Breast cancer – symptoms, prevention, therapyAnswers to frequently asked questions about breast cancer. We show how to recognize signs and take precautions in time.
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With about 70 nationwide.000 new cases annually, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Many people ask themselves: What can I do to prevent breast cancer?? Is breast cancer curable?? As with other types of cancer, prevention here too means above all: early detection in good time. Thanks to better early detection, the diagnosis of breast cancer has lost much of its horror. New and more targeted therapies have significantly increased the chances of cure: More than 80 percent of those affected are cured, and permanently at that. This is especially true if the tumor is detected and treated at an early stage.
The average age of onset for breast cancer is around 64. Life year. However, almost one third of those affected are younger than 55 when they are first diagnosed. Can men also get breast cancer? Yes, although much less frequently than women: Men account for about one percent of new cases each year. What causes. There are risk factors?Researchers are still puzzling over what actually leads to the development of breast cancer. In addition, there are different forms of breast cancer with different development mechanisms, different aggressive growth and also different treatment. It is clear that there are a number of factors that can be influenced to increase the risk of developing the disease, such as obesity, lack of exercise, especially after menopause, and alcohol, and to a lesser extent also smoking.
Tips for a healthy lifestyle
So if you want to protect yourself from cancer, you should pay attention to a healthy lifestyle:
– Eat a plant-based diet rich in fiber – Eat fish regularly – Reduce animal fats in favor of vegetable fats – Drink alcohol only occasionally, if at all – Exercise regularly – Avoid being overweight – Don't smoke
You can find more strategies to help you protect yourself from cancer here.
Is breast cancer hereditary?
Statistics provide a clear answer to this question: breast cancer occurs more frequently in a quarter of those affected, often in combination with ovarian cancer in the family. This indicates a genetic cause. In 5 to 10 percent of all cases, a gene that causes the disease can be detected. The best-known breast cancer genes include BRCA 1. BRCA 2. Changes in these genes increase the risk many times over. Changes in these genes increase the risk many times over.
Are you suspected of having a hereditary risk of breast cancer?? Then the SBK supports you within the scope of a special preventive care offer, which includes an intensified early detection and aftercare program. Also the female sex hormones estrogen. Progestins are sometimes involved in the development of breast cancer. Among other things, an early first menstrual period, childlessness, an older age at the first delivery or a longer period of hormone replacement therapy during menopause can increase the risk of developing the disease. The "pill" as a contraceptive, on the other hand, increases the risk only slightly.
Breast cancer: recognizing symptoms
How signs of breast cancer become noticeable? Does breast cancer hurt? These questions are asked by many. The answer is: even when the first symptoms appear or a lump can be palpated, you usually do not feel any pain. It is therefore all the more important to be careful with your own body and to observe even small changes – without worrying unnecessarily. However, you should take certain warning signs seriously. Get medical attention as soon as possible.
Symptoms of breast cancer:
– New lumps in the breast – Changes in breast size or shape – Changes in the nipples such as retractions – Bloody or clear liquid secretions from the nipple – Swelling in the armpits, below the collarbone, or next to the breastbone – Redness, inflammation, dimpling, dimpling, or enlarged pores of the skin
Many breast cancer patients discover their tumor themselves. Self-scanning plays an important role: it is best to scan your chest regularly! The best time for self-palping is the first half of the cycle, when the glandular tie is soft and swellings and lumps are therefore easy to detect. Post-menopausal women should continue to keep the palpation as a routine and remember a fixed day of the month for it, such as the date of their own birthday. You can find detailed instructions on how to palpate your breasts yourself here.
You have recognized one or more of these signs and are worried: "I am afraid that I have breast cancer. When should I go to the doctor?"Have your suspicion clarified promptly by your gynecologist, if only to avoid unnecessarily worrying for a long time.
Breast cancer screening: early detection
In addition to self-examination, women should have regular gynecological screenings – even without symptoms. All women over the age of 20 are entitled to this examination once a year. From the age of 30, this includes the medical palpation of the breast. In individual cases, the gynecologist may advise repeating the examination at shorter intervals – for example, if there is a family risk. All services and offers of the SBK on the subject of breast cancer screening can be found here.
From the age of 50. After the age of 50, patients are also entitled to a mammography every two years. As part of the so-called mammography screening, you will be automatically invited to a specialized radiology practice. The invitation to an appointment is an offer, participation in the screening is voluntary. Since there is no evidence yet that screening reduces mortality rates, every woman receives a decision aid with her invitation. So everyone can decide freely for or against participation.
What is a mammogram? What happens? Answers to frequently asked questions about mammography can be found here.
Some women are skeptical about the benefits of mammography. Whether they are concerned about radiation exposure or worried about what will trigger a suspected breast cancer that is then not confirmed. The question in this case is: Are there alternatives to mammography?? With the Discovering Hands offer, the SBK offers a further method for the early detection of breast cancer. Specially trained blind or visually impaired women with a heightened sense of touch feel the female breast to detect changes in the tie. How the examination works and whether this option is suitable for you, you can find out here.
Important: Even women who do not want a mammogram should continue to go for regular gynecological check-ups.
Biopsy for breast cancer
If the medical examination finds evidence of breast cancer, tie samples are taken from the breast with a fine needle and then examined in the laboratory under a microscope. This so-called biopsy shows whether it is actually breast cancer and provides important information about the nature of the tumor.
