor and some surrounding tissue, but not the entire breast;
    * Mastectomy: removal of the entire breast

During surgery, the surgeon generally removes some lymph nodes under the armpit to see if they contain cancer cells. This procedure is called axillary dissection. It could also offer a more recent technique, called sentinel node biopsy, which can reduce the number of nodes removed.

After surgery, it may be that you felt some pain or nausea, or you have no appetite. These side effects are temporary and can be mitigated. Depending on the amount of breast tissue removed and the location of the tumor, it may be that your breast no longer look the same after surgery. In some cases, it is possible to have breast reconstruction during the same operation, otherwise you will have the opportunity later.

Removal of lymph nodes under the armpit can cause an accumulation of lymph fluid and swelling in the arm and hand. This is called lymphedema.

Care practices and side effects after surgery


In external radiotherapy, using a large device that can direct a beam of radiation to the precise location of the tumor. The radiation damages the cells that are in the path of the beam - normal cells as cancer cells. In internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy, radioactive elements are placed directly into or near the tumor.

The lumpectomy is almost always followed by external radiation therapy to destroy any cancer cells that may still be present in the breast area. In some cases, the region of lymph nodes will also be treated. Sometimes use of radiotherapy after a mastectomy.

Side effects of radiation therapy are usually mild and vary by body part being treated. Perhaps you feel more tired than usual or notice that your skin looks different (it may be red or be sensitive to the touch) to the treated area. The nipple and the fold under the breast may also be sensitive or sore. These side effects result from damage to healthy cells, they usually fade away once the treatment is completed and the cells were regenerated. The radiation directed toward the armpit may increase the risk of lymphedema.

Side effects of radiotherapy


Chemotherapy can be administered as tablets or by injection. Chemotherapy drugs prevent the development and spread of cancer cells, but they also damage the cells that are healthy. Healthy cells can recover over time, but in the meantime, the treatment may cause some side effects at home, such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, hair loss and increased risk of infection .

Some chemotherapy drugs can affect fertility. If you plan to have children after treatment, discuss the options available to you with your doctor.

Side effects of chemotherapy


Hormones are chemical substances that are either naturally secreted by the human body, is synthesized in the laboratory. Hormone therapy is a treatment that removes hormones or your body that neutralizes the effects to prevent cancer cells from developing. You can change hormone levels with medication, with surgery or radiotherapy.

If the hormonal receptor status of the tumor that you are achieving is positive, your doctor may suggest to take hormone.

The hormonal drug can be administered as tablets or by injection, or both. Side effects vary from one drug to another. You may experience symptoms similar to those of menopause: irregular periods, hot flushes, vaginal irritation or loss. These effects can usually be mitigated or alleviated. They often disappear after treatment, but it may happen that the menopause is final.

Biological therapy

This form of breast cancer treatment involves using drugs to inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells and mobilize the body's immune system to destroy them.

Biological therapy may be indicated for women whose breast cancer has a high protein Her2. The drug is given by injection, sometimes in combination with chemotherapy. It can cause side effects similar to flu symptoms (fever, chills, nausea), headache, rash or heart problems.

Pain relief

See how you can mitigate and control the pain as discomfort, side effects and stress while you follow your treatments against cancer.

Coping with cancer
However, regardless of your (newly diagnosed cancer, current treatment or coach to a person with cancer), you will probably solve many practical problems, difficult decisions and manage a range of emotions.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

  It is likely that your doctor has suspected the presence of breast cancer:

    *      Due to an abnormality revealed by mammography screening;
    *      Because you would have reported a change in your breast or nipple;
    *      After examining your breasts and you have asked about your health and your personal and family medical history.

If you have a lump in one breast, your doctor palpated to determine the size, shape and texture, and check if it is easily mobile. Often, the masses are different from non-cancerous tumor masses to the touch. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor will use some analysis, which will also establish the "stage" and "grade" (degree of malignancy) of cancer. It may be that you have to spend any of the following tests.

Imaging Techniques

These techniques allow to carry out a thorough examination of tissues, organs and bones. Radiography, ultrasonography, computed tomography [CT] and bone scan are all means for your health care team to obtain an image of the tumor and whether it has spread. These tests are usually painless and do not require anesthesia.

Even if you had a mammogram screening, diagnostic mammography will be performed. During this procedure, we take more photographs of the breast that appeared abnormal on the mammogram. A mammogram can lead to discomfort and can even be painful because the breast is compressed between two plates of glass. You must remain still for less than a minute while taking mammograms.


A biopsy is usually required to establish with certainty a diagnosis of cancer. This procedure involves removing cells for examination under a microscope. If the cells are cancerous, it will then determine how quickly they multiply. There are several types of breast biopsies.

    *      The fine needle aspiration biopsy uses a thin needle to remove fluid or cells from the mass. The procedure is quick but can be uncomfortable because of breast tenderness.

    *      During a core needle biopsy, the doctor inserts a needle into a small incision in the breast to remove one or more samples of breast tissue. If necessary, we will use the ultrasound or X-ray to guide the needle into the ground and a local anesthetic will be used to numb the area under consideration. After the biopsy, it is possible that the breast is sensitive and bruises appear for a short period.

    *      A biopsy is a surgical procedure that involves removing part or all of a lump in one breast or breast tissue suspected. It may be of two types. During a biopsy incision, a sample is a mass or abnormal area. In an excisional biopsy, we remove the entire mass or suspicious tissue. The biopsy may take place either in the doctor's office or at the hospital, outpatient clinic (you will not spend the night in the hospital). A local anesthetic will be used to numb the area under consideration.

Laboratory Tests

If the sample used for the biopsy contains cancer cells, your doctor may request further analysis of breast tissue removed. These tests will have a better idea of the state of cancer and offer the best treatment options.

    *      The analysis of hormone receptor status is used to detect the presence of certain hormone receptors. The breast cancer cells bearing these receptors need estrogen and progesterone to grow. If there are hormone receptors in the biopsy sample, we say that the tumor is hormone dependent (hormone receptor positive). Knowing hormone receptor status of the tumor helps predict how it will evolve and whether it is likely to respond to hormonal therapy. The tumors are more common in a hormone-menopausal women.

    *      The test for detection of Her2 gene to verify the presence of an oncogene that regulates the protein called Her2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, or receptor 2 human epidermal growth factor). This protein is found on the surface of breast cells and stimulates their growth, some breast cancer cells contain much more than others. If there is an excessive amount of Her2 protein or copies of the gene that governs, we say that the tumor is Her2-positive. Breast Her2-positive do not evolve like other breast cancers and require special treatment.

    *      It could happen that blood tests are required. Using samples of your blood, it verifies the amount and appearance of different types of blood cells. The doctor can see whether your organs are functioning normally. Test results may also provide evidence suggesting the presence or absence of cancer and, where applicable, the spread of the disease.