Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast and may spread to other parts of the body through the blood system or the lymphatic system.
We have compiled 10 key questions about breast cancer for our breast and endocrine surgeon, Datuk Dr Devanand Mangharam to answer during a Facebook webinar. Here’s a summary of the webinar.
1. What is the significance of breast lumps?
Breast lumps are significant today because breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Malaysia and globally.
Fortunately, around 90% of breast lumps are benign and harmless.
2. Can men get breast cancer?
It is very rare, but yes, less than 1% of men get breast cancer.
Men are generally diagnosed with breast cancer in the later stages of life, around the age of 60. In these cases, breast cancer is usually related to liver disease or due to having a family history of cancer.
3. What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
There is no specific answer to why breast cancer occurs, but common risk factors include :
- Getting older.
- Having a family history of breast cancer.
- Bad lifestyle choices such as excessive alcohol consumption, being overweight after menopause, not exercising regularly and smoking.
- Prolonged exposure of the breast to oestrogen into the age of 30s, without interruption of pregnancy or breastfeeding.
4. I took birth control pills for a long time, but I have stopped. Am I still at risk for breast cancer?
Yes. However, your risk of breast cancer will stop increasing and will decrease over the course of a few years.
The age of when the birth control pills are taken also plays a role as they can raise oestrogen levels to an unnatural level which can lead to breast cancer development.
5. Is self breast examination effective in detecting lumps and early detection of breast cancer?
Yes. Especially for women with smaller breast volume, as lumps are easier to find.
Regular self breast examination allows a woman to be more familiar and able to detect changes in her breasts.
6. When should I start to screen for breast cancer?
A mammogram is recommended every 2 years for women from the age of 40 up to the age of 50 and once a year after the age of 50.
While younger women are encouraged to go for clinical breast examination every 3 years from the age of 20.
7. Can we choose to do an ultrasound scan instead of mammogram for screening?
Women under 40 — with generally denser breasts — are recommended to go for an ultrasound while older women should opt for a mammogram.
However, if there is a family history of breast cancer, younger women are advised to go for a mammogram alternated with MRI as to not expose the breast to too much radiation.
8. What are “dense breasts” and why do some people have “dense breasts”?
Breast density is a term used in radiology that refers to the appearance of the breast in a mammogram image.
Breasts are considered dense if there are a lot of glandular tissue and not much fat in the breasts.
For women approaching menopause, a dense breast could be an indicator that they are at high risk of developing breast cancer.
9. In the past 5 years, has there been an increase in breast cancer survival rates?
Over the years, we have seen an improvement in terms of breast cancer awareness.
However, Malaysians still have a tendency to seek medical advice when breast cancer is already in its advanced stages, which affects survival rates badly.
10. Upon diagnosis of breast cancer, how soon should I seek treatment?
If a breast lump is found and you are diagnosed with cancer, don’t panic. On average, it takes around 4 months for breast lumps to double in size.
This implies that you get a window period of 3 to 4 weeks to get yourself examined, evaluated, get second opinions and get treatment sorted out.
Early detection is a necessity in order to achieve life after breast cancer. Schedule an appointment at our Breast Care Clinic now. Our patient-centred, multidisciplinary team are ready to help you stay one step ahead of breast cancer.