is the leading cancer affecting women in Malaysia and studies show one in 19 women will develop this dreaded disease in their lifetime.
Men can also develop breast cancer, although incidences are rare. It is possible to diagnose breast cancer at an early stage. The early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances of successful treatment.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Women who are over the age of 50 are at greater risk.
|Personal History of|
Patients who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast are more likely to develop the cancer in the other breast.
|Personal History of|
Because ovarian cancer is associated with hormone use, a history of ovarian cancer increases the risk of breast cancer.
|Family History of|
The risk of developing breast cancer is higher if there is a family history of breast cancer.
|BRCA1 or BRCA2|
Mutations of these genes are associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
|Exposure to the|
The female sex hormone estrogen induces female characteristics. Extended exposure to estrogen can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Obesity, lack of exercise, drinking alcohol, exposure to high radiation
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Women with breast cancer may have no symptoms. However, it is important to seek medical attention when the following symptoms appear:
- Lump or thickening in the breast or armpit
- Nipple becoming dimpled, discharge from the nipple, or an ulcer on the nipple
- Red rash on the breast, with the appearance of orange peel
- Breast pain
Early Detection of Breast Cancer
- Breast self-examination (BSE): Women should regularly check their breasts for any changes in the appearance of the skin or abnormal lumps. It is important to check under the armpits for any lumps as this may indicate the spread of cancer to the lymph nodes. BSE is ideally done once a month just after menstruation.
- Mammogram: This is the best screening tool to detect early breast cancer. It is an X-ray of the breast which can detect small cancerous lumps which may be missed in a physical clinical examination.
- A mammogram screening, also called mammography is recommended if you are over 40 years old. However, if you have a family history of breast cancer or are prone to having suspicious lumps, a mammography is recommended even earlier.
- A mammogram is advised every 1 to 2 years but for younger women (below 35 years old), the ultrasound scan of the breast is preferred as breasts at this age contain less dense tissue which makes a mammography less accurate.
- Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC): This can be done on suspicious lumps. This is a minor procedure that involves the removal of a small amount of tissue from the lump, which is then sent to the lab for further investigation.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This is the most sensitive investigation to detect the presence of cancer cells as it gives a good picture of the soft tissue. However, not all cases require an MRI be conducted unless recommended by the doctor.
Treatment of breast cancerTreatment of breast cancer requires a multidisciplinary team of physicians such as surgeons, radiologists and cancer specialists, who together will make the most suitable treatment plan for each individual patient. The doctors will make their decision based on the following factors:
- Size, location and characteristics of the cancer cells
- Stage and spread of the disease
- Age and health of patient
- Hormone receptors
- Pre- or post-menopause
- Factors indicating disease severity, such as the HER2 gene
Treatment Options for Breast Cancer
- Hormonal Therapy
- Targeted Therapy