What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is defined as a cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. It occurs from an abnormal division and multiplication of breast cells in an uncontrolled manner. Breast cancer can develop in both women and men, but it is much more common in women. Mostly, the cancer develops either in the ducts or lobules of the breasts but can also develop in the fibrous connective tissue or fatty tissue within the breast.
What are the causes of breast cancer?
Some of the aspects that can increase the chances of breast cancer in an individual include:
- Family history of breast cancer
- Inheritance of mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
- Past diagnosis of breast cancer
- Exposure to female hormones
- Exposure to radiation
- Increasing age
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy
- Previous history of benign breast conditions
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
Some of the common symptoms that could occur in patients with breast cancer include:
- Thickening or lumps in the breasts or underarm
- Dimpling of the breast skin
- Nipple discharge or inward turning
- Difference in the size or shape of the breast
- Rashes or red swollen breasts
- Scaling, flaking, or peeling of skin on the breast or nipple
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
Some of the tests and procedures involved with the diagnosis of breast cancer include:
- A review of your medical history to check for any previous history of breast conditions.
- A clinical breast examination to check for any lumps, nipple discharge, or changes in the appearance of the breasts.
- Examination of the lymph nodes in the armpit or lower neck to check for any swelling or tenderness to touch.
- Mammogram – an X-ray examination of the breast to check for subtle changes not detected during physical exam.
- Ultrasound scan – use of high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of breast tissue to differentiate between a fluid-filled cyst and a solid mass.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – use of radio wave and strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of breast tissue to detect cancerous lesions.
- Breast biopsy – surgical removal of a sample of breast tissue for microscopic analysis.
I have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. What should I do?
Being diagnosed with an illness such as breast cancer is very distressing! It is completely normal that you might feel anxious, shocked or confused.
The good news is the outcome of breast cancer treatment has improved significantly and keeps getting better. Nowadays, with Oncoplastic Breast Surgery, a cancer-free result and an excellent cosmetic result is undoubtedly achievable in most cases.
What to do:
- Talk about your disease with your treating team, family and friends.
- Remember, help is available to you please be sure to ask for it!
- Seek relevant information from reliable sources.
- Don't be shy to ask your doctor about other treatment options.
- Learn as much as you need about the treatment process not too much so as to feel overwhelmed, but not too little so as to be uninformed.
- Get actively involved in the decision-making process. Your treating team will welcome your input.
- • Although distressing, cancer is not an emergency! Don't rush into your operation before feeling comfortable with your decision.
- Keep in touch with positive people who have successfully progressed through their cancer journey
- If you feel comfortable, join a support group.
Please keep that in mind that there are no two cancers, no two patients and no two breasts that are exactly the same. Therefore, your treatment might be entirely different from that of a friend or family member who may have had their own cancer experience.
How is breast cancer treated?
The types of treatment involved depends upon the extent of the breast cancer. In general, the breast cancer treatment involves:
- Staging: This involves evaluating the size of the breast cancer as well as whether the cancer has advanced to the lymph nodes located in the underarm. Bone scan along with CT scan of the liver and chest are conducted to check the areas to which breast cancers ordinarily spread.
- Surgery: Your doctor may choose between many types of surgeries. These include the removal of the tumour and a small margin of healthy tissue, or the entire breast tissue. Biopsy, sampling, or total armpit lymph node removal will also be performed at the time of your breast operation. After the removal, your breast can also be reconstructed immediately or in a later procedure.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment includes the administration of medicine through the bloodstream to weaken and destroy the cancer cells in the body. Chemotherapy may be given after surgery, to kill any cancer cells that have been left behind in the body or before surgery, to shrink cancer.
- Radiation Therapy: In this therapy, high-energy radiation is used to destroy cancer cells. This is a highly targeted and effective way to destroy breast cancer cells. This therapy is easy to tolerate, and the side effects are limited to only the treated area. It also prevents the recurrence of breast cancer.
- Hormonal Therapy: This therapy includes treating breast cancer with hormone medications. These medications help to shrink or slow the growth of cancer cells by lowering the levels or blocking the action of the estrogen hormone on the cancer cells.
- Immune therapy: for non-hormonal cancers
How can you reduce the risk of breast cancer?
There have been no specific methods to prevent breast cancer; however, the following measures may help to reduce your risk of breast cancer:
- Maintaining a normal weight
- Being physically active
- Eating plant-based fresh food
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking
- Understanding your family history and genetic background and taking preventative measures if required
- Avoiding artificial hormones