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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.

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.
    Learn more about 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

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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.

Breast Cancer Screening

*Note: Age recommendations are only guidelines and may differ for those with a family history of breast cancer or those who have other risk factors. Consult your doctor on our screening schedule.

Clinical Breast Examination:

  • Women 40 years and older should go for a Clinical Breast Examination once every year. This is an examination of the breast tissue by a healthcare professional.
  • Clinical Breast Examinations can be done at your GP clinic or polyclinic, or at a Gynaecological clinic.
  • The healthcare professional, usually a doctor, will palpate (feel) both your breasts and do a visual examination. If he/she finds anything suspicious, you will be referred for further testing (such as a mammogram/ ultrasound/ biopsy) or be given a follow-up appointment.

Risk Factors

PROTECT YOURSELF
  1. Practise a healthy lifestyle
    • Be physically active. Exercise 3 – 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes each time.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Eat a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in fats with an emphasis on good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) over bad fats (saturated and trans fats).
    • Limit alcohol intake to less than one alcoholic drink a day.
    • Breastfeed children instead of formula feeding them (if possible).
  2. Be aware of breast cancer and its symptoms
  3. Screen yourself for breast cancer regularly
    Early detection offers more treatment options and a better chance of survival and recovery. Take charge of your own breast health and detect changes in your breast through:

    Never be afraid to examine your breasts or to have them examined. Finding out that you do not have breast cancer is more important than the time and effort required for an examination, or any discomfort you may feel.

Symptoms of breast cancer

Consult a doctor if you notice any of the above changes

There are other breast conditions that might mimic the symptoms of breast cancer and so require further tests to diagnose. These include:

  • Cysts: Fluid-filled sacs more common in women aged 35 – 50
  • Fibroadenomas: Benign tumours made of glandular and fibrous tissue, common in younger women
  • Hyperplasia: A proliferation of cells in the lobes or ducts
  • Calcifications: Bits of calcium in the breast
  • Papillomas: Small growths that arise from the lining of the breast ducts and are often not more than 0.5-1.0cm in size
  • Phyllodes¬†tumours: Tumours which tend to grow rapidly to a large size, sometimes up to 8-10cm in size
  • Infections of the breast: Lumps due to an infection are usually very painful and there will be skin changes such as redness and swelling over the lump

Of these, hyperplasia is believed to increase risk for breast cancer while clusters of tiny calcifications (microcalcifications) can be indications of pre-cancer or cancer.

what is breast cancer ?

Breast cancer occurs when breast cells divide and grow without control, sometimes invading surrounding tissue. In some cases, the cancer may grow very slowly while in others, it develops more rapidly. Most breast cancers start in the ducts while a small number start in the milk sacs or lobes.

TYPES OF BREAST CANCER

Breast cancer can be classified generally as follows: