WHAT IS BREAST CANCER
An individual has breast cancer when there is an uncontrolled growth of the cells that make up the breast tissues. It is the most common kind of malignant cancer in women and it ranks second among the most common causes of cancer-related deaths in women. Breast cancer is capable of affecting both males and females although it is far more common in women. Modern treatment methods have greatly improved the prognosis of the disease. If detected early, the chances of death arising from breast cancer become minimal.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore. According to studies, 1 in 11 women in Singapore are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. According to statistics, from 2010 to 2014, there were approximately 9,284 women in Singapore were diagnosed with breast cancer.
SYMPTOMS AND SIGN
The first sign of breast cancer in either a man or a woman is usually a visible lump on the breast or an abnormal mammogram. While it is true that many types of breast cancer may cause lumps to form on the breast, it is pertinent to note that some do not present visible lumps. That is why a self-examination does not confirm you do not have breast cancer. Only a mammogram can do that and it is advisable for routine breast examination at least once every 6 months. There are other signs you should watch out for, which are:
- A thickening in the underarm
- A noticeable change in the shape, size or roundness of the breast
- Breast skin or nipples appearing red
- A fluid discharge from your nipple. The discharge could be clear or stained with blood
- A change in the general feel of the skin covering the breast
The list above is far from exhaustive but if you notice any of the symptoms or anything unusual about your breasts, do not hesitate to inform your physician.
TREATMENT FOR BREAST CANCER
A lot of factors influence the appropriate treatment method for breast cancer. The common methods include:
Mastectomy is one of the surgical techniques that is usually employed to get rid of breast tissues. There are two kinds of mastectomy:
- Simple mastectomy: involves removing parts of the breast such as the fatty tissues, the ducts, areolas, lobules, nipple and portion of the skin covering the breast.
- Radical mastectomy: this may be necessary if the cancer is already spreading beyond the breast tissues. The removal extends to the muscles of the chest wall and could also extend to the lymph nodes under the armpit.
Mastectomy could have a lot of impact on the self-image of breast cancer survivors. Breast reconstruction surgery helps recreate the breast that was removed. Breast reconstruction surgery may also be ordered for a patient that had a double mastectomy. The surgery is almost an essential part of the recovery process as it helps you take charge of your life after a successful battle with cancer.
NIPPLE AND AREOLA RECONSTRUCTION
After a breast reconstruction surgery, nipple reconstruction is one more way you can take back what cancer took away from you. Nipple reconstruction is not compulsory and you may take your time before making the decision to go for it. The major factor that determines if you are eligible is based on the integrity of the breast tissue after your breast reconstruction. You would need to discuss with your plastic surgeon to determine if you are eligible for the process and also to be informed of the reconstruction technique that would suit you best.
Nipple and areola reconstruction can also be done in a non-surgical way by a qualified and well-trained paramedical artist. The paramedical artist will help to create a 3D effect nipple/areola for the patient.
As long as breast cancer is detected early enough, there is always a good chance of survival. If the chance involves losing your breast to surgery, you do not need to worry so much. Expert plastic surgeons are available to help you get back what you lost.