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Discovering Breast Cancer (Part 2) FAQs

Finding out that you have breast cancer can be shocking news for many individuals. Understandably, you may have many questions. We will look further into other common questions some individuals may have. We hope that within this piece, we can answer some more general questions you may have. Of course, every individual’s experience is different. Therefore, we highly encourage you also seek advice from your doctor and other medical professionals.

How Quickly Does Breast Cancer Spread?

Cancer begins when there are mutations in the breast cell. The tumor will then multiply and divide over time (which will lead to the tumor growing and spreading). How quickly breast cancer spreads will depend on each individual, the stage of cancer, and other factors (such as age or genetics). It will also depend on what type of breast cancer one has. Some breast cancers are more aggressive and spread faster than others. For example, hormone receptor-positive breast cancers tend to move slower than others. Meanwhile, HER2-positive tumors and triple-negative breast cancer cells are more aggressive and move faster.

Where Does Breast Cancer Spread?

The more a tumor grows, the higher the chance it has to spread to other nearby tissue outside of the initially affected area. Breast cancer cells can move past the breast area and spread to other surrounding areas (such as the lymph nodes near our underarms or collarbone). Cancer cells can also travel through the bloodstream into other areas of our body. Or they move through the lymphatic system to other parts of the body. Cancer cells can spread to any part of our body. However, the most common areas are the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, bones, and brain.

What Is the Survival Rate of Breast Cancer?

The American Cancer Society goes more in-depth on their survival rates. They break it down into a 5-year relative survival rate. The relative survival rate compares women with the same type and same stage of breast cancer to women in the overall population. A 5 -year relative survival rate calculates the 5-year survival rate of women (who all have that same breast cancer) compared to women who do not have breast cancer. Breast cancer is broken down into the following stages:

  • Localized: No signs that the breast cancer has spread outside the breast area.
  • Regional: Cancer has spread to other nearby areas or lymph nodes.
  • Distant: Cancer has spread to distant areas such as the lungs, liver, or bones.


The following chart is provided by the Amercian Cancer Society:

SEER Stage 5-year Relative Survival Rate
Localized* 99%
Regional 86%
Distant 29%
All SEER stages combined 90%

*Numbers are based on women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2011 and 2017. The rate for the localized stage only includes invasive cancer cases.

How Many Breast Cancer Cases Are There per Year?

According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, there were about 26.6 million new cases of breast cancer in women in 2020. Meanwhile, about 2,262,419 breast cancer incidents occurred worldwide. Meanwhile, there were 684,996 mortality incidents worldwide in 2020.

How Many Breast Cancer Survivors Are There in the US?

According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, there are more than 4 million breast cancer survivors in the US alone (this includes individuals who are still being treated and have completed treatment.

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How Long Can You Have Breast Cancer without Knowing?

Someone can go on for several years without realizing they have breast cancer. Most people don’t find out until they have developed a noticeable symptom (such as finding a lump around the breast area). Some cancers are also easier to detect than others. For example, women with dense breast tissue may not realize they have breast cancer until a later stage (due to it being more difficult to find something in a mammogram). Some individuals can go up to ten years without knowing they have breast cancer. It takes longer for something to be diagnosed in younger women because they are sometimes not taken seriously (or they believe that because they are young, there is no worry). 

Why Is Breast Cancer So Common?

More research is needed to understand why breast cancer is common among women. Many factors lead to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. For example, hormones play a major role in the development of breast cancer cells. Before pregnancy, fully formed breasts tend to be more receptive to hormones (such as estrogen). Age is also a factor where risk increases with age and peaks at menopause. The start of menopause is when there’s an increase in exposure to estrogen (which increases the risk of breast cancer). Over there years, there has also been an increase in alcohol consumption, a decrease in physical activity, and a rise in obesity levels. All these factors are also known to increase the risk of breast cancer.

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What Can You Do to Avoid Breast Cancer?

