Answers to your questions about breast cancer in 10 questions

breast-cancerEarly diagnosis saves lives in breast cancer, which is responsible for 14 percent of cancer deaths. 1.4 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. A newborn girl’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is about 12 percent, which is a very high rate. Studies show that one out of every 8 women breast cancerIt shows what risk of getting caught, while the risk is less in men. The lack of information about the disease causes confusion. General Surgery Specialist and Director of Breast Health Center Prof. Dr. Metin Çakmakçı answered the most frequently asked questions about breast cancer.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that can originate from any part of the breast tissue in general and most often occurs in the ducts. It develops in the sacs that make the milk in the breast and the ducts that carry them. Breast cancer, which is the first among the cancers seen in women all over the world, is predominantly seen after menopause, and it has started to be seen seriously in women under the age of 40 in recent years.

It is seen that one out of every 10 women in Europe and one out of every 8 women in the USA has a lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, and the incidence in men is much lower than in women. However, technological development and early diagnosis possibilities ensure that the death toll in breast cancer is low. In addition, raising awareness of breast cancer in the society as a result of the work of non-governmental organizations and the health policies of governments in Western countries is another factor that keeps breast cancer-related mortality rates low.

Breast cancer in all its details in 25 questions: Answers to frequently asked questions

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The important thing in breast cancer is to catch the disease before the symptoms appear. Because the development of symptoms means that the disease is progressing.

The most common symptoms of breast cancer are;

  • A palpable mass in the breast or armpit,
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast,
  • Bloody discharge from the nipple,
  • Shape and color change in the skin of the breast or nipple,
  • Inward retraction of the breast or nipple,
  • Formation of a gland in the armpit or neck, although there is no mass in the breast.

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

Women with certain risk factors are more likely to develop breast cancer. However, it is still possible for people who do not have risk factors to get breast cancer. Advanced age is an important risk factor for breast cancer. The incidence of breast cancer in women over the age of 50 is 4 times higher than in women under the age of 50. For this reason, the importance of screening tests is increasing, especially in women over the age of 50.

Risk factors:

  • Having a family history of breast cancer,
  • Menstruation started at an early age (under 12 years old),
  • not having given birth
  • Having had the first birth after the age of 30,
  • Going into menopause at a late age,
  • Being overweight and gaining weight especially after menopause,
  • Smoking increases the risk.

Is it possible to detect breast cancer genes early?

Some genes known to cause breast cancer have been described and are detected through genetic testing. In this family of tests

  • early breast cancer
  • breast cancer in both breasts
  • early ovarian cancer outside the breast
  • Genetic studies may be considered for people with a relative with male breast cancer.

Genetic tests are carried out in specialized genetic counseling centers. The family history of the individuals is evaluated in detail and the test is performed in line with the results. Genetic testing is also performed on people who have had breast cancer at an early age. The aim is to map the risk of siblings and children and to have information while continuing the treatment.

What is the incidence of breast cancer in men?

Breast cancer is thought to be a disease specific to women. However, about 1% of breast cancers occur in men. Two reasons why it is so rare in men are the relatively scarcity of breast tissue in men and the hormonal structure of men being different from women. Breast cancer is more common in men over the age of 60.

Few men are aware of the disease, and therefore the disease is diagnosed later than women, and by the time cancer is diagnosed, the disease is usually advanced and its treatment becomes more difficult. Therefore, it is very important for men to be sensitive about this issue and be aware of the changes in their bodies.

How is breast cancer treated?

Breast cancer is a very common disease; most common cancer in women. The good thing about this is that there is a lot of information about breast cancer and a lot of research being done. There are many developments in both diagnosis and treatment methods. According to the types of breast cancer, treatment options are also changing day by day and personalized treatment comes to the fore. When conscious behaviors such as the fact that we better distinguish women who we know are at higher than average risk of breast cancer, women get to know their breast structures better, become aware of changes in their breasts and have preventive breast screenings when the time comes, breast cancer becomes a type of cancer that does not frighten, when combined with today’s medical technology.

About 10 percent of breast cancers are due to inherited genetic factors. Of these, 85 percent are due to gene mutations called BRCA1, BRCA2, and the rest are due to mutations in other genes. We can look at whether these genetic mutations are present in patients we have determined to have a high familial cancer risk. If there is this mutation, we know that the probability of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer over the years is very high. Accordingly, we recommend some approaches to prevent the disease by early screening, reducing the risk by using drugs, and sometimes removing the breast tissue by surgery.

Thanks to advanced and proven new genetic tests, we can monitor a significant portion of patients who have cancer and were diagnosed and operated at an early stage, without giving chemotherapy. With this approach, we both protect these patients from the side effects of chemotherapy and do not reduce their quality of life.

One of the new techniques in breast cancer and its treatment is to give radiotherapy during surgery. With this method, some medical benefits can be provided by saving time for the patient. Normally, breast cancer surgery involves a surgical procedure to remove the tumor first, followed by radiation therapy for several weeks. However, in the intraoperative radiotherapy option, radiotherapy is given during the surgery, immediately after the tumor is removed. Thus, radiotherapy treatment, which lasts for 5 weeks, can be completed in just 30-40 minutes.

However, even in Western countries, 5% of patients are in an advanced stage when breast cancer is diagnosed. The only method we can rely on in these patients is advanced drug treatments. Some tumors respond well to these treatments, and some don’t, unfortunately. Although breast cancer-related deaths have decreased by one-third compared to the 1970s, breast cancer is unfortunately still the first leading cause of cancer-related death in women due to late diagnosis and especially its high incidence.

Who is at risk for breast cancer, other than those at genetic risk? Do smoking, not doing sports, using a bra trigger breast cancer?

A healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of not only getting cancer, but all diseases. Although it is not a genetic risk factor, it is very important to avoid smoking in order to reduce the risk of cancer. There are studies showing that even passive smoking increases the risk of cancer. We can say that people who smoke, do not exercise regularly, adopt a sedentary lifestyle and eat unhealthy, have a high risk of developing not only breast cancer but also all kinds of cancer.

Obesity is also directly related to breast cancer. Obesity increases the likelihood of getting cancer. In other words, obesity is also a disease in terms of cancer risk, unfortunately it is not just an aesthetic defect. On the other hand, the use of a bra, the type of bra and the use of deodorant are not remotely related to breast cancer.

What to do for early diagnosis? How important is it to have a mammogram?

The risk of breast cancer increases with age. The significant age limit for regular physician check-ups is between 40-45 years. It is recommended that those at risk have examination, mammography and ultrasonography every year after the age of 40, and those who are not at risk every year after the age of 45. Even if the person has a special risk, it is recommended to go to the doctor’s control more often. Mammography is the most valuable screening test for breast cancer today. Due to the structure of the breast, sometimes mammography cannot give much information and in these cases, it may be necessary to monitor the patient with MRI.

Does breastfeeding reduce the risk of breast cancer?

There is no such thing as a lower risk in breastfeeding women and higher in non-lactating women. Breastfeeding or not breastfeeding does not pose a particular risk factor for a woman. That is, the rules for screening an individual do not change. As such, there may be differences of academic value that can be detected for large audiences and societies. But for the individual they are not meaningful. For example, it doesn’t mean anything to you if your rate of getting breast cancer goes from 10 percent to 10 and a half. The important information that a woman should know, which increases the real risk, is breast cancer concentrated in the family, on the mother’s side.

Can women who have had breast surgery also breastfeed?

Women who have had breast surgery (who have not had their entire breast removed) are often afraid that they will not be able to breastfeed their babies, but the breast that has been operated and treated continues to secrete milk like the other breast, and breastfeeding can be done from both breasts.

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