Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells are detected in the tissues of the breast.
While the triggering causes of breast cancer are unknown, factors associated with an increased risk of cancer include:
Most women with breast cancer do not have any visible signs or symptoms when diagnosed. This is why women, especially those above the age of 50, are advised to go for regular screening. Some common signs of breast cancer are
Please note that these symptoms are not always due to cancer, and may be caused by other underlying health issues. However, should you experience any symptoms, and they last for long periods or intensify with time, do make an appointment to be screened as soon as you can.
The stages of cancer indicate the extent of spread:
Stage 0: Non-invasive cancer
The cancer remains contained in the part of the breast it started in.
Stage 1: Small invasive cancer
The tumour is less than 2cm in size. The cancer has not spread beyond the breast.
Stage 2: Invasive cancer
The tumour is between 2 to 5cm in size, and might have spread to a lymph node.
Stage 3: Large invasive cancer
The tumour is more than 5cm large, and the cancer has spread to multiple lymph nodes.
Stage 4: Widespread or metastatic cancer
The cancer has spread to other sites in the body.
Procedures to diagnose breast cancer include:
A doctor checks the patient’s breasts and lymph nodes for lumps or other abnormalities. This is generally not used as the sole testing procedure.
Also known as an X-Ray of the breast, mammograms are one of the most commonly used routine procedure to screen for breast cancer. During a mammogram, a medical technician compresses the patient’s breast tissue between two plates, and then take images from various angles for the doctor to examine.
Using sound waves to produce images, this ultrasound procedure is used to determine if a breast lump is a solid mass or fluid-filled cyst. Ultrasounds are sometimes used in conjunction with mammograms to pick up signs of cancer and other suspicious lesions.
If there is a high likelihood of abnormalities in the breast(s), the doctor may suggest doing a biopsy, which involves removing and testing breast tissue.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Using magnetic and radio waves, MRI creates pictures of the breast’s interiors to detect abnormalities. While MRI is not recommended for routine breast screening, it might be required for those who have had breast augmentations, as mammograms and ultrasounds may be ineffective for them.
Tumours are known to cause temperature changes in the skin. This procedure uses a special camera, which senses heat, and records the temperature of the skin covering the breast. As a result, tumours that cause temperature changes may show up on the thermogram.
Treatment options and recovery depend on the stage and type of cancer, as well as the patient’s general health. The doctor can order procedures such as: