Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. It is estimated that 1 in 8 women who live up to 80 years old will develop breast cancer. Breast cancer can be found in every age group, but the incidence of breast cancer increases after the age of 40. The highest incidence occurs in women over age 50. Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include:
Change in breast appearance and skin
Pain or abnormal discharge from the nipple
There are often no symptoms in the early stages of breast cancer.
Types of Breast Cancer
There are many types of breast cancer. The most common type is invasive ductal carcinoma, which originates from the ductal structure, spreads through the duct walls, and invades the breast tissue. The less common types of breast cancer include Lobular, Medullary, Tubular, and Papillary carcinomas.
Importance of Screening
Even though the incidence of breast cancer is increasing every year, the breast cancer mortality rate is declining. This is due to early breast cancer screening and detection. 88% of new breast cancer patients are in stage 0, which is curable. Breast cancer screening with a mammogram and breast ultrasound is recommended for women with an average risk of breast cancer starting at the age of 40. Highrisk populations that have a family history of breast and other types of cancer, or of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, should seek early breast cancer screening or genetic counseling with a doctor.
Breast cancer is treated using a combination of surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy based on the types and stages of breast cancer. Surgery is the treatment of choice in the early stage of breast cancer. Sometimes, surgery might also be used to help relieve symptoms in the advanced stage of breast cancer. Radiotherapy treatment uses a machine to target and destroy cancer cells with radiation.
Dealing with the Side Effects from Treatment
Most treatment side effects are temporary and disappear once treatment is over. Some people develop lymphoedema after treatment for breast cancer. Lymphoedema is swelling caused by a build-up of fluid in the body’s tissues. Swelling in the arms can be prevented by wearing compression garments, stretching, and stimulating lymph circulation.
Side effects from radiation therapy include a burning sensation in the area that receives the radiation. This can be alleviated by using a cold compress and applying lotion after radiation treatment has been completed.
Chemotherapy can temporarily affect the number of healthy blood cells in the body. Blood cells - white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets - are released by the bone marrow to replace those naturally used up in the body. Chemotherapy reduces the ability of the bone marrow to make these cells.
Chemotherapy also causes the body to have lower immunity, resulting in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, joint pain, and body aches. Some side effects can be prevented with medications, such as hematopoietic drugs, to prevent the white blood cells from getting too low. Drugs are also available to prevent nausea and vomiting and reduce diarrhea.
The Oncology Clinic at Bangkok Hospital Chiang Mai provides personalized, comprehensive, and compassionate care for patients with breast cancer using advanced screening, diagnostic, and treatment services. To schedule an appointment, call 052-089-817.