Are you agitated that the breast lump could be a cancer?
The incidence of Breast cancer in Sri Lanka has shown a steady increase during past decades. Therefore many get alarmed assuming their breast lump could be a cancer, though all breast lumps are not cancerous. Similarly there are many who tend to ignore the alarming features that a breast lump could be cancer.
But how common is breast cancer in Sri Lanka?
At present, there are over 3500 – 4000 new cases diagnosed annually. Out of which 40 – 45% of patients are considered as advanced disease and 1/3rd as incurable.
In spite of enlightening the public and creating awareness on the importance of early detection of breast cancer, advanced disease is still found even amongst the educated women in Sri Lanka. Some reasons for patients to present late, with an advanced stage are
- been ignorant or have not performed monthly self breast examinations.
- been overconfident that a cancer cannot develop within them.
- self diagnose the felt breast lump as non-cancerous.
- in the absence of risk factors for breast cancer, trust that a cancer could not develop in them.
- postponing to seek medical advice.
- be afraid of certain treatment modalities.
The reasons cannot be justified and can be considered as self neglect by the patient.
The other important factor in breast cancer is the behavior of the tumor cells, which is termed as the grade. The grade of a cancer is classified as 1, 2 and 3, and grade 1 been the least aggressive tumor. It is recommended for all patients to pay attention to the grade of their cancer as grade 3 tumors behave aggressively, tend to spread faster and some been resistant to some treatment modalities. There are occasions where a grade 3 cancer progress towards an advanced stage within a short time, even though the patient sees a specialist early. Therefore it is very important that any woman who feels a lump to seek medical advice immediately.
Important features that a breast lump could be cancer
- Breast cancer is common at 45 – 55 years. Therefore any woman within this age group should seek medical advice immediately for any lump they feel within the breast or armpit.
- Any person with risk factors for breast cancer feeling a lump in the breast should seek medical attention immediately.
- Blood stained nipple discharge is a significant symptom to obtain medical advice.
- An itchy rash starting from a nipple could be due to deep seated cancer. This is known as Paget’s disease of the breast.
- An orange peel appearance (Peau d’orange) of the skin on the breast indicates an advanced deep seated breast cancer, which occurs due to swelling of the skin. If further neglects, the tumor can erode through the skin and ulcerates.
- Inverted nipple occurring within a short duration.
- Puckering of the breast skin, especially when lift your arms above the head.
All breasts lumps are not cancerous. Almost 80% of them can be benign and it is important to get specialized opinion to differentiate them from cancer.
Fibroadenoma is a benign condition which is seen mostly among the teen and young adult group. It is felt as a small marble which is freely mobile. Although these are benign, which do not progress towards a malignancy, it is always wise to obtain medical advice early.
Breast cysts are the other common benign lump that can be felt around middle age. Cysts can be multiple and painful. An ultrasound scan is useful to confirm the diagnosis.
There are many women in Sri Lanka who has survived breast cancer. They were victorious not only because of correct treatment, but also they picked the cancer at an early stage. It is not hard to beat cancer if you remain alert and be aware.