What is Bilateral Breast Cancer?

Autumn Rivers

Bilateral breast cancer occurs when malignant cells are found in the tissue of both breasts, as these cells tend to spread over time. Symptoms of this issue include a lump in the tissue of the armpit or breast, sudden change in the shape or size of the breast or nipple, or abnormal fluid coming from the nipple. The treatment for cancer in both breasts is typically surgery, with the type varying depending on the stage of the disease. Many patients also undergo chemotherapy, radiation treatment, or hormone therapy in conjunction with surgery to remove the cancer cells.

Bilateral breast cancer may require surgery.
Bilateral breast cancer may require surgery.

Having an idea of the typical symptoms of bilateral breast cancer is helpful since this disease is more easily treated when caught early. One of the most common symptoms is a lump or hard feeling in an area of the breast, though it may also occur in the armpit since breast tissue extends to this area. The breast usually stops changing shape and size on its own once a woman is no longer a young adult, so a sudden change in the breast or nipple is abnormal and should be evaluated by a doctor. Puckering, dimpling, skin rash, and fluid leaking from the nipple can also be cause for concern. In women with bilateral breast cancer, these symptoms usually show up in both breasts, though different symptoms may appear on each one.

Mammograms are performed to detect the presence of breast cancer.
Mammograms are performed to detect the presence of breast cancer.

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When caught early, bilateral breast cancer can be treated through a few methods, though it is typically a long process. One of the most common techniques is surgery, as this usually removes the cancerous cells. If the cells have not spread much, a lumpectomy can be performed, in which case the surgeon removes only the tumor and surrounding tissue in an effort to get rid of the malignant cells. Unfortunately, patients will likely need a mastectomy if the cancer has spread, which involves removing the entire breast, or even both breasts in advanced cases of bilateral breast cancer. Typically, the breast and lymph nodes are removed, after which reconstructive surgery can usually be performed, which involves giving the patient breast implants.

Another treatment available for bilateral breast cancer is chemotherapy, which is frequently given in the form of either a pill or an intravenous procedure in order to destroy malignant cells in both breasts. It may also be used before surgery to help decrease the size of the lump to be removed. Another way to destroy the cells is to use radiation therapy, which uses x-ray beams to obliterate the cells. Finally, hormone therapy is often used after surgery to reduce the risks of the cancer coming back, as certain hormones can keep cancer cells away.

A lump is one of the symptoms of bilateral breast cancer.
A lump is one of the symptoms of bilateral breast cancer.

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