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Common Breast Cancer Questions

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 6 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
Breasts breast Cancer breast Cancer

Most women are aware of breast cancer, but not everyone knows about the many different facets of this disease. Unfortunately the fear of it can lead some people to ignore more information about breast cancer. This article offers some basic answers to common breast cancer questions.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is cancer of the breast. It begins when cancerous cells are produced from the cells of the breast and invade breast tissue. Breast cancer may spread beyond the breast to other areas of the body as well. Sometimes such sites are referred to as secondary breast cancer.

Who Does Breast Cancer Affect?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the United Kingdom with more than 44,000 women and about 300 men diagnosed every year. It affects people across race, ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic status however those with a family history may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Can Breast Self Exams Defend Against Breast Cancer?

Breast self exams can not keep breast cancer from developing, however they can allow women to catch the signs of breast cancer early and get help immediately. To be the most effective, breast self exams should be conducted consistently each month and include both touching and observational components.

How Is Breast Cancer Detected?

Breast cancer is usually detected in one of two ways (or both): mammograms and external exams. Mammograms are x-rays taken of the breast, generally from the top and side, which allow doctors to see inside the breast. In the United Kingdom, the NHS Breast Screening Programme offers mammograms to women between the ages of 50 and 70 who are registered with a GP. External exams allow doctors and individuals themselves to observe and feel the breast to look for signs of any possible changes. When used together, mammograms and external exams give individuals the best possible chance of catching breast cancer early and thus surviving.

How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?

If external exams and mammograms suggest that breast cancer may be present then further tests will be carried out. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasounds, nipple discharge exams, aspirations, biopsies and more may all be used to help determine if breast cancer is present. When breast tissue samples are taken, they will be examined in a lab to determine if breast cancer cells are present. If they are present, then the type and grade (advancement) of the breast cancer can be investigated.

How Is Breast Cancer Treated?

The treatment used for breast cancer will depend largely on the type and grade of breast cancer that is present. Surgery, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are all common treatments for breast cancer. If the breasts are removed, surgical reconstruction may be possible.

Where Can I Find Out More About Breast Cancer?

Your GP or local women's health clinic will be able to offer more information about breast cancer. Cancer Research UK (www.cancerhelp.org.uk) and the NHS Breast Screening Programme (www.cancerscreeningnhs.org.uk) will also be able to offer more information on and breast cancer. Private medical insurance companies may be able to offer further information as well.

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