Breast cancer happens when cells in the breast grow and divide in an uncontrolled way, creating a mass of tissue called a tumour. It is one of the most common cancers among women (it is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer). It’s also the leading cause of cancer death among women aged 35 to 54.
Possible signs of breast cancer include: a change in the size, shape or contour of the breast; a mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea; a lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through menstrual cycle; a change in the look or feel of the skin on the breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly or inflamed); redness of the skin of the breast or nipple; an area that’s distinctly different from any other area on either breast; or a blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple.
Some people don’t notice any signs of breast cancer at all and that’s why routine mammograms are very important. Several risk factors may increase the chances of developing breast cancer, such as age being 55 or older; gender as women get it more than men; family history and genetics; smoking and acohol use; obesity; radiation exposure; or hormone replacement therapy.
A healthcare provider will perform a breast examination and enquire about family and medical history, and any existing symptoms. the doctor will also recommend tests to check for breast abnormalities. These tests may include:
* Mammogram: The special x-ray images can detect changes or abnormal growth in the breast.
* Ultrasonography: This test uses sound waves to take pictures of the tissues inside the breast. It’s used to help diagnose breast lumps or abnormalities.
* Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: It uses special dyes to highlight suspicious areas. During this test, the healthcare provider injects a special dye into your veins and takes images with the scanner.
* Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This test uses magnets and radio waves to produce clear, detailed images of the structures inside the breast.
There are several breast cancer treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and targeted drug therapy.
A healthcare provider will tailor a treatment plan according to each patient unique needs.
While we can’t prevent breast cancer altogether, there are certain things we can do to reduce the risk of discovering it at an advanced stage:
* Get routine mammograms. The American Cancer Society recommends having a baseline mammogram at age 35, and a screening mammogram every year after age 40.
* Examine your breasts every month after age 20. You’ll become familiar with the contours and feel of your breasts and will be more alert to changes.
* Have your breasts examined by a healthcare provider at least once every three years after age 20, and every year after age 40.