Cancer is a life-threatening condition caused when the cells in our body begin to divide rapidly and grow uncontrollably in an abnormal way, and which can then invade adjoining parts of the body and spread to other organs. Some cancers grow and spread fast or aggressively. Others grow slowly or tend to stay where they originated. There are more than two hundred types of cancer, but thanks to continued research and advances in medicine, cancer is more treatable than ever before.
The breast comprises various tissues and milk glands, and the ducts are connected to the nipple. Changes in the cells lining these organs can lead to cancer.
A tumour is either benign or malignant. Benign tumours mostly remain in one area and cannot spread. On the other hand, malignant tumours are formed by cancer cells that can travel to other parts of the body.
Understanding your risk factors can help you make informed decisions about screening, diagnosis and treatment:
A woman is more likely than a man to contract breast cancer.
Women who start menstruation earlier (before age 12) have a greater risk of breast cancer later in life. The same applies to women who go through menopause after age 55.
Your risk increases as you get older. Nearly 80 percent of women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer are 50 or older.
The risk of breast cancer is higher if someone suffers from young first-degree female relatives (sister, mother, daughter). The risk is higher for breast cancer in women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations.
An increased risk of breast cancer may be inherited from either parent.
If you’ve had breast cancer in one breast, there is an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
A Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 25 demonstrates a greater risk of developing breast cancer with a higher mortality risk.
A lump in the breast (all lumps should be investigated by a healthcare professional. Lumps may or may not be cancerous).
Dimpling of skin on the breast
A change in the degree of the skin's texture (some people think of it as similar to an orange peel's texture), or an enlarged pore, may appear in the breast.
Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast.
Change in skin and colour on the breast.
Unexplained swelling or shrinkage of the breast (especially if on one side only).
Change in the look of the nipple, such as it is turned slightly inward or inverted.
Any nipple discharge— in particular, bloody discharge.
Women need to be aware of their breasts' natural appearance to help them identify any changes that could be caused by cancer. Early detection is the best way to treat the disease.
To do this, lay down on your head and place your left arm under your head. Move gently over your left breast with your right hand while keeping your fingers flat. Press different pressure levels on each area to check for signs of a lump, hard knot, or thickened tissue. Repeat the exercise on the other breast.
Look at your breasts while standing in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips. Look for lumps, new differences in size and shape, and swelling or dimpling of the skin.
Raise one arm, then the other, so you can check under your arms for lumps.
Squeeze the nipple of each breast gently between your thumb and index ﬁnger. Report any discharge or ﬂuid to your healthcare provider right away.
A mammogram uses an X-ray to check for small calcium deposits in the breast. A cluster of these tiny particles could be an early sign of cancer. It can help identify changes at the earliest possible stage.
Most women above 50 should have a mammogram screening every one or two years. Women above 40 with a family history of breast cancer are also advised to have one regularly.
The doctor may also ask about the patient's family and personal medical history during the physical exam. Doing so helps the doctor identify potential problems and find early signs of illness. They may also perform various tests to check for cancer, such as:
If a suspicious-looking mass is found during the tests, the doctor may need to remove tissue or fluid from the breast to diagnose. After referring the patient to a specialist, the doctor may perform a biopsy. This procedure can guide the next phase of treatment.
During a tissue analysis, pathologists can determine which type of cancer is present and special laboratory tests can then be performed on the tissue to learn more about the disease. These include immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining.
Subang Jaya Medical Centre's multidisciplinary team comprises experts in various fields, such as surgery, oncology, pathology, and radiology, to provide the best care for advanced or early breast cancer patients. Our team can customise the most appropriate treatment plan for each patient.
The doctors at SJMC ensure that every patient is well-versed in the various factors that affect their cancer treatment. They will guide them through the options available to them and the possible side effects of the treatment.
Surgery is usually the first line of attack against breast cancer. Decisions about surgery depend on many factors. You and your doctor will determine the kind of surgery most appropriate for you based on the cancer stage, the “personality” of the cancer, and what is acceptable to you in terms of your long-term peace of mind.
After a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, reconstruction is a process that involves the rebuilding of the breast. This can be done at the same time as the cancer-removing surgery. Some women choose not to have reconstruction and instead have an external prosthesis in the bra.
In chemotherapy, also known as systemic therapy, medicine is used to destroy cancer cells in the body. It involves going through the bloodstream and affecting the entire body. Various types of chemotherapy medicines are used in this treatment. In most cases, a combination of these drugs can be used to treat breast cancer.
During the consultation, the doctor will discuss the various side effects of chemotherapy and how they can be managed.
One of the other treatment modalities to treat breast cancer is radiation therapy. This targeted therapy can destroy cancer cells already spreading to the surrounding tissues. This type of localized therapy can reduce the likelihood of cancer returning after surgery. The effects of radiation therapy are relatively easy to tolerate.
Intra-operative radiotherapy, or IORT, is a high-dose radiation therapy delivered during breast cancer surgery. It is designed to destroy cancer cells that have already spread to the surrounding tissues. Unlike standard radiation therapy, which only treats the whole breast, IORT focuses on the tissue surrounding the tumour. If cancer returns, it will most likely be near the site where it was first discovered. Treatment is one-off, hence negating the need for multiple radiotherapy sessions like in the conventional way.
The type of radiation therapy (IORT or traditional radiation) that you receive depends on the size of the tumour, the age of the patient, and the type of cancer cells that make up the tumour. Equipped with highly sophisticated radiosurgery and radiotherapy facilities, the Cancer & Radiosurgery Centre at SJMC can provide the best possible care for patients.
Breast cancer cells can grow through the influence of hormones. Patients with both the Estrogen receptor and the Progesterone receptor positive are more likely to respond to hormone therapy. This treatment involves affecting the hormone Estrogen, which is required for cancer growth.
For women with hormone receptor positive cancer, hormone therapy can be used as an additional treatment. It can help reduce the likelihood of the cancer returning. However, it can also cause some minimal side-effects, depending on the type of drugs used.
A type of cancer treatment known as targeted therapy involves using small molecules or antibodies that bind to specific sites on the surface of cancer cells. It aims to prevent the growth and division of these cells while minimising the side effects of the treatment. Currently, several drugs are being used for treating breast cancer. Other drugs may also be used to control different types of cancer that may have metastasised.
The support services provided by the healthcare team at the Cancer & Radiosurgery Centre can help patients and their families feel more comfortable and improve their quality of life. The facility's patient and family resource centre also offers educational programmes and other services:
Patients can also participate in programmes such as:
SJMC Cancer & Radiosurgery Centre has been recognised for its leadership in cancer management.
This content aims to provide you with the necessary information and coping techniques to help you manage your cancer. However, this content should not be construed as medical advice. You must consult with a doctor before considering any treatment.
The staff members and doctors at the centre are dedicated to providing the best possible care for each patient and aim to enhance the patient's emotional and physical well-being. The facility also offers various support groups and other services to help ease the daily stress of living with cancer.