About breast cancer
Breast cancer is a type of cancer where the cells of the breast begin to grow abnormally or uncontrollably. Usually there are 2 types of breast cancer, one which originates in the milk ducts and other which originates in the lobules. These cells can travel to other parts of your body through blood vessels and lymph vessels and when that happens, it is called metastatic (spread of cancer cells to new areas of the body
The surgery can take upto 2-3 hours. The treatment consists of Chemotherapy, hormone therapy, surgery and radiation. The type of surgery that can be done is based on a few aspects like- the size of the cancer, the size of the breasts and where is the cancer located in the breast.
Symptoms/ How to detect breast cancer
A breast lump is just one of the symptoms how you can detect breast cancer. There are a few other signs that you should look out for like-
● Nipple discharge
● Breast dimpling
● Redness or pain or swelling
● Nipple retraction
● Inverted nipple
● Sudden change in size
● Changes in the skin texture (Scaly skin around the nipple)
If you face the above abnormalities in your breasts for more than 3-5 weeks, it is recommended that you see your doctor right away. Screening for breast cancer (mammogram) can help detect this condition in its earliest and most treatable stage.
Types of Surgeries
There are 2 major types of breast cancer surgeries performed-
- Mastectomy - Mastectomy is a surgical procedure to remove one or both of the breasts to treat cancer. The procedure generally takes about 2-3 hours. It is followed by breast reconstruction which is a surgery to reshape the breasts.
- Lumpectomy- Lumpectomy is a surgical procedure to remove cancer bearing tissue from the breasts as opposed to mastectomy where the whole breast is removed. It is also called breast conserving surgery. Takes about 20-50 mins.
Before breast cancer surgery- Educating yourself
It is important to know that not all breast lumps are cancerous but if you notice changes in the breasts that does not relate to your menstrual cycle or any breast infection, you should visit your doctor for the examination and evaluation of the affected breasts to rule out the other possible causes. The tests may include mammograms, blood tests, ultrasound and other imaging tests.
● Learn about the different types of breast cancer and their treatment procedures.
● Awareness about the symptoms can timely screening can help reduce the risk.
● Ask your doctor- what to expect after the surgery and the risk factors.
● Finding the right doctor for the procedure. Make sure you are seeing the right type of specialist for your cancer.
● Know your medical history, breast cancer is genetic in 5-10% of the cases.
● Get breast biopsy- the surest way to detect breast cancer where doctor takes out pieces of breast tissue to check them for cancer cells.
● Seek a second opinion- Always a good idea.
● Seek mental support. There are support groups that you can join to cope with the emotional aspects.
● Learn about the procedure for your specific type of cancer- the cost, the recovery time etc to be prepared.
After the surgery- Recovery
After the surgery there are a few things that you should keep in mind or to look out for so that your recover process is comfortable and fast.
● Be sure that you go for the follow up visits where the doctor will conduct a few tests to check if the cancer is back.
● Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and stop smoking if you do as it hampers the recovery process.
● Join support groups, seek support from other young women facing the same and talk about your state.
● Watch out for the late side effects of the surgery like chest pain, fatigue, numbness, blurred vision and keep updating your doctor regarding it.
● Take care of the incision- timely change of the bandage to avoid infection.
● Keep all of your medical records and history saved (incase the cancer comes back).
● The cut should be kept dry and clean and the patient should take sponge baths until the doctor has removed the drains.
● Getting used to the changes- The sooner you can confront the changes that has happened, the sooner it will give you the confidence to go back to your normal life.
● Find out more about breast reconstruction and breast prosthesis.