What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease where there is an abnormal growth of cells in the lining ducts, lobules or tissues of the breast forming an abnormal lesion called tumor that can be seen on an x-ray such as mammogram and ultrasound or felt as a lump. It is mainly seen on women, but it is seen that men can get breast cancer too.

Risk factors for breast cancer:

  • Personal and Family history of breast cancer.
  • Women over the age of 50.
  • Early age at menarche
  • Late age at menopause
  • Having no children.
  • Late age at first full-term pregnancy
  • Women who do not breastfeed.
  • Having dense breasts.
  • Being overweight.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Therapeutic & environmental exposures to radiation.
  • Genetic mutations such as BRACA gene mutation

What do I look out for?

  • Swelling, change in size or shape of the breast, or a persistent lump on the breast that feels different from other breast tissue.
  • Breast skin changes that is usually seen as a Redness, dimpling, Puckering, hotness, or itching.
  • Nipple pain or nipple that is pushed in (inverted). Discharge from the nipple that comes out by itself or even staining your clothes.
  • One or more lumps in the armpit

What should I do to detect these signs?

Perform self-examination of the breast every month after the menstrual cycle. You should have regular mammogram examination every two years
If you are over 40.

What treatments are available?

Surgery: Surgery is done to remove the tumor along with a margin of healthy tissue around from the breast to evaluate the lymph nodes. Surgery is also used to assess nearby lymph nodes for cancer cells. This helps the doctor decide the most appropriate treatment for the patient too. Type of surgery depends on the size of the tumor and the metastatic condition. Generally, smaller the tumor, more the surgical options the patient has.

These options include:

  • Lumpectomy or breast-conserving surgery: the surgeon removes cancer and a surrounding area of healthy tissue to get a cancer-free margin around it. Most of the procedures includes removal of the cancerous tissue. All patients who underwent lumpectomy will require radiotherapy treatment.
  • Mastectomy: the surgeon removes the entire breast, it may be combined with reconstructive surgery.
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy and Axillary lymph node dissection: Sentinel lymph nodes are the first lymph nodes that are likely to collect cancer cells that have broken away from a tumor. During a sentinel lymph node biopsy, the surgeon finds and removes about 1 to 3 sentinel lymph nodes from under the arm that receives lymph drainage from the breast. If the sentinel lymph nodes show evidence of cancer, the surgeon may consider a doing axillary lymph nodes dissection, to look for additional cancer cells.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of a cytotoxic chemical drug which is delivered through the bloodstream to reach and destroy cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy can be given as a tablet or in the form of an injection before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery as an adjuvant treatment. It is also used to treat metastatic breast cancer and also cancer that returns after treatment, called recurrent cancer.

Radiotherapy: Radiation therapy which is a local treatment uses high-energy rays from a machine to destroy and kills the remaining tumor cells in the breast after surgery.

Hormonal therapy: also called endocrine therapy, It’s a medical treatment for women with ER- or PR hormone receptors that have positive breast cancer and is treated by lowering the amount of hormonal estrogen in the body or by blocking the action of the estrogen in the body which can help prevent
recurrence and death.

Targeted therapy: using drugs that targets specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells by blocking the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to healthy cells. Not all breast tumors have the same targets. To find the most effective treatment, your doctor may run specialized tests to identify genes, proteins, and other factors specific to your tumor.

Before taking any treatment, it is better to ask your doctor these questions?

  • Is my diagnosis confirmed?
  • What is the stage of my disease?
  • Why do I need this kind of treatment and what benefit I will get?
  • When will the treatment begin? What will be the intended duration of therapy? When will it stop?
  • How will I feel during treatment? What will be the possible side effects? How likely are these to happen?
  • Will the treatment have long-term side effects?
  • What side effects should I tell you when they appear?
  • What can I do to take care of myself during treatment?
  • Will I be able to continue my normal daily activities?