It is unknown why malignant tumors develop in the breasts. Initially, the tumor is restricted to the breast, but when it reaches a diameter of about 25 mm it usually begins to spread (metastasize) through the bloodstream and the lymphatic system into other parts of the body. In about 10% of cases the disease affects both breasts.
A lump is developed in the breast – which can (but does not have to be) painful – most often in the upper, outer part. This lump can usually be felt under the hand, but is usually not so big and cannot be seen with an eye. In some cases a dark discharge is excreted from the nipple, and the nipple can retract.
Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in women, and occurs in about 5% of women. It is most common in women in the forties and in the fifties, and more frequently in women without children, women with late menopause and those whose family members have had this disease.
If breast cancer is diagnosed early, prospects for healing are good. If cancer is not treated, or if treatment begins too late, it will end with patient’s death.
What to do?
If you examine your breasts every month, you will be able to detect every new lump or change on an already existing lump early. For women who are older than fifty and women with breast cancer in a family history, regular, controlled X-rays are done in some parts of the United Kingdom for timely detection of the disease. Ask your doctor for information about examinations, as well as about thermography. If you notice any lump on your breast, even if it’s painless, go to your doctor immediately. The doctor will examine you and probably send to a specialist who will determine if the lump is the consequence of breast cancer or any other illness or disorder. You will probably need to do a mammogram or a biopsy (taking a sample from the tissue of the new or existing lump for a test).
In most cases the entire breast is removed, sometimes along with the lymph glands in the armpit near the breast. Some surgeons remove only part of the breast and then insert a silicone prosthesis (artificial breast) to replace the removed tissue. This helps to maintain the shape of the breast. Radiotherapy, as well as cytostatics, are applied to the operation. The duration of hospital stay varies considerably from case to case. Of course, breast loss is painful for every woman. However, every woman who has to undergo such an operation can certainly count on a complete understanding from friends and hospital staff. In fact, she might even be surprised to find out how many women have undergone the same surgery, and may never suspect that those women are missing their breast, because the prosthesis (false or artificial breast) can completely adapt to the shape of the other breast and the difference can not be noticed with neither eye nor touch. In the end, most of the women simply accept this change, especially when they find out that the problem is not as significant as they expected.
If the tumor is removed early, the patient can expect a complete healing and/or many years without health problems. After surgery and therapy a regular monitoring is required each year or every six months, although, in some cases, it can be discontinued after several years. If the cancer develops again, it can be kept under control for years with drugs, radiotherapy. and possibly with another operation.
As with many other types of cancer, mental attitude is essential in treating breast cancer. Although the reasons are not quite clear, a woman who positively looks at her illness and who decides to fight it has a better chance of healing.