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Presents PLWC Slide Deck Series: Understanding Breast Cancer 2006 What is Cancer? A group of 100 different diseases The uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells Cancer may spread to other parts of the body What is Breast Cancer?

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PLWC Slide Deck Series:

Understanding Breast Cancer


what is cancer
What is Cancer?
  • A group of 100 different diseases
  • The uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells
  • Cancer may spread to other parts of the body
what is breast cancer
What is Breast Cancer?
  • The most common type of cancer in women in the United States (excluding cancers of the skin) and the second most frequent cause of death from cancer in women
  • A disease in which normal cells in the breast begin to change, grow without control, and no longer die
  • Cancer that has not spread is called in situ, meaning “in place”
  • Cancer that has spread is called invasive or infiltrating
what is the structure of the breast
What is the Structure of the Breast?
  • The breast is composed mainly of fatty tissue, which contains a network of lobes made up of tiny, tube-like structures called lobules that contain milk glands
  • Tiny ducts connect the glands, lobules, and lobes, and carry the milk from the lobes to the nipple
  • Blood and lymph vessels run throughout the breast
  • About 90% of all breast cancers originate in the ducts or lobes of the breast
what are the risk factors for breast cancer
What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?
  • Age
  • Race
  • Individual or family history of breast cancer
  • A history of ovarian cancer
  • A genetic predisposition (mutations to the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes cause 2% to 3% of all breast cancers)
  • Estrogen exposure
  • Atypical hyperplasia of the breast
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
  • Lifestyle factors (obesity, lack of exercise, alcohol use)
  • Radiation
hereditary breast cancer
Hereditary Breast Cancer
  • About 15% of breast cancers are inherited
  • Approximately 80% of hereditary breast cancer is caused by mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • Women who inherit a BRCA mutation have a 50% to 85% chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime
  • Women with especially strong family history may consider preventive surgery to remove breast tissue and/or chemoprevention
  • Several other genetic syndromes can increase breast cancer risk
  • Genetic counseling and testing is available for most syndromes
  • For more information,
breast cancer and early detection
Breast Cancer and Early Detection
  • Early diagnosis means a better chance of successful treatment
  • Mammography is the best tool doctors have to screen for breast cancer
  • Many organizations recommend that women obtain a mammogram each year, starting at the age of 40
  • Regular clinical breast examinations and breast self-examinations are also recommended
  • Women are encouraged to discuss the frequency of screening with their doctors
what are the symptoms of breast cancer
What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
  • New lumps or a thickening in the breast or under the arm
  • Nipple tenderness, discharge, or physical changes
  • Skin irritation or changes, such as puckers, dimples, scaliness, or new creases
  • Warm, red, swollen breasts with a rash resembling the skin of an orange
  • Pain in the breast (usually not a symptom of breast cancer, but should be reported to a doctor)
  • No visible or obvious symptoms (asymptomatic)
how is breast cancer evaluated
How is Breast Cancer Evaluated?
  • Screening and/or diagnostic mammography
  • Ultrasound
  • Magnetic Resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Biopsy is necessary to confirm a diagnosis
  • Blood tests are often used to determine if the cancer has spread outside the breast
  • Additional tests may be used to determine stage
breast cancer staging
Breast Cancer Staging
  • Staging is a way of describing a cancer, such as the depth of the tumor and where it has spread
  • Staging is the most important tool doctors have to determine a patient’s prognosis
  • Staging is described by the TNM system: the size of the Tumor, whether cancer has spread to nearby lymph Nodes, and whether the cancer has Metastasized (spread to organs such as the liver or lungs)
  • The type of treatment a person receives depends on the stage of the cancer
stage 0 breast cancer
Stage 0 Breast Cancer
  • Known as “cancer in situ,” meaning the cancer has not spread past the ducts or lobules of the breast (the natural boundaries)
  • Also called noninvasive cancer
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the most common in situ breast cancer
stage i breast cancer
Stage I Breast Cancer
  • The tumor is small and has not spread to the lymph nodes
stage iia breast cancer
Stage IIa Breast Cancer
  • Stage IIa breast cancer describes a smaller tumor that has spread to the axillary lymph nodes (lymph nodes under the arm), or a medium-sized tumor that has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes
  • Stage IIa may also describe cancer in the axillary lymph nodes with no evidence of a tumor in the breast
stage iib breast cancer
Stage IIb Breast Cancer
  • Stage IIb breast cancer describes a medium-sized tumor that has spread to the axillary lymph nodes
  • Stage IIb may also describe a larger tumor that has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes
stage iiia breast cancer
Stage IIIa Breast Cancer
  • Stage IIIa breast cancer describes any size tumor that has spread to the lymph nodes
stage iiib breast cancer
Stage IIIb Breast Cancer
  • Stage IIIb breast cancer has spread to the chest wall, or caused swelling or ulceration of the breast, or is diagnosed as inflammatory breast cancer
stage iiic breast cancer
Stage IIIc Breast Cancer
  • Stage IIIc breast cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes but has not spread to distant parts of the body
stage iv breast cancer
Stage IV Breast Cancer
  • Stage IV breast cancer can be any size and has spread to distant sites in the body, usually the bones, lungs or liver, or chest wall
