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Breast Cancer Treatment

Everyone’s treatment is different. To help doctors decide on the best treatment, the stage of the cancer needs to be determined. A scale is used that takes into account the tumours size, the sort of cells its made from and whether the cancer has spread or not. One or a combination of therapies may be used which should be discussed with the doctor.

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, take a little time to talk to relevant people or even seek a second opinion before deciding on treatment.

Want to know more?
BCF Support Groups provide a safe, understanding, caring environment for people who have been affected by breast cancer to explore their emotions, ask questions, and share experiences, information and strategies they find useful in learning to cope with the disease. Our trained Volunteer Befrienders, all of whom are breast cancer survivors themselves, provide information and emotional support through telephone counselling and hospital visits. Asking questions about breast cancer can be difficult. BCFs Volunteer Counsellors have experienced the ups and downs of breast cancer and are prepared to answer any question you may have. Give us a call today!

  1. Surgery
    This is the most common treatment for breast cancer and involves two types:

    • Lumpectomy: The breast lump and some normal tissue around it are removed, with the breast being preserved. Some lymph nodes may be removed as well. Usually only performed for early breast cancer.
    • Mastectomy: Removal of the entire breast, often including the lymph nodes in the armpit and sometimes the chest wall muscles. Required when the cancer is found in numerous parts of the breast or the cancerous area is large.
  2. Chemotherapy
    Drugs, usually in a combination, are given orally or by injection, to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body, and cause temporary side-effects that can be prevented or reduced with appropriate steps. Hence, chemotherapy is given in cycles – a treatment period followed by a recovery period, then treatment again and so on.
    Want to know more?
    Learn more about BCF Education and Empowerment Programme (BEEP), Positive Appearance Scheme (PAS) and Wig Loan Programme
  3. Radiation Therapy or Radiotherapy
    High-energy x-rays are directed at the breast, to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing. Radiotherapy is almost always recommended with lumpectomy but not always with mastectomy. Temporary side effects can occur which vary from person to person.
  4. Hormonal Therapy
    This is used to deprive cancer cells of the hormones they need to grow. Hormonal therapy could involve drugs to change the way hormones work or surgery to remove the ovaries that produce female hormones which and can affect cancer cells. Side effects can occur. These depend on the type of drug used and vary among individuals.

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Breast Self Examination

Breast Self Examination (BSE) should be done once each month by women 20 years and older.

The best time to do BSE is 7-10 days after the start of menses, when the breasts are least tender. If you no longer menstruate, do BSE on a fixed date every month, for example the first day of each month.

The purpose of BSE is to enable you to become familiar with the normal feel of your breast tissue so that you can recognise any abnormal changes.

3steps

3steps-mobile

While doing BSE, you need to look for:

  • A lump that persists
  • A change in the size or shape of one breast
  • A dimpling or puckering of the skin (like orange peel)
  • A retraction (pulling in) of the nipple
  • A discharge (clear or bloody) from the nipple

If any of these changes are felt or seen, you should consult a doctor immediately.

guideline

If you notice a change in your breasts… do not panic!

Most breast changes are not breast cancer but all should be checked by a doctor.

  • See a doctor who will examine your breast, ask questions about your change, and find out about any relevant medical and family history. This will help the doctor determine if your change is normal or if a review at a later date or further tests are required.
  • You may be referred to go for a mammogram and/or ultrasound, which will be reviewed by a radiologist.
  • If abnormalities are detected by the mammogram or ultrasound, a biopsy will be recommended. A fine needle may be used to obtain some cells or a larger needle to remove tissue from the affected area for examination under a microscope by a pathologist.
  • If cancer is detected, you will be referred to a breast surgeon.

If you have concerns or questions about the investigation of the changes in your breasts, talk to your doctor or seek a second opinion.