Prof. from the Department of General Surgery and Breast Surgery at Yeni Yüzyıl University Gaziosmanpaşa Hospital. Dr. Deniz Böler answered questions about breast cancer symptoms and risk factors. Symptoms of breast cancer? Why does breast cancer occur? Is every palpable mass in the breast breast cancer? What are the risk factors for developing breast cancer? Is breast cancer a preventable disease? What are the methods used in the diagnosis of breast cancer? Is the breast of every patient diagnosed with breast cancer removed? What other methods are included in the treatment of breast cancer? Is chemotherapy given to every patient with breast cancer? Is breast cancer a curable disease?
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women worldwide. In breast cancer, the incidence of which decreases until young ages, the chance of surviving the disease is quite high thanks to early diagnosis. In cases such as a palpable mass in the breast, color and shape changes in and around the nipple, bloody or bloodless discharge from the nipple, applying to a doctor without delay increases the chance of getting rid of breast cancer.
Symptoms of breast cancer?
Palpable swelling in the breast or armpit is the most common symptom. Changes in the shape or size of the breast, redness of the breast skin, shrinkage, itching and peeling, orange peel appearance, sometimes nipple collapse or deformity, breast pain and bloody nipple discharge can be counted among the other symptoms.
If the breast does not have these symptoms, can we say that there is no breast cancer?
In fact, breast cancer is not a disease that develops suddenly and occurs within months. There is a period in which slow and insidious onset abnormalities appear in radiological imaging studies. Catching the cancer without any symptoms is of great importance for its early diagnosis and almost one hundred percent chance of cure.
Why does breast cancer occur?
It occurs as a result of uncontrolled proliferation of cells that make up the mammary glands and gaining the potential to spread to other parts of the body.
Is every palpable mass in the breast breast cancer?
In fact, most palpable breast masses are not breast cancer. Sometimes benign breast tumors or breast cysts can be the cause of breast masses. The crucial point is to distinguish between benign breast masses and breast cancer. For this reason, a general surgeon should be consulted in any abnormal condition in the breast.
What are the risk factors for developing breast cancer?
Age is one of the absolute risk factors. The chance of getting breast cancer increases with age. In addition, having a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, having been treated for breast cancer before or having a breast mass removed, starting menstruation early and entering menopause late, giving birth at a late age, not breastfeeding, using hormone drugs that increase estrogen levels Weight gain, especially after menopause, and having dense breast tissue are among the factors that increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Although rare, having previously received radiation therapy to the chest area for a reason other than breast cancer and being exposed to radiation or carcinogenic compounds also increase the risk of developing this disease.
Is breast cancer a preventable disease?
Unfortunately, breast cancer is not a preventable disease. More than XNUMX percent of women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors. It is a big mistake to think that breast cancer will not happen just because she has breastfed for a long time, or because she has no family history of breast cancer, or because she eats healthy and does sports. The most effective method in the fight against breast cancer is regular doctor examination and screening tests determined according to risk status.
What are the methods used in the diagnosis of breast cancer?
Annual doctor examination and mammography for women over 40
For women under the age of 40, a doctor's examination and breast ultrasonography are the most commonly used screening tests.
In some cases where the doctor deems it necessary or in high-risk patients, additional examinations such as breast MRI may be requested. Sometimes tests such as mammography and breast MRI may need to be used in younger, high-risk patients.
What is the approach in patients with a suspicious mass in the breast?
In these patients, a special needle tissue sample is taken from the mass in the breast. The definitive diagnosis is made by examining the cells under a microscope. Treatment options are determined according to the diagnosis or the type of cancer.
Do interventions such as biopsy and surgery cause the mass to reproduce or spread to the body?
No intervention, be it biopsy or surgery, does not cause a change in the nature of the mass, its reproduction, or its spread to another place.
Is breast cancer male or female?
In fact, no cancer has a male or female. In particular, breast cancer is not a single type of cancer, but consists of many different types of cells. For this reason, the treatment is shaped according to the characteristics of the cells that make up the tumor, as well as the extent and size (stage) of the tumor. Cancer, by its nature, is a disease that spreads throughout the body. Therefore, it should be taken very seriously.
Is the breast of every patient diagnosed with breast cancer removed?
It is not necessary to remove the entire breast in early-stage cancers or small tumors. It is sufficient to remove only the diseased tissue with intact surgical margins. However, if the tumor is very widespread and large, or if there are multiple tumor foci in the same breast, the entire breast tissue should be removed, that is, mastectomy should be performed. But even in this case, it is possible to create a new breast (breast reconstruction) with silicone breast prosthesis or other methods by preserving the nipple and/or skin in suitable patients. In fact, breast reconstruction can be performed even in patients who have previously had all breast tissue removed.
Is it necessary to remove all the lymph nodes in the armpit?
During the surgery, using special dyes, radioactive substances or special compounds containing iron, the lymph node or glands that are likely to spread to the cancer are found and removed (sentinel lymph node biopsy). When the lymph nodes removed by the frozen method performed at the bedside and during the operation are evaluated, if the tumor is not found or the focus is very small, it is not necessary to remove the other lymph nodes in the armpit. In some special cases and in a small number of selected patients, even if these lymph nodes are spattered, the lymph nodes in the armpit can be preserved.
What other methods are included in the treatment of breast cancer?
Radiotherapy (radiation therapy), chemotherapy (chemical drug therapy) and hormonal therapy are other methods used in the treatment of breast cancer.
How is it decided which treatment is appropriate for the patient?
The treatment decision is determined by the stage of breast cancer, the character characteristics of the cells that make up the tumor, the age of the patient, co-morbidities such as diabetes and heart disease, if any, the type of surgery performed or planned to be performed, as well as the patient's request. For this reason, not every patient is treated in the same way, even if the stage is the same. It is not correct for patients to compare the treatment offered to them with the treatments applied to other patients. For example, while hormone therapy is applied in breast cancer types that involve hormone intake (estrogen and progesterone receptors), this treatment is not applied to others.
Is chemotherapy given to every patient with breast cancer?
Chemotherapy is determined according to the stage of the tumor and the characteristics of the cancer cells. Some patients with early diagnosis do not need chemotherapy. On the other hand, some patients use smart drugs in addition to chemotherapy. Breast cancer treatment, if possible, is a personalized treatment planned in accordance with the decision of the tumor council. It has been proven that a properly planned treatment prolongs patient survival.
Is breast cancer a curable disease?
Breast cancer is a nearly XNUMX% curable disease when caught at an early stage. For this reason, it is necessary not to neglect regular doctor follow-ups and controls and to use this chance well.