Breast cancer is a type of uncontrolled cell division that develops in the cells of the breasts. Breast cancer can develop in both men and women, but is seen more predominant in women. Women with a family history of cancer, obese women, those who began menstruating early, women who attain menopause after the age of 55, and women who have their first child after 30 are at a higher risk. Formation of new lumps, the difference in the size and shape of the breast, dimpling, inverted nipple, crusting, or flaking of the skin around the nipple and redness are some of the common symptoms. Though some of these symptoms can also indicate other common conditions like PMS, women tend to panic. And this is totally reasonable, because according to research, it is the second most common type of cancer after skin cancer. So it is important to educate yourself about breast cancer, self-examination, precautions, and myths. For this purpose, we have curated a list of FAQs about breast cancer in this blog post.
1. How often should Breast Self Examination (BSE) be done?
Breast Cancer Specialists recommend doing a breast self-exam (BSE) once a month. You must check for new abnormalities such as dimpling, palpable lumps, puckering, unusual discharge from the nipples, sudden inversion of the nipple, scaliness in the nipple/areola area, and breast skin. Thoroughly examine your breasts and if you notice any of these types of changes contact a specialty center immediately. It is also recommended that you get a physician’s examination from time to time. Through such noticeable abnormalities, we learn that there may be cancer present.
2. Does wearing a bra cause breast cancer?
There is no evidence or research that supports the claim that wearing bras can lead to breast cancer.
3. Does reproductive and menstrual history increase the risk of breast cancer?
Yes, research states that there is an increased cancer risk for women who become pregnant with their first child. From menstrual and reproductive history, we learn that women over 30 years of age are more likely to develop breast cancer. Women who have no biological children are also at an increased risk. Additionally, cancer institutes state that women who began to menstruate before the age of 12 and those who attain menopause after the age of 55 are also at risk of developing breast cancer. The good news is that you can make good lifestyle choices to put yourself at less risk.
4. What are the major side effects of chemotherapy?
It’s important to note that the side effects of different types of cancer treatments vary from one patient to another. From observation, we learn that the common side-effects of chemotherapy treatments include nausea, anemia, changes in appetite, hair loss, tiredness, infertility, diarrhea, and changes in smell or taste. Some patients may even undergo menopause.
5. How can women reduce their risk of breast cancer?
There are many breast cancer risk factors that are beyond our control. This includes patient genetics, early menstruation, and patient’s family health history. The good news is that other factors such as eating a balanced diet, child-bearing before reaching the age of 30, and maintaining a healthy weight can be monitored to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Make sure you eat a diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables. Research reveals that Polyunsaturated fats (found in corn oils) and saturated fats found in meats) may help lower the risk of breast cancer. Smoking and alcohol consumption must be limited or avoided completely.
6. Can men get breast cancer?
Breast cancer in men is far less common than in women, however, it is possible for men to get breast cancer. According to research, approximately 1% of all breast cancer cases are reported for men. The symptoms experienced are the same as women. Contact your doctor if you notice any symptoms of breast cancer.
7. How common are breast lumps and breast pain?
It is common for women to develop breast lumps. Research says that almost 80% of new lumps occur because of benign (non-cancerous) changes. This percentage changes with age. In younger women, we have learned that more than 80% of breast lumps are non-cancerous. The older a woman gets, the more her risk for breast cancer. But, it’s still important to report any new breast abnormality to your doctor, especially if it exists after two or more menstrual cycles. It is better if you reach out for cancer treatments in the early stages.
8. Does taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause increase the risk of breast cancer?
While Hormone Replacement Therapy helps relieve menopausal symptoms and can prevent conditions such as osteoporosis. There is little research that supports a link between HRT and an increased risk for breast cancer. In most cases of menopausal and post-menopausal women considering HRT, we learn that the treatment is like an exchange between the benefits of relieving menopausal symptoms and the possibility of developing breast cancer. Considering genetics, a woman with a high risk of osteoporosis and a relatively lower risk of breast cancer can opt for HRT. Consult with cancer centers and seek the advice of experts regarding the benefits and risks of HRT and make informed choices.
9. What is Mammography? Is it painful? What are the side effects?
A mammogram is the best imaging tool that medical professionals can use to detect new signs of breast cancer. Successful cancer treatment can be done when there is early detection. The experience varies according to the patient. Some may feel pain, and others may not feel pain at all. The receptors may cause some discomfort during the X-ray process. The pressure against your breasts caused by the testing equipment and receptors can cause pain or discomfort. This is normal. The X-Ray process lasts for a few minutes. The amount of discomfort you experience also depends on:
- your breast size
- your menstrual cycle
- the variations in positioning during the exam
A mammogram doesn’t cause serious or long-term side effects on your breast tissue, according to research. You are exposed to a small amount of radiation, but the benefits of early detection for breast cancer outweigh the risk of side effects of the radiation.
10. What are dense breasts and how does that factor into diagnosing and treating breast cancer?
Breast density refers to the ability of the x-ray receptors to penetrate the breast tissue and give imaging during a mammogram. Dense tissue can hinder the sensitivity of mammography receptors. Younger women usually have dense breast tissue. As you grow older, breast tissue is replaced by fatty tissue and it becomes less dense. The mammogram receptor becomes more accurate at finding breast lesions. For high-risk women, digital mammography is better and has better sensitivity to detect cancer in dense breasts.
11. What type of doctor should I see if I think I have breast cancer?
An oncologist doctor who has expertise in the research, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Even after being diagnosed, her team will recommend imaging tests and other laboratory tests to confirm a cancer diagnosis.
12. When should I begin screening for breast cancer?
Cancer specialty centers recommend the following screening intervals based on research for average-risk patients:
- Women under 40 – Not usually recommended.
- Women between ages 40 and 49 – It is recommended to schedule an annual mammogram screening but it is better to discuss with your doctor.
- Women age 50 and older – Annual or biannual mammogram is recommended.
13. What treatment options are typically available?
The nature and behavior of breast cancer play an important role in the treatment plan. In some patients, tumors are smaller but grow fast, while in other patients, they are bigger and grow slowly. Treatment programs are personalized for patients after thorough research based on these factors. General treatment programs offered by specialty centers include:
- Lumpectomy: Surgical removal of the tumor and a small margin of healthy tissue
- Mastectomy: Entire breast is removed through surgery.
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy: A small number of lymph nodes that receive lymph drainage from the breast are surgically removed.
- Axillary lymph node dissection: Multiple lymph nodes from under the arm are surgically removed
14. Which hospital provides the best treatment for breast cancer?
Sri Ramakrishna Hospital, Coimbatore is one of the top hospitals for the treatment of Breast Cancer, the most common type of cancer. Equipped with the latest facilities, the team of experts is always available on-site to help and offer their services to patients. Diagnosed patients can find multidisciplinary experts and seek a third party opinion if needed. The hospital also consists of a research institute that collaborates with the leading oncology experts in the country. Specialty centers offering comprehensive services for diagnosed patients are available. These centers ensure the utmost care and comfort for all patients.