how is breast cancer treated
How is Breast Cancer Treated?
  • Treatment depends on stage of cancer
  • More than one treatment may be used
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Targeted therapy
factors considered in treatment decisions
Factors Considered in Treatment Decisions
  • The stage and grade of the tumor
  • The tumor’s hormone receptor status (ER, PR)
  • Factors that may signify an aggressive tumor, such as HER-2/neu amplifications
  • The presence of known mutations to breast cancer genes
  • The patient’s menopausal status
  • The patient’s age and general health
cancer treatment surgery
Cancer Treatment: Surgery
  • Generally, surgery to remove the tumor with or without radiation therapy is initial treatment
  • For invasive cancer, lymph nodes are removed and evaluated
  • More invasive surgery (such as mastectomy) is not always better; discuss with your doctor
  • Breast reconstruction is an option after mastectomy
cancer treatment adjuvant therapy
Cancer Treatment: Adjuvant Therapy
  • Treatment given in addition to surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence
  • May include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biologic therapy, and hormone therapy
cancer treatment radiation therapy
Cancer Treatment: Radiation Therapy
  • The use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells
  • Usually used to treat breast cancer after surgery
  • Different methods of delivery
  • External-beam: outside the body
  • Internal: uses implants inside the body
  • Side effects may include fatigue, swelling, and skin changes
cancer treatment chemotherapy
Cancer Treatment: Chemotherapy
  • Drugs used to kill cancer cells
  • May be given before surgery to shrink a large tumor (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) or after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence (adjuvant chemotherapy)
  • A combination of medications is often used
cancer treatment hormone therapy
Cancer Treatment: Hormone Therapy
  • Used to manage tumors that test positive for either estrogen or progesterone receptors
  • May be used alone or together with chemotherapy
  • Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is a common hormone therapy and is effective in many premenopausal and postmenopausal women
  • Aromatase inhibitors are also used alone or following tamoxifen use as treatment for postmenopausal women, including anastrozole (Arimidex), letrozole (Femara), and exemestane (Aromasin)
new therapies targeted therapy
New Therapies: Targeted Therapy
  • Treatment designed to target cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells
  • Used to stop the action of abnormal proteins that cause cells to grow and divide out of control
  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin) for women with a HER-2/neu-positive breast cancer either with or after adjuvant chemotherapy
  • Bevacizumab (Avastin) blocks angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) and is under evaluation in clinical trials
the role of clinical trials for the treatment of breast cancer
The Role of Clinical Trials for the Treatment of Breast Cancer
  • Clinical trials are research studies involving people
  • They test new treatment and prevention methods to determine whether they are safe, effective, and better than the best known treatment
  • The purpose of a clinical trial is to answer a specific medical question in a highly structured, controlled process
  • Clinical trials can evaluate methods of cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, and/or quality of life
clinical trials patient safety
Clinical Trials: Patient Safety
  • Informed consent: Participants should understand why they are being offered entry into a clinical trial and the potential benefits and risks
  • Informed consent is an ongoing process; participants are constantly updated as new information becomes available
  • Participation is always voluntary, and patients can leave the trial at any time
clinical trials phases
Clinical Trials: Phases
  • Phase I trials determine safety and dose of a new treatment in a small group of people
  • Phase II trials provide more detail about the safety of the new treatment and determine how well it works for treating a given form of cancer
  • Phase III trials take a new treatment that has shown promising results when used to treat a small number of patients with cancer and compare it with the current, standard treatment for that disease; phase III trials involve a large number of patients
clinical trials resources
Clinical Trials Resources
  • Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups (
  • CenterWatch (
  • National Cancer Institute (
coping with the side effects of cancer and its treatment
Coping With the Side Effects of Cancerand its Treatment
  • Side effects are treatable; talk with the doctor or nurse
  • Fatigue is a common, treatable side effect
  • Pain is treatable; non-narcotic pain relievers are available
  • Antiemetic drugs can reduce or prevent nausea and vomiting
  • Lymphedema following breast cancer surgery can often be managed with help from your doctor
  • For more information, visit
follow up care
Follow-Up Care
  • Important to detect possible recurrence at the earliest stage
  • Monthly breast self-examinations
  • Physical examinations
  • Mammograms
  • Pelvic examinations
  • More information can be found in the ASCO Patient Guide: Follow-Up Care for Breast Cancer
where to find more information plwc guide to breast cancer www plwc org breast

Medical Illustrations

Risk Factors




Staging With Illustrations


Side Effects of Cancer and Cancer Treatment

Questions to Ask the Doctor

Current Research

Patient Information Resources

Clinical Trials Resources

Where to Find More Information: PLWC Guide to Breast Cancer (
people living with cancer www plwc org
People Living With Cancer (
  • PLWC is the cornerstone of ASCO’s patient resources program
  • Visitors to PLWC will find:
    • PLWC Guides to more than 90 types of cancer
    • Coping resources
    • Ask the ASCO Expert Series, including chats, Q&A forums, and event transcripts
    • Cancer information in Spanish
    • The latest cancer news
  • For patient information resources, please call 888-651-3038