Diagnosis breast cancer
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. Its causes are very different and range from genetic to hormonal factors. Unfortunately, most diseases are still diagnosed by chance despite improved early detection options. The female breast consists of glandular, fat and connective tissue as well as nerves, blood and lymph vessels. The glandular tissue contains glandular lobes of different sizes that produce milk and milk ducts that lead from the glandular lobes to the nipple.
Breast cancer usually develops in the glandular tissue. This is triggered by individual, genetically modified cells that carry incorrect information. This misinformation causes the diseased cells to divide unchecked, multiply faster than healthy cells and thus cause a tumour to develop that can be benign or malignant.
- Benign tumour
Cell growth displaces the surrounding tissue but does not destroy it. A benign tumour is therefore not cancer because benign tumours do not form metastases.
- Malignant tumour
The tumor cells penetrate the surrounding tissue and destroy it. Malignant tumours can also form metastases. This is referred to as cancer or a carcinoma.
The spread of tumours is basically divided into three stages. In the early stages, the tumour is still locally limited. In the advanced stage, it has already spread to the neighbouring tissue. In the last stage, the tumour has already formed metastases which have spread to other tissue sites in the body. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better its chances of recovery.
Independent early detection
Although breast cancer rates rose between 1980 and 2006, the mortality rate fell significantly over the same period. One reason for this is the improved early detection of breast cancer, because the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the better its chances of recovery. Since early breast cancer does not cause pain, one should pay special attention to typical signs!
These are possible signs of breast cancer:
- Lumps or hardened tissue in the chest or armpit
- secretion of fluid from the nipple
- retraction of the nipple or skin, for example when lifting the arm
- sensitivity or color change of the breast skin, nipple, or areola
- persistent redness or scaling of the skin
- Changing the shape or size of a breast
All these signs may be an indication of breast cancer, but they are not clear evidence and may have other causes.
Every woman's breast tissue feels different: sometimes it's very soft, sometimes it's more knotty and lumpy. By palpating both breasts, every woman can train her sense of her own tissue.Regularly (approx. once a month) the entire left and right breast area is palpated. Always palpate at the same time: preferably one week after the beginning of the period, as different hormonal influences affect the firmness of the breast tissue during the female cycle. Always carry out the self-examination with sufficient rest and good lighting. Proceed step by step and systematically: first standing, then lying down. Regular self-tracing to detect changes is one of the most important and simplest measures for early detection of breast cancer.
- Observation in the mirror
Look at your breast in the mirror and pay attention to changes in shape and size. Is there a difference between the two breasts? Also lift your arms up over your head and check your breasts again for changes from the front and side.
- Feel both breasts
Feel both breasts with all fingers and pay attention to changes, knots, etc. here as well.
- Checking the nipples
Use your thumb and index finger to press the nipples and check whether any fluid is leaking.
- Scanning while lying down
Lie down and feel your chest and armpit area in a circle while lying down and pay attention to any knots or changes.
Early medical detection
- Gynaecological check-up
From the age of 30 onwards, once a year the gynaecologist scans the breasts and lymph nodes after a detailed consultation.
- Mammography screening
All women between the ages of 50 and 69 should do regular mammography screenings. The examination usually takes place every two years.
During the mammography examination, both breasts are x-rayed. Since malignant tumours are usually noticeable as irregularly densified tissue, they are very easy to recognise. In addition to tissue nodes, the calcium deposits, known as microcalcifications, which can also be seen very clearly with mammography can be a sign of breast cancer. The x-rays also reveal very small, non-palpable tissue changes. If abnormalities are discovered during a mammography, the doctor carries out a second mammography of the affected breast region or a breast ultrasound to clarify the suspicion. If the previously discovered abnormalities are confirmed, a tissue sample is taken from the affected breast region. In most cases, a small procedure performed on an outpatient basis with a hollow needle is sufficient. If this tissue sample is also conspicuous, treatment is carried out in a qualified clinic.
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