Your Local Pharmacist is

Jay Koovarjee

 92 Pitt St
Sydney NSW 2000
ph: (02) 9221 0091
fax: (02) 9221 0090

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:: In Brief

 

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:: Breast Cancer

Healthy Women & Breast Cancer
  Healthy Women
  Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the breast. Normally, the body's cells reproduce themselves in an orderly manner so that growth occurs and damaged or worn-out tissues are replaced. Sometimes, however, cells continue growing into a mass of tissue called a tumour which can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Breast Cancer may begin in the milk glands or milk ducts, fatty tissue or connective tissue.  Malignant cells can build up into a lump or tumour. In some cases, the malignant cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymph system. New cancers formed in this way are called secondaries or metastases.

In NSW, breast cancer is the most common cancer in females with approximately 1 in 11 women developing the disease before the age of 75 years. About 900 women die in NSW each year from breast cancer. The average age at which breast cancer is diagnosed is 64 years.
 

Signs & Symptoms?

Most breast changes are not cancer, but you should see your general practitioner if you notice any of these:

  • lump in the breast
  • breast pain or tenderness
  • thickening of the breast skin
  • dimpling of the breast skin
  • discharge from the nipple
  • swelling in the armpit

Causes

Factors that are known to increase an individual's chance of developing breast cancer are:

  • being female
  • increasing age
  • family history of breast cancer
  • the age a female starts and stops menstruating, the average length of her menstrual cycle, and her age at first childbirth can influence if she will develop breast cancer
  • Taking hormones in the form of birth-control pills or hormone replacement therapy may also increase risk
  • Obesity is a risk factor
  • Drinking alcohol regularly is a risk factor

Diagnosis

A biopsy will test for presence of cancer cells.  If cancer cells are found, more tests will be performed to determine the nature of cancer present, as this will affect the type of treatment used.
 

Treatment

Breast cancer can be treated effectively. There are several different treatments available and these are often used in combination, depending on individual circumstances. Possible treatments are:

  • Surgery - this could be the removal of the cancer and a small part of the breast surrounding it (lumpectomy) or the removal of the entire breast (mastectomy)
  • Chemotherapy - this is a course of drugs given to kill or control the cancer cells
  • Radiotherapy - this is a course of high energy X-rays to the breast area to kill the cancer or control the cells
  • Hormone therapy - this treatment controls the growth of cancer cells that need the female hormone, oestrogen, to grow

How breast cancer be prevented?

The earlier that breast cancer is detected, the better the chances are of successfully treating it. There are a number of ways to detect breast cancer at an early stage, including:

  • Mammography - Women aged 50-69 (If genetic risk factors exist, check earlier) should have a mammogram (breast X-ray) every two years.
  • Clinical Breast Examination - Your general practitioner should examine your breasts each year for any lumps or unusual changes.
  • Breast Self-Examination - You should examine your breasts monthly and see your general practitioner if you notice any breast changes

Further Information

NSW Cancer Council's - www.cancercouncil.com.au
Breast Cancer Network Australia - www.bcna.org.au
National Breast Cancer Centre - www.nbcc.org.au 
Breast Screening Australia - www.breastscreen.info.au
NSW Breast Cancer Institute - www.bci.org.au  
 

Ask Your Pharmacist about:

  • Side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • Medications that can be taken
  • Help to quit smoking
  • Weight loss
  • Dietary supplements  

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