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Breast Cancer

  • What is Breast Cancer?

    Breast cancer is an abnormal growth of tissue in the breast that can sometimes be felt as a lump. The tumour develops when cells in the breast divide without control and produce extra tissue. It can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Cancerous cells can spread within the breast, to lymph nodes (glands) in the armpit and to other parts of your body.

  • The causes of breast cancer are not known. It sometimes occurs in women who have family members with the disease (a genetic cause) or who started to menstruate at a young age (a hormonal cause). Normal female hormones control the division of cells in the breast and when abnormal, they may cause breast cancer. Women over the age of 40 are more likely to get breast cancer than younger women.

  • Symptoms of breast cancer may include any of the following:

    • A painless lump in the breast
    • Bleeding or unusual discharge from the nipple
    • Dimpled or puckered skin over the breast
    • Persistent itch and rash around the nipple
    • Pulled in or retracted nipple
    • Swollen and thickened skin over the breast
  • You are likely to undergo surgery to remove the tumour. This may be:

    • Breast conserving surgery:
      1. Lumpectomy – removal of the cancer and some of the surrounding tissues
      2. Quadrantectomy – removal of a quarter of the breast that contains the lump
    • Mastectomy – removal of the whole breast

    Other treatments include:

    • Drug therapy to destroy cancer cells:
      1. Chemotherapy
      2. Hormone therapy
      3. Targeted therapy
    • Radiation therapy (high-energy x-ray) to destroy cancer cells
    • Rehabilitation:
      1. Nutrition and lifestyle support to help with recovery
      2. Shoulder exercises and arm care to avoid stiffness and swelling
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