Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in Singapore. 1 out of every 17 women in Singapore is diagnosed with breast cancer.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are detected in breast tissues. These cancer cells can then spread within the breast, and eventually to other parts of the body.
Normal cells divide and reproduce in an orderly manner, and your body relies on this process to repair injuries and replace worn-out tissue. Sometimes, this process is disrupted. These cells will then grow and divide out of control. It will produce extra tissue to form a mass or lump called a tumour. It can either be benign or malignant.
Benign tumours are not cancerous. They may grow slowly but do not spread to other organs. On the other hand, malignant tumours are cancerous growths that may spread to other organs.
Treating Breast Cancer
There are many options to treat and manage breast cancer.
Your breast cancer specialist will consider the following factors before developing a treatment plan:
- The stage and grade of your tumour
- Your tumour’s hormone receptor status (ER, PR) and HER2/neu status
- Your age and general health
- Your menopausal status
- The presence of known mutations to breast cancer genes
- Your tumour’s size and rate of growth
Your doctor will then come up with a treatment plan based on the extent of your cancer and symptoms.
Treatment Methods for Breast Cancer
Most patients will require surgery to remove the cancer. The types of surgery include:
Also known as a lumpectomy, this surgery only involves the removal of the cancer and a small amount of surrounding tissue.
This procedure removes all breast tissue from your body.
Modified radical mastectomy
This procedure removes breast and underarm lymph nodes from your body.
Sentinal node biopsy
To determine whether cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, your surgeon will discuss with you the removal of the lymph nodes which are first to receive lymph drainage from your tumor.
If no cancer is found in those lymph nodes, the chance of finding cancer in any of the remaining lymph nodes is small and no other nodes need to be removed.
Adjuvant therapies are treatments that are given after your surgery to decrease the risk of the breast cancer returning. These include:
Chemotherapy involves using drugs to kill cancer cells. Drugs may be given by mouth, or injected into the veins intravenously in an outpatient setting. It may either be done before your surgery to shrink a tumour, or after your surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.
Most people will experience side effects after chemotherapy. Side effects will vary, depending on the individual and the drug dosage. You may experience the following:
- Risk of infection
Radiation therapy is the use of x-ray to kill cancer cells. This treatment is given daily for five to six weeks in an outpatient setting.
Hormone therapy is useful to manage a tumour that tests positive for either estrogen or progesterone receptors. This type of tumour uses hormones to fuel its growth. Blocking the hormones usually limits the growth of the tumour.
Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets faulty genes or proteins that contribute to cancer growth and development. You will be given drugs to stop the action of these abnormal proteins.
Contact us to understand which treatment options are the most suitable for you.
Post Treatment Care for Breast Cancer
After treatment for breast cancer ends, talk to your doctor about developing a follow-up care plan. This plan may include regular physical examinations and / or medical tests to monitor your recovery for the coming years.