Breast Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    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.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    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.

Table of Contents

Quick GuideBreast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Is the doctor sure I have breast cancer?

Certain types of cancer are relatively easy to identify by standard microscopic evaluation of the tissue. This is generally true for the most common types of breast cancer. This obviously implies that you have had a biopsy (removal of some tissue at the possible cancer site) that was then reviewed by a pathologist.

However, as the search for earlier and rarer forms of breast cancer progresses, it can be difficult to be certain that a particular group of cells is malignant (cancerous). At the same time, benign conditions may have cells that are somewhat distorted in appearance or pattern of growth (known as atypical cells or atypical hyperplasia). For this reason, it is important that the pathologist reading the slides of your breast biopsy be experienced in breast pathology. Most good pathology groups have multiple pathologists review questionable or troublesome slides. In more difficult cases, the slides will often be sent to recognized specialists with considerable expertise in breast pathology.

I may have breast cancer. What questions should I ask my doctor?

If you have received a positive or possible diagnosis of breast cancer, there are a number of questions that you can ask your doctor. The answers you receive to these questions should give you a better understanding of your specific diagnosis and the corresponding treatment. It is usually helpful to write your questions down before you meet with your health-care provider. This gives you the opportunity to ask all your questions in an organized fashion.

There is much information available online about breast cancer. The reader should make sure to look at reliable and nationally known resources and verify all information with their health care team.

Each question is followed by a brief explanation as to why that particular question is important. We will not attempt to answer these questions in detail here because each individual case is just that, individual. This outline is designed to provide a framework to help you and your family make certain that most of the important questions in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment have been addressed. As cancer treatments are constantly evolving, specific recommendations and treatments might change and you should always confer with your treatment team regarding any questions. You obviously should add your own questions and concerns to these when you have a discussion with your doctor.

Reviewed on 6/26/2017
References
REFERENCES:

Kroener, L., D. Dumesic, and Z. Al-Safi. "Use of fertility medications and cancer risk: a review and update." Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol May 22, 2017.

Salerno, K,E. "NCCN Guidelines Update: Evolving Radiation Therapy Recommendations for Breast Cancer." J Natl Compr Canc Netw 15(5S) May 2017: 682-684.

Shield, Kevin D., et al. "Alcohol Use and Breast Cancer: A Critical Review." Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Apr. 30, 2016.

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