Generally speaking, breast cancer is most common among women in their fifties. It’s characterized by a multiplication of cells in the glands or milk ducts of the breast. This cluster of cells forms a “malignant tumor”. If these cells become detached from the tumor, they may spread to other organs and form new cancerous tumors called metastases. To help prevent breast cancer, there are certain lifestyle choices and attitudes that you should adopt without delay.
Be aware of the risk factors
The main risk factors for the development of breast cancer are:
Family history or genetic predisposition: having a close family member (mother, sister or daughter) who has had cancer of the breast, ovaries or uterus,
Personal history: having already been affected by breast cancer,
Age: 78% of cases of breast cancer involve women over the age of 50,
Use of oral contraceptives and hormone treatments: there is an ongoing debate on the link between these drugs and cancer,
Obesity or a diet that is too high in fat,
Tobacco and/or alcohol
Follow the recommendations based on your risk factors
Regular screening Mammogram screening is recommended every 2 years between the ages of 50 and 74. An ultrasound investigation may also be performed. If you have a personal or family history of cancer or any genetic predisposition has been identified, the risk is higher and mammograms will be prescribed much earlier. Clinical monitoring is recommended from 20yrs and radiological screening from 30yrs onwards.
Learn how breast cancer develops
Generally speaking, breast cancer develops slowly so you might not notice particular changes in the breasts. That’s why regular screening is important.
The stages of breast cancer
Stage 0: The tumor is confined to the milk ducts.
Stage 1: The tumor measures less than 2 cm.
Stage 2: The tumor measures between 2 and 5 cm. Cancer cells have spread to between 1 and 3 lymph nodes.
Stage 3: The tumor measures more than 5 cm. Cancer cells have spread to more than 4 lymph nodes.
Stage 4: Metastatic cancer. Metastases have spread to the liver, brain, lungs etc.
The typical symptoms of breast cancer are:
A small lump that can be felt in the breast, and more generally in the armpit, which may or may not be painful. This lump may be detected during a mammogram.
Changes in the size, shape and texture of the breast,
Development of redness or a sensation of warmth in the breast,
The nipple turning inwards,
Development of a crust, discharge or peeling skin on the nipple.
How can MSH International support you?
Some mammograms or ultrasound images can be difficult to interpret. MSH International can provide you with access to a second opinion network to confirm a diagnosis or to advise on the most suitable type of treatment. We will also help you find the best specialist in the area where you decide to have your treatment.
What should you do?
Consult your doctor as soon as you notice any typical symptoms. A mammogram will detect and label any growths that pose a risk. However, if cancer is discovered early, if possible before stage 3, it can be cured in 9 out of 10 cases.
A number of treatments may be offered singly or in combination:
Surgery: the breast is totally or partially removed to eradicate the cancer cells. This is known as a total or partial mastectomy,
Chemotherapy: administration of a drug to destroy cancer cells by injection into the veins or by taking medication,
Radiotherapy: the cancer cells are destroyed by rays,
Hormone therapy: administration of drugs to reduce the level of hormones in the blood and slow down or stop the development of cancer cells,
Targeted therapy: injection of a drug to reduce the Her2 protein which plays an important role in the development of cancer cells.
Anyone suffering from cancer will experience a range of emotions such as anger, sadness or anxiety. Don’t hesitate to confide in your loved ones at this difficult time or ask a psychologist or healthcare professional for help with any questions or concerns you may have.