Breast Cancer

  • Overview

  • Symptoms

  • Diagnosis

  • Treatment

Overview

Breast cancers are classified according to their sensitivity to the hormones progesterone and estrogen and the levels of the proteins receptors that are active in breast cancer growth and their genetic architecture. This helps in personalizing treatment.

Early Symptoms

  • A lump in the breast, near it or under the arm
  • Unexplained swelling or shrinking of the breast, especially on one side
  • Discharge of fluid from the nipple
  • Changes in breast skin like redness, thickening or flaking
  • An inverted, thick or scaly nipple
  • Dimpled or puckered breast

Diagnosis

  • Family history
  • Physical examination
  • Biopsies
  • Various imaging procedures like mammogram, MRI and ultrasound.

Women who have a risk of breast cancer, particularly those whose parent, sibling or daughter have had the disease are advised regular screening.

Treatment

Lumpectomy: In this surgical technique, only the cancerous tissue is removed along with a layer of healthy tissue surrounding it.

Mastectomy: Mastectomy may be preventive or part of cancer treatment. The entire breast is surgically removed, usually with the nipple, though sometimes the nipple can be preserved. A skin-sparing mastectomy removes the inner breast tissue and keeps the skin intact. The surgeon then fills the skin-shell with abdominal tissue and an implant and reconstructs the nipple.

Lymph Node Biopsy: The first tissues where cancer cells migrate from the breast are the lymph nodes under the arm. This is a routine biopsy during mastectomy or lumpectomy to check if the cancer has spread to the underarm.

Non-surgical Treatments: These are systemic therapies that use drugs throughout the body to kills cancer cells wherever they may be found. They can comprise of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormonal therapy etc.

Radiation Therapy: Radiation is given to the breast and sometimes to the lymph node area after lumpectomy. This lessens the chances of resurgence. However, in early-stage breast cancer only affected part of the breast receives radiation.

Breast Reconstruction: After a mastectomy, many women undergo breast reconstructive surgery. It can be done in many ways, so discuss your best option with the surgeon before your breast in removed. Your breast reconstruction choices may depend on the type of mastectomy you have.

Breast Prosthesis: Women for whom reconstruction is not a viable option are provided with artificial breast prosthesis. Breast prostheses are inserts that can be tucked into a bra, so the bust looks symmetrical. They are available in different materials, textures, shapes and skin tones.