1. What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is cancer that starts in the breast tissue.
Ghana is estimated to records 20.4% new breast cancer cases, majority between women 35-50yrs (2020 GLOBACAN report).
Breast cancer can cause symptoms such as a lump, but a lump is not the only symptom of breast cancer.
2. How does breast cancer start?
Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to divide and grow in an unusual and uncontrolled way.
3. Where does breast cancer start?
Breast cancer can start in different parts of the breast.
The most common type of breast cancer starts in the ducts. The ducts are tubes in the breast that carry breast milk to the nipple.
Sometimes cancer can start in the lobules. The lobules are glands that produce milk for breastfeeding.
4. Who does breast cancer affect?
Breast cancer mainly affects older women.
Most breast cancers (80%) occur in women over the age of 50. And the older you are, the higher your risk.
Men can also get breast cancer, but this is rare. Most men who get breast cancer are over 60.
Breast cancer is caused by a combination of our genes, environment and lifestyles. Find out more about breast cancer causes.
5. Being breast aware
The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of successful treatment. So, it's important to check your breasts regularly and see your doctor if you notice a change. Find out more about checking your breasts and the changes to be aware of.
6. What are the symptoms of breast Cancer?
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:
• A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit
• A change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
• A change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed
• A nipple change, for example it has become pulled in (inverted)
• Rash or crusting around the nipple
• Unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple • Changes in size or shape of the breast
On its own, pain in your breasts is not usually a sign of breast cancer. But look out for pain in your breast or armpit that’s there all or almost all the time.
Although rare, men can get breast cancer. The most common symptom of breast cancer in men is a lump in the chest area.
7. See your Doctor if you notice a change
Most breast changes, including breast lumps, are not cancer. But the sooner breast cancer is found, the more successful treatment is likely to be.
Get any new or unusual changes checked by a doctor.
8. How to check your breast
There’s no special way to check your breasts and you do not need any formal training, remember you know them better than any other person.
Checking your breasts is as easy as TLC:
• Touch your breasts: can you feel anything new or unusual?
• Look for changes: does anything look different to you?
• Check any new or unusual changes with a GP
Everyone will have their own way of touching and looking for changes.
Get used to checking regularly and be aware of anything that’s new or different for you.
Check your whole breast area, including up to your collarbone (upper chest) and armpits.
9. Changes to look and feel for
Changes in size or shape of the breast
HEALTH ESSENTIALS GHANA, BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, WE ARE ALL INVOLVED.
10. What will happen when I see my Doctor?
If your appointment is in person, your doctor will examine your breasts.
After speaking to you on the phone, or examining your breasts, your doctor/Nurse may:
• Decide there’s no need for further investigation
• Ask to see you again after a short time
• Refer you to a breast clinic
Being referred to a breast clinic does not mean you have breast cancer, just that further assessment is needed to find out what is going on.
If your doctor is male and you do not feel comfortable going to see him, ask if there’s a female doctor or practice nurse available.
You can also ask for a female nurse or member of staff to be present during your examination, or you can take a friend or relative with you but check first if you are able to do this.
11. What is breast screening?
Breast screening uses a breast x-ray, called a mammogram, to look for cancer that may be too small to see or feel.
The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment is likely to be. Screening can pick up breast cancer before there are any signs or symptoms.
How can I make an appointment?
If you're a woman aged 50 up to your 71st birthday, you'll must make it a point to obtain an invited for breast screening through your practice every three years. If you are a man and make it a point to accompany your wife/ partner, do not be a
HEALTH ESSENTIALS GHANA, BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, WE ARE ALL INVOLVED.
spectator be involved, you are a reliable witness. Also, ask to be checked. Find out how to contact the screening unit on the health essentials website, http://www.healthessentialsgh.com
12. When will I be invited for breast screening?
Health Essential will make the timetable and times available through the clinic and prompt communication through the HR, look out for more information on the clinic notice boards. Make it a point to be screened (in this case the consultation & examination).
13. Advantages and disadvantages of screening
Screening finds breast cancer early
The sooner breast cancer is found, the more likely it is to respond well to treatment, and the less likely you are to need more extensive surgery.
Screening prevents deaths
Screening prevents an estimated 1,300 deaths from breast cancer each year in Ghana.
It can be uncomfortable
However, this isn’t always the case and a mammogram only takes a few seconds.
Some women will be offered unnecessary treatment
Some cancers found through screening will not develop any further or will grow so slowly that they will never cause any harm during a woman’s life. At the moment, doctors cannot tell which cancers can be left alone, so treatment is offered for all breast cancers. This means some women may have unnecessary treatment (known as overtreatment).
A small number of cancers are missed
Mammograms are the most reliable way of detecting breast cancer sooner. However, they’re not 100% reliable and a small number of breast cancers are missed. For example, if someone has particularly dense breast tissue this may potentially mask a problem on a mammogram.
Being recalled can cause worry and distress
Around four out of every 100 women screened are recalled for further assessment.
Most of these women do not have breast cancer. But being recalled or having more tests can cause a lot of worry and distress.
You’re exposed to a small amount of radiation
The amount of radiation you’re exposed to during a mammogram is very low. and you would receive a similar amount from a return flight between London and Australia.
14. What happens during breast screening?
Your appointment will be at a breast screening unit
This might be a breast screening clinic or in some areas a mobile screening unit.
First, you’ll be asked to complete a questionnaire. It will ask about any ongoing medical conditions, if you’re having hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and if you’ve had any breast problems.
With regards to the imaging aspect, you would be referred by need bases by the doctor after the physical examination.
Let her know if you’re pregnant or think you may be pregnant.
15. Getting your results
The results of your screening mammogram are sent to you or your doctor.
Most women will receive the report telling them their mammogram showed no signs of cancer. They’ll be invited for screening again in three years.
Some women will get a letter asking them to come back for further assessment. This is because more tests are needed to assess a change seen on the mammogram. Being recalled doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer, just that more tests are needed.
Occasionally some women receive a letter asking them to go back for another mammogram because a technical issue meant the image was unclear.
16. Staying breast aware between mammograms
Having mammograms cannot prevent breast cancer, and it’s possible for breast cancer to develop in the three years between each mammogram. It’s important to continue to be breast aware and report any changes to your doctor even if you have had a mammogram recently.