What You Should Know About Breast Lumps:
Breast lumps are solid palpable mass that you can feel with your fingers in any or both of the breasts. It may be as small as a bean size, & may grow to the size of an orange. These lumps can be found in both male and female breast, but it is more common in the females.
The size & shape of the human breast can change from time to time based on the requirements at different times. Example, the breast changes if the woman is pregnant or breast feeding. The breasts are affected by the changes in the hormones of a woman. These hormonal changes can lead to formation of lumps in the breast and in some cases it can also make it disappear naturally.
You may find breast lumps in some babies due to the estrogen which enters their body from their mother during childbirth. These type of lumps usually disappear when the estrogen leaves the babies’ body.
Is Finding a Breast Lump Important?
A lump or mass in the breast is a very important clinical finding in the life of any woman or man. Many things can cause a lump in the breasts. Some lumps are cancerous, others are not.
What Can Cause Breast Lumps?
There are a number of conditions that can result in Breast Lump such as: Breast Cysts, Fibroadenomas (A fibroadenoma is a non-cancerous tumor in the breast that is commonly found in women under the age of 30), Mastitis (Infection), Lipoma, Breast Abscess, Breast Cancer, etc.
Today, we are going to be talking about Breast Cancers.
Do I Need to See a Doctor?
Upon noticing a lump in any of the breasts, no matter how small, it is important for you to book an appointment with your doctor (particularly your Gynaecologist) for examination & investigation to determine if the lump can lead to cancer or not. As easy as it sounds, this simple test might be the difference between living for 50 years+ or just living for 30 years.
What Test Would I Have to Undergo?
Breast exam: Upon visiting your doctor, both of your breasts would be examined for lumps, as well as lymph nodes in the armpit, for any other abnormalities.
FNAC/Biopsy: A Fine Needle Aspiration (a needle would be passed through your breast to get to the lump, and suck what is inside the lump) of the lump would be taken & the sample sent for cytology. This would determine if the lump can lead to Cancer or not. Biopsy samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis where experts determine whether the cells are cancerous, the aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer.
Ultrasound: you might also be sent for an ultrasound to determine again if the cells are cancerous or just a cyst.
Mammogram: A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast.
Is the Test Painful?
The FNAC test involves sticking a needle through your breast, hence, its just as painful as a needle stick.
So If it is not Cancer, What Else could It be?
Well, there are other conditions that could cause you to have a lump in your breast as we earlier mentioned. A few of them includes: Fibroadenoma of the Breast, it could be a cyst. It could be an Abscess.
However, a visit to your Gynaecologist would sort this out for you.
If you have any more questions, you could contact us with the forms here, or drop a comment and one of our doctors would get back to you as soon as possible.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the name given to Cancer that begins in the breast. If you are wondering what cancer is, just imagine that the body is a car, with all its parts as the organs. Then, out of nowhere, for no reason, the tyre of the car starts to grow big & increase in size. You try deflating the tyre, no way. You try puncturing the tyre, it doesn’t work. Nothing you do was able to stop the tyre from growing bigger. – That’s just a summary of how cancer behaves. The only solution is to take the Tyre out.
Imagine this happening in your breast. A small seedlike lump that you felt last month, and think its nothing, has all off a sudden, grown to the size of a palm kernel. Before you know what’s happening, it’s now the size of an orange.
Cancer of the breast is the most common type of cancer in a woman. Infact, it is the most type common cancer in Nigeria, followed by Cervical & Prostate cancers. It is also the most common reason why people die from cancer in Nigeria.
There are different type of breast cancers but we wouldn’t be talking about that today.
What is the cause of Breast Cancer?
There is no single cause of breast cancer. The most important factor that puts one at a risk of having breast cancer is Genetics. This means having a direct relation that had breast cancer (maybe mother, sister, etc) or some other type of cancers. Its what some people would say as “It is in the blood”. That’s just Genetics.
Other factors that can make one have breast cancer is the Age, No of Pregnancies, If breast feeding or not, Use of Drugs (particularly contraceptives), etc. These factors are not so well understood in the mechanism by which they cause the disease, hence we would like to keep it simple here. You could talk to us below for better explanation.
How do I Know if I have Breast Cancer?
There are few signs that you may notice on your breast that might suggest you have Breast cancer. One important one as we have mentioned earlier is A Lump/mass/swelling inside the breast.
Other signs are: mass or pain in your armpit, discharge from your nipples, breast pain or retraction of your nipple (A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple). You might also notice a dimpling of your breast.
What do I do if I Notice any of these Signs?
As we mentioned above earlier, once you notice any of the following signs, especially a lump/mass in your breast, it is important you book an appointment with your doctor particularly your Gynaecologist for examination & investigation of the lump to determine what it is.
What do I do if I have Breast Cancer?
If breast cancer is confirmed, your Gynaecologist is going to give you the possible treatment options for you. This depends on the stage at which it was discovered and that’s why its important to detect it early.
Various treatment options are available, Such as a Lumpectomy (where an incision is made into the breast and the lump is removed) but like we explained with the tyres of the car, the breasts may have to be removed (Mastectomy).
In advanced cases, this alone isn’t enough. Drugs (Chemotherapy) & radiation (Radiotherapy) would also be included in the treatment.
It us a multidisciplinary management.
About Mastectomy, You Should know that:
- A breast diseased by cancer is not useful and should be removed if necessary.
- Breast cancer often starts in one breast, but could spread to the other breasts
- The earlier a breast diseased by Breast Cancer is removed the better to prevent spread to the other breasts
- If one breast is removed and the woman is well, she can still get pregnant and use the other breast for breastfeeding.
How do I Prevent Breast Cancer?
Its not exactly very easy to prevent breast cancer, especially if you had a relative that has had breast cancer, which means that you have a genetic association with it. However, different options of prevention includes:
- identify risk factors that can make you develop breast cancer & modify it or remove the factors so that the cancer will not develop. This includes prophylactic mastectomy (removing the breasts even without any cancer yet).
- Also, Breastfeeding has been shown to have some good results in preventing Breast Cancer.
- There are also drugs that reduce the incidence of breast cancer, such as Tamoxifen. However, you should talk to your Gynaecologist for options on this. you could contact us below for referral to the nearest gynaecologist around your area.
Can i Screen for Breast Cancer?
- We recommend self-examination for all females who has attained puberty (developed breasts & seeing their monthly menstrual flow). You should occasionally press against your breast and feel it for any signs of lump or swelling. You could do this weekly. The aim is to detect it early.
- Mammography: You could do this once every year. The aim is also to detect any changes in the breast early enough for best treatment.
How To do Breast Self Examination?
Follow these 3 Steps outline in these images courtesy of SKH:
As we End