Breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women (other than skin cancers). It is the 2nd most common cause of cancer death amongst the female population.
They commonly arise from the milk ducts of the breast – infiltrating ductal carcinomas – although other variants exist, such as lobular or mucinous cancers.
SCREENING, SELF-BREAST EXAMINATION AND DETECTION
Breast cancers often occur without symptoms and, sometimes, the lump cannot even be felt. That is why the BreastScreeen program has been so successful in the early detection of breast cancers. It involves a mammogram and if a lump is seen, you may be recalled for an ultrasound. Self Breast Examination (SBE) is an important part of the process and should be practised, ideally, every three months. Please consult with your local doctor or Breast Care Co-ordinator on the proper technique.
The diagnosis is confirmed with a biopsy of the lump, which is performed by breast surgeon.
A careful examination of the patient and staging tests are important in determining whether a patient has an early or advanced breast cancer. This is important for doctors to help recommend treatment.
EARLY BREAST CANCER
Standard care for an early breast cancer (EBC) is now breast conservation management (BCM), which has replaced mastectomy.
This allows women to keep the affected breast. The surgical component involves a lumpectomy and, usually, a biopsy of the closest lymph gland (sentinel lymph node biopsy). The tissue is then examined under a microscope by a pathologist, who reports back on the risk factors associated with the tumour, helping to guide further treatments such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy.
Radiotherapy following lumpectomy is also the "standard of care" as part of breast conservation management. Recent updates of long-term trials have even shown that women treated with BCM with surgery and radiotherapy live longer than women who had a mastectomy alone.
ADVANCED BREAST CANCER
Advanced breast cancer commonly necessitates the use of chemotherapy – either before or after a mastectomy. Post-mastectomy radiotherapy is usually discussed with the patient as it can help reduce the risk of the tumour recurring within the chest wall.
The patient must provide their "Informed Consent for any medical or surgical treatments.
That assumes all of the information has been provided to the patient and they have understood that information before agreeing to proceed. If you are unsure about any of your treatment recommendations or would like to understand in more detail all the options available to you, please feel free to seek or request a second opinion.