Breast Cancer is cancer that arises in the breast tissue. It is the most common cancer in women and is the second leading cause of death by cancer in women (lung cancer is the first).
Breast Cancer may begin in the milk glands or milk ducts, fatty tissue or connective tissue. The majority (90%) of Breast Cancers begin in the milk glands or ducts.
Risk factors for Breast Cancer include:
• Age - chances of developing Breast Cancer increase, as women grow older.
• Family history of Breast Cancer. The risk of developing Breast Cancer doubles or triples if a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) has had Breast Cancer.
• Women who have had in situ Breast Cancer (contained entirely in the breast duct) or invasive Breast Cancer (where the cancer can spread to other tissues) are at higher risk of having Breast Cancer develop again, often in the other breast.
• Women who began menstruation early or who had an early menopause or a late first pregnancy are at higher risk of developing Breast Cancer.
• Women taking oral contraceptives or who are on hormone replacement therapy may be at slightly higher risk.
If a lump that may be cancerous is found, your Doctor will order a biopsy where some cells from the lump are removed via a needle attached to a syringe (aspiration biopsy) or a small piece of tissue is removed (incisional biopsy) or the whole lump will be removed (excisional biopsy). If cancer cells are found, more tests will be performed to determine the nature of cancer present, as this will affect the type of treatment used.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
In the majority of women, Breast Cancer is first noticed as a lump in the breast. The lump usually feels quite different from the surrounding breast tissue and cannot be felt in the same place on the other breast. In the early stages the lump may be quite moveable under the skin. In more advanced stages, the lump is fixed to the chest wall or skin and is difficult to move. There may also be small bumps or ulcers on the breast skin or a change in the texture of the skin (which resembles the skin of an orange, although not orange in colour). Sometimes there will be breast pain without a lump or the breast may be enlarged.
Treatment will depend on the type of Breast Cancer present - how fast it grows, if it is likely to spread and what effect treatment will have. Treatment can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and hormone-blocking drugs or a combination of these treatments. Ask your Doctor to clearly outline all the treatment options available for the type of Breast Cancer you have.
See the Breast Cancer Treatment, Breast Surgery, Breast Cancer - Chemotherapy, Breast Cancer - Radiation Therapy topics for further information.
Always consult your Doctor for diagnosis and advice. In no way is this information intended to replace the advice of a medical practitioner.
Women who have a family history of Breast Cancer should see their Doctor to discuss genetic screening. There is a small benefit in mammogram screening for women aged 40-49, however, it needs to be weighed against other factors such as age, family history, personal concerns, personal assessment of possible risks of mammography such as anxiety, inconvenience, cost and discomfort.
It is recommended that women who have a moderate to high risk of Breast Cancer should have regular clinical breast examinations performed by their Doctor. Women should be encouraged to know their breasts and what is normal for them and to report any breast changes to their Doctor immediately.
The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) is a long-term, large-scale study of the influence of diet on cancer in humans. The EPIC results recommend that people lose weight if overweight or obese and have a diet that is:
• High in fruits and vegetables.
• High in fibre.
• Low in red or processed meats.
• Low in saturated fat.
Evidence suggests that natural substances found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage may lower overall cancer risk. Other cruciferous vegetables include rocket, watercress, garden cress, kale, bok choy, radish, horseradish and wasabi.
Always consult your Doctor before taking any dietary supplements for advice on any possible side effects or drug interactions. This is particularly important during cancer therapy, as many chemotherapy drugs act by blocking the effects of certain vitamins.
• Carotenoids are nutrients that may have the capacity to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and may help convert abnormal cancerous cells into normal cells. Important carotenoids are beta-carotene, alphacarotene, and lycopene. Women with breast cancer have been shown to often have lower levels of beta-carotene in their blood.
• Grape Seed Extract contains antioxidants (Resveratrol), which can help to control cellular damage. It may neutralise cell mutations that can lead to tumour formation possibly delaying the progression of breast cancer.
• Omega-3 fatty acids contain fats, which may protect against cancer.
• Vitamin A is an immune system booster, which may provide benefit in combating breast cancer.
Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice.
1. Follow the diet hints.
2. Quit smoking. Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for information and products designed to help you quit.
3. Your Pharmacist can offer advice about the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Your Pharmacy stocks a range of low irritant skin washes, mouthwashes etc.
4. Discuss any medications you may be taking with your Pharmacist. He/she can advise you about their effects and any potential problems or side effects.
5. Recent studies indicate that strenuous exercise in youth might provide life-long protection against Breast Cancer and that even moderate physical activity as an adult can lower breast cancer risk.
6. See the Vitamins/Minerals/Herbs section of this topic and ask your Pharmacist for advice on the supplements recommended.