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Understanding breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer for women, and about 1 in 8 women will be affected. But the good news is that Australia has one of the best breast cancer cure rates in the world.
It’s possible for men to get breast cancer too, but this is rare.
Women with early stage breast cancer may have no obvious lump. However, as the cancer progresses, a lump or mass may develop in the breast. Most breast cancers are slow growing, and by the time you find a lump, the cancer may well have been growing there for years. The good news about that, is that there is rarely a need for you to feel rushed into treatment or surgery. You can take your time to consider your options and talk to your care team about what’s right for you.
Whilst it’s understandable to fear the worst, please try not to think too far ahead. Most breast lumps are benign (non-cancerous), and the chances are you have nothing to worry about.
88% of women do NOT get breast cancer
Your GP may refer you to a specialist and/or recommend some tests for you such as a mammogram, ultra-sound, a biopsy or an MRI.
If your lump or breast change does turn out to be breast cancer, it is possible that you have a rough road ahead, so my team and I will do our best to help make your treatment more tolerable.
90% of women make a good, long-term recovery.
Modern treatment of breast cancer is tailored to each patient by a multidisciplinary team of doctors after considering factors individual to you. These include the tumour type and stage (see below), but also factors such as your age, general health and the choices that you make with respect to your treatment.
Coping with your Diagnosis
It’s always confronting to find out you have breast cancer. Survival rates in Australia are over 90%, but the thought of treatment can be daunting. I always recommend that the women in my care see a psychologist specialising in the care of women with breast cancer. I also recommend that you see a breast care nurse, who will be a gold-mine of information and will be on hand to support you at every stage of treatment.
There are also some really helpful resources available which provide trustworthy and supportive information on a wide range of topics that may concern you. I encourage you to check them out, and of course if you have any questions or concerns please get in touch with me.
Types of Breast Cancer
There are many different kinds of breast cancer, but almost all of them fall into one of three categories:
Localised Breast Cancer
These are typically early stage breast cancers which have grown in milk ducts or lobules of the breast. Breast cancers tend to be slow growing, and by the time you noticed a change, the cancer may have been growing for a couple of years. This means that you don’t need to rush straight into treatment, and you can take time to consider the recommendations of your care team and decide what’s best for you.
Locally Advanced Breast Cancer
These are breast cancers that most likely started in a milk duct or lobule, but the cancer has ‘escaped’ from where it started and is beginning to affect surrounding breast tissue and perhaps lymph nodes. If this is the case, then it is possible that your cancer has become more aggressive, and a more aggressive treatment plan may be recommended. However aggressive cancer types respond well to treatment and it is likely that your cancer can be eradicated
Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread beyond your breast to your lymph nodes and beyond. If this is the case for you, your care team will devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. With advancements in cancer therapies, it is still possible that your cancer can be successfully treated.
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