There are many steps you can take to help keep your breasts healthy. Some actions you can take may include:

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight: There appears to be a link between fat tissue, estrogen, and menopause. Those with more fat tissue (especially after menopause) are at a higher risk of having a faster progression of breast cancer. This event can be attributed to estrogen-sensitive breast cancer tissues being exposed to more estrogen than those with a lower weight.
  2. Exercising: Finding enjoyable ways to move your body can help strengthen your Immune system, help maintain a healthy weight, and lower estrogen and insulin levels. Exercise can also help strengthen bone mass- which is essential in cancer survivors who have undergone treatment. Try aiming for more than 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity for at least five days of the week.
  3. Staying hydrated and eating a healthy and balanced diet: always aim to have a healthy and well-balanced plate each meal. Consider following or incorporating a Mediterranean diet into your meals.
  4. Limiting alcohol consumption: As stated above, overconsumption of alcohol is linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
  5. Taking Vitamins: Studies link vitamin D deficiency with a higher risk of developing breast cancer- or having it reoccur. Aim to have plenty of safe sun exposure, and consider talking with your doctor about taking supplements if you have a concern.
  6. Be Vigilante: Be aware of any changes you may notice around the breast area. If you have any questions or concerns- we highly recommend you meet up with your doctor.

How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?

Doctors use various tests to help diagnose breast cancer. These are several of the tests they may conduct:

  • Breast ultrasound: An ultrasound machine uses sound waves to produce images deep within your breast, which can determine if a new lump is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst.
  • Mammogram: Mammograms (especially when diagnostic) are x-rays that can produce a very detailed x-ray of the breast.
  • Breast Exam: The American Cancer Society no longer recommends a clinical breast exam as a screening method for breast cancer. However, your physician may still want to feel around your breasts and lymph nodes under your armpits to check for abnormalities or noticeable lumps.
  • Biopsy: This type of test uses a tool to remove tissue or fluid from the breast and send it to the laboratory for analysis. From there, experts can determine if a cell is cancerous, what type of breast cancer cells they are, how aggressive the cancer is, and if the cancer cells have a hormone receptor (or any other receptor).
  • Breast Magnetic Resonance imaging (MRI): The body scan uses a magnet and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the interior of your breast. Before the exam, they inject dye into you.

How Does Breast Cancer Feel?

While breast cancer does affect how your body feels, many side effects result from treatment. Some common effects may include:

  1. Tiredness: A common side effect/symptom is fatigue. This feeling can last for a long time after treatment.
  2. Skin and hair changes: Chemotherapy may lead to your hair falling out. It can also make your skin feel itchy, red, and dry. However, it is possible that post-treatment- your hair can grow back.
  3. Swelling: Removal of lymph nodes under the arms may lead to fluid buildup that causes soreness in your arms, chest, and stomach. Certain medications may also cause fluid retention within your body- leading to swelling in the arms and/or legs.
  4. Thinning of bone-bone and joint pain: Certain cancer-blocking medications can cause your bones to become brittle. As a result, your joints may start to hurt more. Chemotherapy may also lead to thinning of the bones. However, the disease can also cause pain that spreads throughout the bones.
  5. Affects other organs: If cancer spreads or metastases, tumors could appear in the brain, bones, liver, lung, and other body parts.

The feeling of the cancer lump itself will vary between the type of cancer. For some, it may feel hard or firm to the touch. For others, it can feel soft, round, and tender. Others may have more difficulty detecting a lump because they have dense breast tissue.

Some typical features that often occur include:

  • Irregular edges
  • Not easily moveable when pushing with your fingers
  • Grows over time
  • Appears in the upper portion of your breast

If you feel or notice anything unusual within the breast area, we highly encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider.

Can Breast Cancer Be Cured without Surgery?

Unfortunately, as of now, surgery is often used as one of the main ways to treat breast cancer. After all, it is an effective way to remove breast cancer cells from the affected area. Other treatment options risk leaving behind cancer cells that may allow cancer to return later in life. However, research and clinical trials are underway to try and find other methods. For example, researchers are looking into chemotherapy being an effective treatment (as long as the cancer is caught early enough). Be wary, do your research, and consult with your doctor before pursuing alternative treatments.

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We understand how stressful it can be if you or a loved receives a diagnosis of breast cancer. We hope this article provides some more helpful information about this health topic. We also encourage you to do your own research. However, be mindful of what sources you are looking at. Always double-check to ensure that you are looking for a medically reliable source. If interested, you may want to consider downloading our Febo app today. On the app, you have access to current, scientifically validated news. Of course, the best approach is to seek advice from a medical professional.

Missed Part 1 of Our Breast Cancer FAQ’s? – Click Here


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