What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with many women diagnosed with breast cancer each year. It occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate. Mostly, breast cancer starts from lactiferous ducts (Milk ducts), then may spread to the lymphoma in the armpit and others.

How does breast cancer happen?

Nowadays the doctors still cannot confirm the actual reasons, but these are the risky factors

  • Age: It is said that breast cancer is largely found in age of 50 and above, while there are only 10% chance for women under 40 years old.
  • Hormone: Female sex hormone produces the risk of cancer more than men do
  • Breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than in men.
  • Starting menstrual period at a young age has higher risk for breast cancer, as well as the late ending of menstruation.
  • Women who never give birth have slightly higher percentage of breast cancer. However, giving birth at over 30 years old is also risky.
  • Using Oral Contraceptives (birth control pills) for more than 5 years or estrogen for 2 years can collect the causes of breast cancer.
  • Breast cancer survivors can still be affected by another breast cancer again after treatment.
  • About 5% to 10% of breast cancer are thought to be hereditary. It is related to BRCA1 and BRCA2; the genes most commonly affected in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. So, if some of your family members have it, you should check yourself.
  • Receiving radiation on chest when you were young
  • Drinking alcohol, having high-fat-food, gaining many weights for post menstrual syndrome, all of them can cause breast cancer.

How can we tell if we have cancer?

Breast cancer screening means checking a woman’s breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease. All women need to be informed by their health care provider about the best screening options for them.

  • Breast self-examination
  • Checked by the doctors
  • Breasts X-RAY (Mammogram)


  • 20 years old women and above must check themselves at least once a month, and be checked at the hospital in every 3 years
  • 40-69 years old women must check themselves monthly, be checked at the hospital annually, and do mammogram every 1-2 years.
  • If one of your family members have breast or ovarian cancer, you need to be checked 10 years before the age that your family was

i.e. As if your mother had breast cancer and she knew it when she was 45 years old, meant you needed to check when you were 35.

  • For over 70 years old women, doctors must personally examine.

** The earlier stage you are found, the better chance of recovery you’ve got **

How to recover from breast cancer?

  • Surgery
  • Targeted therapy
  • Radiation
  • Hormone therapy

The surgeon will remove small breast tumor in early stage of cancer. Furthermore, the doctor use chemical therapy for large size of tumor, once it turns smaller they will prepare for surgery.

There are 2 common types of surgery

  • Breast surgery: including breast conserving surgery (BCS) and Modified radical mastectomy (MRM). Each surgery is depended on the area, size, stage of cancer, and personal issue.
  • Lymph node biopsy: The sentinel nodes are the first few lymph nodes into which a tumor drains. Sentinel node biopsy involves injecting a tracer material that helps the surgeon locate the sentinel during surgery. The sentinel nodes are removed and analysed in a laboratory. If the sentinel nodes are free of cancer, then cancer is unlikely to have spread, and removing additional lymph nodes is unnecessary.

Each surgery is depended on the area, size, stage of cancer, and personal problems.

How to do self-examination for breast cancer?

A breast self-examination is a check-up a woman does at home to look for changes or problems in the breast tissue, and do it only once a month. The best time is 7-10 from the start of period. In case of menstruation is ended, the easiest day to check is the 1st and 15th of every month. There are 2 ways to notices the unusual breast.

Notice by looking

Stand undressed in front of a mirror. Look at your breasts and check each breast for anything unusual, such as puckering, dimpling, scales or changes in size, shape or symmetry. Remember to look beneath each breast.

The noticing spots

  • Nipples: both of nipples must be in the same level, following with same colour, same shape, and the lymph should not spit out form nipples.
  • Areola: If you notice bumps or lumps that don’t go away during your monthly self-exam, you should notify your doctor.
  • Breast skin: Skin and colour have to be smooth, the redness should not have appeared, as well as lymph and blood.
  • Level and size: Both breasts must look as similar as possible

Notice by touching

There are 3 area to know; touching your armpit, above collarbone, and breast.

  • Swelling in or around your armpit in case of it has spread to lymph nodes in those area. The most comfortable position is sitting down. You may lay the hand you want to check on table, then use the opposite fingers; pointing, middle and ring fingers to feel the unusual lymph, and vice versa.
  • You can feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter. Then cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side – from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage. Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.
  • Feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in recent step.
The warning symptoms of breast cancer

If you have any symptoms that worry you, be sure you see your doctor right away.

  • New lump in the breast or underarm
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
  • Any changes in the size or the shape of the breast
  • Pulling in the nipple or pain in the nipple area
  • Pain in any area of breast
  • Irritation and/or dimpling of breast skin

NOTE: All of those symptoms cannot confirm if you have breast cancer. The best way to know is the information from doctor.

Information courtesy of:

Ramathibodi Comprehensive Cancer Center