Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in this country, affecting one in nine women at some time in their life. Women with a mother or sister who has had breast cancer are also likely to be more aware of the disease, making delays in seeking treatment unlikely.
As well as genetics, other risk factors such as obesity and hormone replacement therapy probably play a role in the incidence and outcome of breast cancer.
Women aged over 70 years are also entitled to screening, but must request it when their appointment is due.
Women who have taken female hormone preparations for many years are also at risk. It is thought that breast-feeding gives some protection against breast cancer developing.
Hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of breast cancer. Risk increases the longer you take it, and decreases gradually after you stop taking it.
Breast cancer that spreads out of the breast may spread to lymph nodes in the armpit nearest the breast affected by cancer (axillary lymph nodes). It occurs much more commonly in women and fewer than 1 in 100 of breast cancers occur in men, and is hormone-dependent.
Hormone therapy is used for women with ER/PR-positive breast cancer, while chemotherapy is recommended for women whose breast cancers are ER-PR-negative.
Chemotherapy may also be recommended in addition to hormone therapy for women with ER/PR-positive breast cancer, particularly if they have node-positive disease, a large tumor size, or other features that suggest a higher risk for a cancer recurrence.
Lymphedema (chronic swelling) of the arm tends to develop gradually in 15% to 20% of breast cancer patients who have lymph nodes removed.
Some research suggests that the chance of developing lymphedema after breast cancer treatment is greater if a large number of lymph nodes are removed, if radiation is used as part of treatment, if tumor cells are present in the lymph does when initial surgery is performed, or if wound complications develop after surgery.
There is also research that indicates that exercise and skin care after surgery can help reduce the chances of lymphedema. All patients who have lymph nodes removed should be taught how to take care of the affected arm and help prevent lymphedema.
Lymph vessels move lymph fluid to the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes trap bacteria, cancer cells and other harmful substances. Lymphatic vessels are tiny vessels that usually run beside veins and collect fluid and dead cells.
Patients should also know the early signs of lymphedema and report any symptoms to their physicians immediately to help avoid long-term suffering.
Many women who have had chemotherapy report memory loss and lack of concentration after breast cancer treatment. Others talk about being unable to remember details, being unable to do more than one thing at a time and having trouble remembering common words.
Some women who have not taken chemotherapy also report similar symptoms.
Fertility and pregnancy are important concerns for many young women with breast cancer. One possible side effect of breast cancer treatment is amenorrhea (not having periods), which may result in loss of fertility.
The risk of amenorrhea from chemotherapy depends on a woman's age and the specific drug regimen used.
The growth of some breast cancer cells may be slowed or stopped with the drugtamoxifen, an anti-estrogen medication. Research suggests that tamoxifen may lower the chance that a breast cancer can return by between 25% and 35%. It can also prevent the recurrence of new cancer in the opposite breast.
Treatment typically involves removal of the primary tumour where possible, followed by a regimen of chemotherapy and/or hormone therapy, and sometimes radiation therapy.
Other hormone treatments include the use of progestins, estrogens, andandrogens.
In rare cases, the surgeon may suggest removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) in pre-menopausal women as a way of eliminating the main source of estrogen, which can boost the growth of some breast tumors.
Doctors and scientists are working on finding cures for all types of breast cancer.
They are researching new medicines that may even help prevent the disease. Doctors call the new tumor “distant" or metastatic disease.
Doctors recommend doing a monthly BSE at the same time each month (like a few days after a girls period ends, when breasts are less tender). Some kinds of lumps that teenage girls may feel are normal, but a doctor should check out any lump to be sure.
Breast cancer can be a transforming experience, but not in the ways you might think. Most women don't just survive breast cancer; they derive strength from the experience of having the disease.
Sarah Neill is the owner of Scarf Studio, originally designed Bandanas and Head Scarves suitable for Chemotherapy and Alopecia Hair Loss.
Sarah began making Head Scarfs after her close friend developed and overcame Breast Cancer.
You can visit her website here: http://www.scarfstudio.co.uk