Breast Cancer: An Overview Part II

Breast Cancer: An Overview Part II


Once breast cancer is confirmed, it is necessary to find the extant of the disease and its distant spread, the complete staging of the cancer might not be possible till surgery. Some of the common tests which are done to define the extant of the disease are complete blood count, mammogram of the other breast to look for signs of cancer, Chest X-ray,Breast MRI,Bone scan,Computerized tomography (CT) scan and Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Not all women will need these investigations though.

The treatment of your cancer will be dependent upon the size and spread of the tumour. Most commonly a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy is used. A detailed discussion of the treatment modalities for breast cancer will follow as a separate article.


Considering the high mortality and effective treatment for breast cancer if detected early, many preventive programs have been initiated. Most involve regular BSE and yearly Mammography.

Breast Self Examination

Breast Self Examination is a very useful technique to detect early changes suggestive of cancer. It must be done every month around a week after menstruation. The exact technique and other details are described in the article on Breast Self Examination.

Screening Mammography

Mammography is simply an X-Ray of the breast. It can detect very small tumours which are not routinely detectable by Clinical Breast Examination. Present guidelines recommend annual Mammography in Women over 40 years of age. The efficacy of Mammography to screen for Breast Cancer depend on the age of the patient, quality of the mammogram and the skill of the radiologist in interpreting the mammogram. Women aged less than 50 have higher fat content in the breast and fat, like tumour looks white on a Mammogram, so may confuse the picture.

Other than a annual screening mammograms, no other screening is recommended except in high risk patients with BRCA1 or 2 mutations in whom, a MRI of the breast may be recommended.

Post Menopausal Hormone Therapy

Post Menopausal Hormone therapy can cause increased risk of breast cancer in women; hence women should discuss the pros and cons of hormone therapy with their doctors before starting it.

If started it should be commenced at the lowest possible dose so as to reduce the chances of developing cancer of breasts.

Apart from these measures women should keep a control on their weight and diet as well.

Coping up with Breast Cancer

The diagnosis of breast cancer can often shatter women. It tends to affect women in their prime and caries a lot of morbidity in form of surgery and chemotherapy. Hence it is important to prepare oneself mentally and physically for this.

Women should try to get as much information on this disease. There are plenty of resources online which provide useful information on breast cancer. Also talk to breast cancer survivors and find out how they coped with this problem. Keep your spouse and family in the loop so that they will understand your predicament and offer the much needed support. Since breast is often seen as a sexual asset, women might feel particularly depressed at the thought of removing the breast. You can talk to your doctor about breast implants post surgery.

Breast Cancer: An Overview Part II

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