Breast Cancer in Nevada

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that develops from cells in the breast. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. It is estimated that 266,120 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 42,000 women will die from the disease in 2019. These death rates, however, are declining due to earlier detection and improved treatment options.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

  • Age – breast cancer usually occurs in women over the age of 50, but can occur in women regardless of age.
  • Genetic changes – about five to 10 percent of breast cancers are attributed to genetic changes.
  • Family history – the chance of developing breast cancer increases when immediate family members have the disease.
  • Personal history – women who had cancer in one breast will have an increased risk of developing cancer in another area of that same breast or in the other breast.
  • Race – Caucasian women have higher incident rates, but African American women have higher death rates.
  • Menstrual periods – women who began their menstrual periods before the age of 12 or went through menopause after the age of 55 have an increased chance of breast cancer.
  • Treatment with DES – some women, in the past, were given DES (diethylstilbestrol) to help with pregnancy. Recent studies have shown these women have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer.
  • Alcohol – consumption of alcohol can slightly increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. The American Cancer Society suggests limiting the amount of alcohol consumption.
  • Weight – being overweight is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. Diet and weight are also linked to other cancer types and heart disease.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common sign of breast cancer is a lump or mass. It is usually hard, painless and has uneven edges. Some lumps or masses, however, can be soft and rounded. Anything unusual should be evaluated by a doctor immediately. Other signs include:

  • Swelling in part of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
  • Redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge that is not breast milk
  • Lump in the underarm

Screening

Regular screening improves the chance that breast cancer can be found and treated successfully at an early stage.

  • Mammograms – The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening mammography for women every one to two years for women age 40 years and older. The American Cancer Society recommends that women begin having yearly mammograms by age 45, and they can change to having mammograms every other year beginning at age 55. The ACS indicates women should have the choice to start yearly mammogram screening as early as age 40 if they so desire.
  • Clinical Breast Exams – women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every three years, and women over the age of 40 should have the exam every year.
  • Breast Self-Exams – women should begin to administer breast self-exams in their 20s. Any changes in their breast should be reported to a doctor immediately. Click here to download our breast self-exam card.

Genetic Testing

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor may recommend genetic testing with our cancer genetic counselor, Barbara Caldwell, MSN, APRN to see if you have an inherited gene mutation, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. This can help you understand your risk for developing other cancers, as well as your family’s risk of developing cancer. This can also help your doctor decide on the best course of treatment as certain therapies are designed for patients with specific gene mutations. For more information about cancer genetic counseling, click here.

Diagnosis & Staging

Symptoms of breast cancer vary, and some people don’t notice any at all. If a routine mammogram or clinical breast exam shows something abnormal, you’ll need follow-up tests, which may include a diagnostic mammogram, breast ultrasound or breast MRI. If these tests are inconclusive, you’ll need a biopsy, which can be done by our board-certified breast surgeons.

If cancer is found, a physician will need to determine the progression of the cancer. This classification, called staging, allows the healthcare provider to properly identify a treatment plan and to determine the prognosis. All cancers are staged on a Roman numeral scale, of I-IV (1-4), where the higher stage represents more advanced cancer.

Treatment

There are several options to treat breast cancer including, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Each method may be used alone, or in combination.

  • Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs are administered orally or infused directly into the bloodstream. The drugs travel throughout the body reaching cancer cells that may have spread beyond the breast into other part of the body.
  • Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells in the treatment area. It is primarily administered from a machine outside the body, similar to an x-ray, but for a longer period of time.
  • Surgery treats the cancer by removing the cancerous tissue. The type of surgery required depends on the stage of the cancer.
    • Lumpectomy – involves removing the lump or mass and some of the normal tissue around it.
    • Partial (segmental) Mastectomy – involves removing more breast tissue than a Lumpectomy.
    • Simple or Total Mastectomy – involves the removal of the entire breast, but not the lymph nodes under the arm.
    • Modified Radical Mastectomy – involves the removal of the entire breast and some of the lymph nodes under the arm.

Clinical Research

At Comprehensive Cancer Centers, research and the participation in clinical research trials is a vital part of our mission. Our physicians are dedicated to finding new ways to treat this disease. We are able to offer our patients access to groundbreaking clinical research close to home. Many of the advancements being made in cancer treatment are the result of in-depth clinical research. For more information about our research efforts, click here.