The mammary glands are made up of three main types of tissue – adipose, connective and glandular. Breast cancer (BC) is a malignant tumor that develops from cells of glandular tissue. Contrary to popular belief, breast cancer affects both women and men, but in women it occurs about 100 times more often.
Self-diagnosis of breast cancer
It is worth checking your breasts yourself for nodules or any other changes once a month after your period. Home diagnostics are most conveniently done while taking a bath or taking a shower. Any changes that have been detected should be reported to the doctor as soon as possible.
The procedure for self-examination of the mammary glands:
- Strip above the waist and stand in front of a mirror.
- Raise your hands up and put them behind your head. Examine your chest carefully. Turn right, left side.
- Feel the breasts in a standing position with your index finger, middle finger, and ring finger folded. Start at the upper outer chest and work your way clockwise.
- Squeeze the nipple with two fingers. Check if anything stands out from it.
- Feel the breasts again – now in the supine position.
- 70% of breast cancer cases are self-diagnosed by patients as a result of breast self-examination.
- Taking anamnesis
Breast cancer diagnosis starts with a conversation. At this stage, it is important for the doctor to assess the woman’s complaints and find out if there have been cases of breast cancer in her family, and if so, how often. This helps to suspect a hereditary form of cancer associated with mutations in genes BRCA1, BRCA2, NBS1, CHECK, TP53.
Next, the doctor examines, palpates the mammary glands, checks if there are any nodes and seals in them, if the lymph nodes in the axillary, supraclavicular and subclavian regions are enlarged.
Assessment of the spread of cancer in the body
Once cancer is diagnosed, it is important to determine its stage and understand how much it has spread in the body. For this, the following studies are used:
- Ultrasound and lymph node biopsy.
- Computed tomography and MRI – they help to assess the size, location of the tumor, foci in other organs.
- Liver metastases are diagnosed by ultrasound.
- X-rays can help identify lesions in the lungs and bones.
- PET scanning is the modern “gold standard” for diagnostics of metastases of malignant tumors.
Breast cancer treatment
Breast cancer treatment strategy should be selected individually for each patient, taking into account such factors as the type of tumor, stage, sensitivity of the neoplasm to hormonal therapy. The general condition of the patient is also taken into account. If the tumor is detected in the early stages and the correct tactics of patient management is chosen, then the chance of completely curing breast cancer is very high.
The operative method is dominant in the treatment of breast cancer. With early detection of a tumor, it is possible to carry out organ-preserving surgery – sectoral resection. Such an intervention is accompanied by an increased risk of local recurrence, and therefore it is combined with other methods, for example, radiation therapy.
In advanced stages, breast cancer is treated with a mastectomy – removal of the entire breast along with the nearby lymph nodes. The doctor may also decide to remove the second breast if there is a high risk of developing a malignant tumor in it.
Sentinel biopsy, or sentinel lymph node biopsy, can be done to determine if cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes, and to determine the amount of surgery. During surgery, a radiopharmaceutical or fluorescent dye is injected into the tumor to help visualize the lymph node that first receives lymph from the breast tissue. It is removed and histological examination is performed. If no tumor cells are found in the sentinel lymph node, you can limit yourself to removing the focus in the mammary gland. Otherwise, excision of regional lymph nodes is indicated.