Treatment Guides

Diagnosis and Treatment of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast start dividing indefinitely and form a tumor. It is the second most common cancer, and the most commonly occurring cancer in women but can also occur in men. The cancer usually starts in the milk ducts or sometimes in the glands that produce milk.

quick details
WHO IS THIS FOR
  • Patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
PROGNOSIS
  • The average 5 year survival rate for localized breast cancer is over 90%. For breast cancer that has metastasized to other parts of the body, the 5 year survival rate is a little over 20%.
TREATMENT DURATION
  • The surgery lasts between 2-3 hours.
  • The chemotherapy is given in cycles, and will vary between individuals.
  • Radiotherapy is given on average between 5 to 8 weeks.
  • The duration of a hormone or a targeted therapy are also prescribed depending on your individual case.
POTENTIAL RISKS & SIDE EFFECTS
  • Along with the general risks associated with surgery such as bleeding, infection and pain other side effects include loss of/change in sensation in chest and swelling in the arms.
  • Radiotherapy side effects include: swelling, fatigue, changes in skin, future problems with breastfeeding, damages to nerves in the arm, pain, infection and seroma.
  • Side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fatigue and change in menstruation and fertility.
BREAST CANCER

Causes and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Causes and Risk Factors

There are a few factors that either put you at a higher risk for breast cancer:

  • Alcohol: There is a link between a higher risk for breast cancer and the amount of alcohol consumed.
  • Your weight: If you are overweight or obese, there is an increased chance of you developing breast cancer.
  • Gender: Women are at a much higher risk than men.
  • Age: Your likelihood of developing breast cancer will grow as you age.
  • Genes: Mutations in certain genes such as BRCA1 and 2 significantly increase your risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Family history: If you have close family members that have suffered from breast cancer, then your chances of getting breast cancer increase. Additionally, if you yourself have had breast cancer or a history of breast conditions before, you also have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Dense breast tissue: If you have dense breast tissue, i.e., have more cells, then there is a higher chance of the cells becoming cancerous.

Symptoms

Following may be the symptoms of breast cancer:

  • A lump/mass that can be felt in the breast or many times under the arm or near your collarbone
  • Pain and/or swelling of the breast(s) or a part of it
  • Nipple discharge or retraction
  • Irritation, redness and related changes in the nipple or breast skin

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis

Breast cancer can be diagnosed using the following methods:

  • A mammogram is one of the most common ways to screen and diagnose breast cancer. It uses low dose X-rays to look at your breasts to check for signs of tumor formation.
  • Other imaging tests such as an ultrasound or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test to find further details of the cancer.
  • Biopsy, where a small tissue is taken from your breast and examined to confirm a cancer diagnosis if other tests are inconclusive .
  • There are also new upcoming diagnostic tests such as those using optical or molecular imaging.

How is breast cancer treated?

Surgery
There are two main types of surgeries:

  • Breast conserving surgery: In this surgery, only the cancerous section and surrounding tissue of the breast is removed. The amount of tissue removed depends on how aggressive your cancer is, the exact location of the tumor along with other factors.
  • Mastectomy: In a mastectomy the entire breast tissue and some surrounding tissue is removed. Different types of mastectomies include:
    1. Simple/Total mastectomy
    2. Modified radical mastectomy
    3. Radical mastectomy
    4. Partial mastectomy
    5. Subcutaneous mastectomy

The type of mastectomy you will undergo depends on the severity of your cancer and how wide it has spread. Lastly, not every woman with breast cancer needs to undergo a mastectomy but may be the only surgical option for some. Again, this varies based on your cancer stage, treatment history and related factors.

Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy works by aiming high energy waves at the cancerous cells. This causes the cancer cells to die and though the healthy cells sustain some damage, they can repair themselves. The treatment takes place over the course of a few weeks, in short sessions of 5 days per week. The size of your tumor, whether or not it has spread to the surrounding tissue will play a role in deciding the kind of radiation therapy you will have.

Brachytherapy is a different way of administering radiation therapy. It is also known as internal radiation. In brachytherapy, a radiation source is placed directly inside the breast area for a specific amount of time. It can be used in tandem with external radiation therapy and depending on your individual case, may or may not be recommended for you. Radiation is often used after breast conserving surgery, and is not needed after a mastectomy unless you have a late stage of the illness or have been specifically asked by your oncologist to undergo it.

Chemotherapy
Uses anti-cancer drugs to kill or shrink the cancer causing cells and to prevent the spread of cancer to other areas of the body. Chemotherapy can be used before, after surgeries and is also sometimes the central treatment for advanced stages.

Hormone Therapy
Estrogen and Progesterone are hormones in our body that are involved in a variety of functions but may also aid cancerous cells in their growth. If you have cancer cells that are hormone receptor positive, i.e, use estrogen or progesterone to stimulate their growth, then hormone therapy drugs that functional as receptor blockers or inhibitors may be a recommended part of your treatment plan.

Targeted Therapy
Targeted therapy drugs, are as the name suggested more specific, i.e, they harm cancer cells and do not have any adverse effects on surrounding or other cells of our body. As of now, targeted therapy drugs are used in tandem with chemotherapy drugs.

What should I expect from this procedure?

Please bear in mind, that your medical history, your environment which includes family and friends, your lifestyle habits, genetics, the type and intensity of cancer you have, all play a role in deciding the course of your treatment. Many times a combination of treatments is recommended, and this may change through the duration of your illness. This is done so the doctor can ensure that you are getting the best possible treatment for your individual case.

How do I find the right doctor?

We understand that before going through a major treatment like surgery or radiotherapy, you may be feeling unsure and want a second opinion, or you would like to look for the top oncologist specializing in breast cancer, or for a clinical trial doing cutting edge research. For support with any of these queries and question, Qunomedical is here for you 24/7.

WHERE CAN I FIND A DOCTOR?
Qunomedical Health Managers have an all-round knowledge to find the right specialist for you. Learn more about Qunomedical.