Cancer of the breast: Taking a closer look

Are you at risk? Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Zimbabwe (after cervical cancer). Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control.  These cells usually form a tumour that can often be seen on an X-ray or felt as a lump.

The tumour is malignant (cancer) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasise) to distant areas of the body. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer too.

Breast cancer risk and prevention

Lifestyle-related breast cancer risk factors:

Alcohol Intake Drinking alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.

Being overweight or obese Having more fat tissue after menopause can raise oestrogen levels and increase your chance of getting breast cancer.

Not being physically active — Evidence is growing that regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk, especially in women past menopause.

Not having children — Women who have not had children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk overall.

Birth Control — Most studies have found that women using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them. Once the pills are stopped, this risk seems to go back to normal over time.

Breast cancer risk factors you cannot change:

Being a woman. Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for breast cancer. Men can get breast cancer, too, but this disease is about 100 times more common in women than in men.

Getting older. As you get older, your risk of breast cancer goes up. Most breast cancers are found in women age 55 and older.

Family history and genetics. About 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning that they result directly from gene defects (called mutations) passed on from a parent.

Symptoms and detection

Signs and symptoms of early breast cancer can include:

Texture Change

Visible Lumps

Lymph discharge

Colour changes

Nipple inversion

Dimpled skin

Breast cancer detection:

Breast cancer is sometimes found after symptoms appear, but many women with breast cancer have no symptoms.

This is why regular breast cancer screening is so important.

Mammogram breast screening.

Clinical breast exam and breast self-exam.

Breast Ultrasound

Breast MRI

Treatment Options

For women diagnosed of breast cancer, support on that journey is paramount.

Information about diagnosis, options for treatment, referral and coordination with specialist, recovery nutrition, counselling and support for the family are essential for positive patient outcomes.

Available treatment options Include:

Surgery. Removal of cancerous sections up to a full mastectomy.

Radiation therapy. Some women with breast cancer will need radiation, often in addition to other treatments.

Chemotherapy (chemo) is treatment with cancer-killing drugs that may be given intravenously (injected into your vein)

Hormone therapy. Some types of breast cancer are affected by hormones in the blood. ER-positive and PR-positive breast cancer cells have receptors (proteins) that attach to oestrogen, which helps them grow. There are different ways to stop oestrogen from attaching to these receptors.

Targeted therapy. This applies to about 1 in 5 women with HER2-positive breast, that tend to grow and spread more aggressively. A number of drugs have been developed that target this protein

Every woman should know how their breasts normally look and feel. Women from the age of 40 should get a mammogram (X-ray of the breast) every year.

 

Should you present with any of the above-mentioned symptoms, contact Oncocare – The Breast Clinic on 0776222080 (04) 776009-10

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