holding a pink ribbon
holding a pink ribbon

Breast Cancer: How to Look for Signs And Catch it Early

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One of the most common cancers around is breast cancer. It’s a type of cancer that affects mainly women over the age of 50, but it can happen to anyone of any age.

This guide will go over symptoms.

Symptoms to Detect

You should be looking out for symptoms regularly so that you can catch any cancer as soon as possible.

For example, the most common and obvious symptom of breast cancer that you should be looking out for is breast lumps. This will be an area of thickened tissues in the breast, and whilst most breast lumps aren’t cancerous, they are still something you should be looking out for and having a doctor take a look at.

Other symptoms could include a discharge of fluid from a nipple, swelling in general, a change in the look for the skin, or general changes in appearance. In all cases, you should see a doctor for peace of mind if nothing else.

How it Can Be Diagnosed 

hands over breasts
Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

You may be diagnosed a few different ways, but in almost all cases, you will need to speak to a medical expert who will verify your concern. You very well may suspect you have it, and indeed you might. But until you’ve actually gone and got tested properly, you won’t be able to do too much about it.

That’s why the first thing you should do, is going to your doctor if you have any concerns or worries regarding your breast health.

Signs that could point you toward needing to see a doctor include noticing an unusual lump on your breast, or any change in your appearance. For example, you may notice the feel or shape of them being different.

Your doctor can examine you on the spot, and if they believe that you need any further assessment, then they could refer you to a specialist breast cancer doctor.

A specialist could do a variety of tests to further analyze your situation and conduct tests to find out what’s going on.

For example, they may conduct a mammogram, which can look inside breast tissue to find any abnormalities. A mammogram is much like an x-ray but for the breast.

In some cases, you may also be suggested to have an ultrasound or an MRI scan.

An ultrasound will usually only be suggested if you are under the age of 35, as those who are younger often have denser breasts, which can help the detection rate. Ultrasounds use high-frequency sounds to produce images inside the breast, allowing doctors to see lumps or abnormalities.

An MRI scan uses magnets and radio fields to help create images of the body’s soft tissues, bones, and organs. Specialists known as radiologists look inside the body without having to use radiation, which is often used during x rays and CT scans.

Breast MRI machines utilize special breast coils that can help to create high-resolution images of either breast or both. The images will be in three dimensions, which can give a more detailed look at what’s going on. Look into booking a breast MRI scan.

Treatment Options Available to You

statue of a breast
Photo by Victoria Strukovskaya on Unsplash

If indeed your test results show that you have breast cancer, or any other breast issues, then your doctor will move on to treatment. Treatment can come in a few different forms, depending on what exactly it is that you have been diagnosed with. You may be assigned to a specific department or team of doctors, who will work with you to provide suitable treatment and aftercare.

Some treatments that may be available to you, include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. Surgery can come in two main types for breast cancer, either breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy. Breast-conserving surgery refers to surgery in which part of the breast which contains the cancer is removed. This will be done to prevent it from spreading and cut the problem from the root.

Mastectomy sees an entire breast removed, including all of the breast tissue. These can come in a few different forms, which could see just one breast removed, or both.

Breast cancer can also be dealt with through radiotherapy. This will be controlled radiation, that is sent to kills cancerous cells. The radiation will usually be given after surgery and chemotherapy sessions, to get the last of any remaining cancer cells.

In most cases, radiotherapy treatment will begin around a month after any surgery you have, with a few sessions a week.

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer medicine, such as cytotoxic, that targets cancer cells. Again, it is something that you will see post-surgery more often than not, or even before surgery.

Chemotherapy can see several medicines used, sometimes even during the same session. It will depend on how aggressive your cancer is, and how far it has currently spread. It will be processed to you through a drip device, straight into your veins.

Hormone therapy treatments can help with the chemical imbalance within a breast. Some breast cancers are stimulated to grow by the hormone estrogen or progesterone. That’s where hormone therapy comes in, as it can combat these levels by lowering the levels to help prevent their effect.

Targeted therapies use medicines that can change how your cells work and help them fight against cancer. They will stop them from growing or spreading, but not all types of breast cancer can be treated with targeted therapy.

Daily Life With Breast Cancer

As with many different forms of cancer, it can alter your day-to-day life, at least to begin with. The impact that it will have, depends entirely on your situation and cancer itself.

It’s important to note that everyone is unique in how they deal with issues, as well as how they get supported. But something that all women should look to do is create a support network. This will help you talk openly to those you care about so that you’re not going through anything alone.

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