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    Breast cancer without any particular prevention method, are you safe from it?
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    Breast cancer without any particular
    prevention method, are you safe from it?

    Written by Prof. Jeong Joon, Director of Breast Cancer Center,
    Gangnam Severance Cancer Hospital

    Recently, we came across a piece of news about a singer’s unfortunate death after a hard fought battle
    against stage 4 breast cancer. Top five most commonly diagnosed cancers are gastric, colorectal, liver,
    breast and cervical cancers. Breast cancer, in particular, is the only cancer that has been displaying a
    continuous increase in incidence rate since 2010. According to the Health Insurance Review &
    Assessment Service, 170,000 breast cancer patients visited hospitals in 2016

    “If I feel a tingling sensation in my breast, is it breast cancer?”

    Many women suspect breast cancer when they experience a pain in their breasts. However, breast pain does not have much relevance to breast cancer because only approximately 5% of breast cancer patients complain of breast pain. The key observable symptoms of breast cancer include a lump, nipple discharge, and a change in the shape of the nipple. Nevertheless, a woman experiencing non-periodic breast pain who is aged 35 years or older and has the family history of breast cancer is recommended to make a hospital visit.

    If you are still worried, try self-diagnosis by using the checklist below.

    Breast Cancer Checklist

    • Is one breast is larger than usual?
    • Is one breast is hangs lower than usual?
    • Is the breast’s skin texture like that of an orange peel?
    • Is one or both nipples retracted, different than usual?
    • Is the color or skin condition of the nipple different than usual?
    • Is the top part of the arm swollen, different than usual?
    • Is there nipple discharge?
    • Is there an abnormal lump?
    • Is the lymphatic node under the armpit enlarged?

    “Is the incidence rate of breast cancer high?
    What causes breast cancer?”

    dcdcdcAccording to the statistics, breast cancer affects 72.1 in every 100,000. It is gradually increasing as of present. In Korea, breast cancer records the second highest incidence rate among women’s cancers following thyroid cancer. Even so, the cause of breast cancer has not been clearly identified. According to the Korean Breast Cancer Society, female hormone, age, parity, drinking, and family history are risk factors.

    “How is breast cancer treated?
    Is it completely curable?”

    In the past, the main cure for breast cancer was radical mastectomy, which involves the removal of the entire breast. In line with the development of medical science, however, lumpectomy (breast-conserving surgery) is performed recently on early-stage breast cancer patients to remove only the cancer while keeping the breasts intact. However, if the cancer has spread or affects a large area, the entire breast needs to be removed. After the surgery, patients receive adjuvant treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, anti-hormone therapy, and targeted therapy, to prevent recurrence. The survival rate of patients in stage 2 or earlier of breast cancer is over 91.8%. However, when the cancer stage reaches 4, which is the terminal stage, the cancer spreads to other organs, dropping the five-year survival rate down to 37%. This means, the earlier you detect cancer, the higher the curability is.

    “Does plastic surgery of the breasts increase the risk of breast cancer?”

    A person who has received breast reconstruction or plastic surgery needs to pay continuous attention. This is because the implants can make it difficult to detect a lesion at an earlier phase. If you have breast implants, it is recommended to receive an MRI test regularly from 3 years after surgery.

    “The size of my breasts is larger.
    Does it increase the risk of breast cancer?”

    The size of breasts is irrelevant to breast cancer. The reason the incidence rate of breast cancer seems to be higher in women with larger breasts is because obesity has high relevance to breast cancer. It is not proper to receive a breast reduction surgery to prevent cancer. The best way is to keep appropriate weight through continuous exercise and healthy diet. In addition, for patients who have suffered from breast cancer, appropriate intake of carbohydrates and protein is particularly important. This is because insufficient intake of carbohydrates and excessive intake of protein increase the risk of recurrence. When undergoing hormone therapy, it is also important for patients to take calcium for the health of their bones.

    “How can I prevent breast cancer?”

    As mentioned earlier, the clear cause of breast cancer has not been identified. Therefore, early detection of any abnormalities in the breast is the best prevention. The Korean Breast Cancer Society recommends monthly self-diagnosis to women aged 30 years and older for early detection of breast cancer. For women aged 35 and older, it is advised to receive a clinical examination every two years and, for women aged 40 years and older, a clinical examination and a mammography every one - two years is recommended. If you are in the high risk group, such as with a family history of breast cancer, please make sure to consult your physician.

    “Is breast cancer hereditary?”

    Hereditary breast cancers account for only 5% of all breast cancer cases. In the following three cases, it is recommended to take a gene diagnosis.

    • If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer for one of both breasts before the age of 40
    • If you are a breast cancer patient and your lineal family member has a history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer
    • If you have been diagnosed with both breast cancer and ovarian cancer