Robert D. Stebbins, M.D., on Breast Cancer

December 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Breast cancer accounts for nearly one-third of all cancers diagnosed in American women. Second in incidence only to skin cancers, the disease claims approximately 40,000 lives a year. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 2.6 million women in the United States had a history of breast cancer in 2008, with more than half diagnosed less than a decade earlier. Most, however, were cancer free. The incidence of breast cancer and death rate increases with age, with 97 percent of deaths occurring in those 40 years of age or older.


Symptoms of breast cancer include a new mass or lump. Although typically hard, irregular, and painless, these cancerous growths also can cause tenderness and pain. The disease may create skin irritation, dimpling, or swelling. In addition, nipples may retract; become red, scaly, or thick; or discharge a liquid other than breast milk. If the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, a woman (and in rare cases, a man) might feel swelling or a lump under the arm or near the collar bone before one becomes detectable in breast tissue.


While breast cancer remains rare in men, doctors still diagnose more than 1,000 such cases annually in the U.S. Men should report any changes in their breasts or lymph nodes to a physician. Because men tend to “tough it out” when it comes to pain or discomfort, male breast cancer often spreads throughout the body before it is finally diagnosed, leading to less likelihood of recovery. Symptoms, similar to those experienced by women, include a lump, nipple inversion, and bleeding from the nipple.


About the author: Maintaining a busy practice in Palo Alto, California, for 20 years, where he focused on hematology, oncology, and internal medicine, Robert D. Stebbins, M.D., specialized in treating leukemia and breast cancer.


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