About Breast Cancer
What is breast cancer?
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells of any tissue. Breast cancer means uncontrolled growth of cells within breast tissue.
Breast cancer runs in family and can occur in both males and females, however it’s more common in females. Mostly it’s discovered when the patient finds any lump in any of their breasts. Breast cancer is not the only reason for lumps in the breasts, but you should be examined by a medical expert as soon as you notice it, as any delay can be dangerous.
Is there a test for breast cancer?
Breast cancer workup includes a mammogram to find any abnormal cancerous spots via X-rays in breasts, followed by a biopsy of areas of concern. During a biopsy, one or more small tissue samples are taken and viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to see if they’re cancerous, and if yes, then which type and stage.
What is breast cancer staging?
Cancer staging means recognising and categorising the cancer based on the cancers penetration into surrounding tissue and its spread within the body. It’s useful in recommending the best treatment options for the patient.
How is breast cancer treated?
Exact treatment for breast cancer depends on the stage and other factors specific to the individual patient. Treatment recommendations may consist of any or all of the following:Surgery
Cancerous cells in breast are removed surgically. There may be the option between mastectomy and lumpectomy (breast conserving therapy) based on cancer's stage and patient preference.
- Mastectomy is surgical removal of complete breast with an option to reconstruct the breast immediately or later on
- Lumpectomy (Breast conserving therapy) is removal of the cancerous part of breast along with some surrounding tissue. It is usually followed by with radiotherapy after the wound heals.
Radiotherapy is used to destroy cancerous cells. It’s applicable for specific cases and the radiation specialist decides when and how much radiation therapy should be performed.Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy uses medications that aim to kill cancer cells. This method alone isn’t usually enough to treat breast cancer, but may be recommended before or after surgery. If it is used prior to surgery, it may help to shrink the size and extent of the cancer making it easy to remove during the operation.
Chemotherapy is also utilised after surgery in effort to prevent recurrence by controlling growth and spread of cancer cells.Hormone therapy
Certain hormones may aggravate breast cancer. Doctors might advise certain medications and treatments to block the action of these hormones or to prevent the release of those hormones in the body.Targeted therapy
Certain medicines target cancers with specific characteristics. Doctors might use these after testing the breast tissue to see if the therapy would work.
What happens after treatment?
Regular follow-ups are important after cancer treatment. During follow-ups, patients may be advised to have various tests and mammograms or ultrasounds are repeated to watch for any recurrence. Patients should also be vigilant and check for any symptoms like breast lumps (even in areas which weren't of concern previously), difficulty breathing, headaches, pain and issues with other body organs like bones, liver, chest, stomach, etc.
What happens if the cancer comes back or spreads?
In case of recurrence or spread of cancer, the patient might undergo chemotherapy, hormone therapy or repeated surgery, after consideration on a case by case basis.
Can breast cancer be prevented?
Patients who are at risk of developing breast cancer, especially those with a strong family history, should consult the doctor as soon as possible to start the preventive medication.
What will my life be like?
If treated earlier and medication taken optimally in addition to proper follow ups, most people do very well after cancer treatment. Always discuss any doubts and symptoms with your doctors in detail if you’re having any problems or side effects as they may be able to offer you valuable advice.
Breast cancer treatment includes a variety of surgical procedures and medicines, so make sure you discuss in detail with your doctor to find out what’s best in your specific case. Know as much as you can about breast cancer and your case specifically. Whenever you’re given any treatment always ask:
- What are the exact benefits of this treatment? Will it improve quality and quantity of life?
- What are the side effects of this treatment?
- Are there any alternatives?
- What could happen if I don’t follow this treatment?