Dr Raj Sripadam, a consultant at Clatterbridge Private Clinic, based in Wirral, talks about breast cancer, what you need to know about the disease, its treatment and the signs to look out for.
Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in the UK, with almost 50,000 new cases diagnosed every year, but thanks to improved screening procedures, wider awareness and continuing advancements in treatment, survival rates are at their highest. Of course, the earlier any cancer is diagnosed, the better the outlook for the patient.
What causes Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer can affect both women and men. It is still difficult to determine why one person develops breast cancer over another, although there are a number of associated risk factors. Predisposing factors, such as age, increase likelihood to a small extent. Lifestyle and hormonal factors can also have an impact, including being overweight, high alcohol intake, physical inactivity, starting your periods early, late menopause, not having children or having them later in life. Taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the contraceptive pill are also known to increase the risk.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of patients do not have a family history of the disease, but a strong history of breast or ovarian cancer among first-degree relatives (mother, sister or daughter) also puts one at an increased risk. There are special tests which can be carried out to see if there is a known predisposing gene and, if so, preventive measures can be discussed.
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
All women, and men, need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, to know what is normal for them and to seek medical help if there are any changes. The most recognised of these is a lump in the breast or the armpit. Other symptoms include:
In the UK every woman between the ages of 50 and 70 is invited to have a mammogram every three years. However, it’s important not to wait if you experience any symptoms, see your GP straight away. The earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of survival.
What are the treatment options?
Breast cancer is one of the most researched cancer types and treatments are evolving all of the time. It is no longer regarded as one single disease, rather a number of different types. Better understanding and advancements in areas such as precision medicine, where genetic information is used to both diagnose a cancer and to determine treatment, are enabling doctors to tailor treatment pathways to an individual’s unique needs and deliver personalised cancer care.
Treatment for breast cancer usually involves surgery, followed by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Many patients are given hormonal and some biological treatment or, if suitable, enrolled on clinical trials. Even in the unfortunate case where cancer has already spread to other organs (secondaries), there are many treatment options available, depending on the type and the extent to which the cancer has spread. The treatment you receive will be based on what is best for you.
At Clatterbridge Private Clinic, our expert oncologists use the latest advancements to shape treatment for our patients. You will be able to talk through all of these options with your oncologist.
Please contact us directly if you would like further information about this or other cancers.
Clatterbridge Private Clinic, 0151 482 7863