Molecular biological examinations are becoming increasingly important in tumor diagnostics – also for breast cancer. This method uses a gene expression analysis to determine certain characteristics of the tumor from tie samples, such as whether it has docking sites (receptors) for hormones, how quickly its cells divide, and how high a risk of recurrence should be classified. This provides an important decision-making aid for the choice and course of therapy, for example when deciding for or against chemotherapy. In certain cases, as an SBK-insured person, you will receive the gene expression analysis Oncotype DX ® . You will then be billed simply via your insurance card.
Here you can find more information about the Oncotype DX ® test for breast cancer.
What types of breast cancer are there?
You may have wondered: are there different types of breast cancer? Are there also benign lumps in the breast? And what do the differences mean? Unfortunately, not every tumor is equally treatable. The type of breast cancer is decisive for therapy and prognosis. The cells from which the disease originates play a major role here: they influence how aggressively the disease can progress.
Benign nodes are so-called benign tumors. They grow slowly. Can become very large. Although they displace tie as they spread, they do not grow into it or destroy it. This feature is medically referred to as non-invasive. Benign nodes do not form daughter tumors, i.e. metastases.
The dangerous form is represented by malignant nodes. So-called malignant tumors (carcinomas) are invasive: they destroy neighboring tie and spread cancer cells so that metastases can form in lymph nodes and other organs.
In the case of breast cancer, a distinction is also made between ductal and lobular forms. Ductal breast cancer originates from the cells of the milk ducts, lobular breast cancer from the cells of the mammary glands. At 70 to 80 percent, ductal tumors are by far the most common form.
For staging, the TNM classification is used for breast cancer as for other forms of cancer:
– T stands for size and extension of the tumor – N stands for number and localization of affected lymph nodes – M stands for the occurrence of metastases
The TNM classification thus summarizes the results of diagnostic procedures on tumor spread in one finding. Together with the appearance under the microscope. The molecular genetic characteristics form the basis for the therapy recommendations.
Forms of therapy for breast cancer
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, many people ask themselves: Does the breast always have to be removed for breast cancer? No: About 70 percent of all patients with breast cancer can undergo breast-conserving surgery. In order for the chances of healing and survival to be just as certain as with breast removal (mastectomy), a number of prerequisites must be met. Breast-conserving surgery is an option for affected patients,
– Who have ductal in situ carcinoma (DCIS, a very early stage) – Whose tumor is relatively small in relation to their breast – Whose cancer has not grown into the skin or muscle – Whose breast cancer can be completely removed
Additional radiation after surgery is usually intended to reduce the risk of recurrence.
The so-called mastectomy, in which the mammary gland tie is completely removed, is used less and less frequently. It is necessary if the tumor
– could not be completely removed after breast-conserving surgery – is very large – has grown into the surrounding area – is located in several places in the breast – or an inflammatory breast cancer is present
Some forms of breast cancer are hormone-dependent: Their cancer cells are equipped with docking sites for hormones (receptors) and are stimulated to grow by estrogen or progesterone. For hormone-dependent breast cancer, anti-hormone therapy is available in combination with surgery: Oral medications are used that block the effect of hormones on cancer cells, such as tamoxifen or, more commonly after menopause, aromatase inhibitors. Anti-hormone therapy is considered for hormone receptor-positive tumors
– as a so-called adjuvant, i.e. accompanying and supporting treatment – in advanced disease, when the aim is to keep metastases in check
The so-called "chemo" is intended to reach cancer cells that have detached from the tumor and spread throughout the body with the bloodstream. Before or after surgery, it can reduce the risk of recurrence; in advanced disease, it can slow tumor growth. Radiation therapy is recommended especially after surgery. Intended to reduce the risk of recurrence. In the case of bone metastases, it can also stabilize the bones and relieve discomfort.
Are there new drugs that work against breast cancer?? Yes: Antibody therapies specifically block processes in cancer cells that are important for their growth. Since tumors have different mechanisms of development and characteristics, such drugs do not benefit all sufferers, but are selected individually. For example, the drug Herceptin can only work if the cancer cells produce more of the growth factor receptor HER2 on their surface. Treatment is almost always combined with other procedures, for example chemotherapy. You can also help patients who are already suffering from metastases.
Detailed information on these procedures as well as other cancer treatment options can be found here.
Living with breast cancer
Fortunately, the diagnosis of breast cancer has lost some of its horror today. Good chances of recovery, breast-conserving therapies and the possibility of becoming pregnant even after chemotherapy – this encourages many women with breast cancer. Can you grow old with breast cancer? To this we say quite clearly: Yes! Breast cancer patients will find numerous offers of support from the SBK. For example, the SBK covers the costs of egg collection, freezing and storage.
Both the course of the disease and the time after completion of therapy can be stressful. However, targeted strategies can help those affected to get a grip on fears and worries, and to cope better with dark thoughts and moments of doubt and despair. By the way, psycho-oncologists also offer corresponding services for the relatives of cancer patients. Psychological and social aspects are taken into account, such as the practical organization of everyday life if a family member is absent due to illness, or the rights to which you are entitled. You can find more information here.
In addition to professional support, it is often helpful and comforting to talk with others affected by the disease. Breast cancer should not be a taboo subject. Here you can find useful contacts in your area:
Self-help organizations for breast cancer patients
Support for relatives
Early detection and prevention of breast cancer
With early breast cancer detection, you get additional preventive services with SBK.
In breast cancer screening, the SBK supports you with numerous offers. These include palpation examinations from the age of 30 by gynecologists, Discovering Hands, a palpation examination by blind and visually impaired women. Of course, you can also participate in the mammography screening program free of charge. All important information on breast cancer screening can be found here.