Understanding Breast Cancer: Detection, Treatment, and Support

Understanding Breast Cancer: Detection, Treatment, and Support

Introduction to Breast Cancer

Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast grow out of control, usually forming a tumour. The tumour is malignant (cancerous) if the abnormal cells invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women aside from skin cancer. Over 280,000 new cases are diagnosed annually, When caught early, breast cancer is highly treatable by the Best cancer doctor in Kolkata, so knowing the signs, symptoms and risk factors is imperative. Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast start to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumour that can be seen on an X-ray or felt as a lump. The tumour is malignant (cancerous) if the cells invade nearby tissues or spread to other parts of the body.


Types of Breast Cancer

There are several types of breast cancer, including:

  • Ductal carcinoma: This is the most common type, starting in the milk ducts. It makes up about 80% of breast cancers.
  • Lobular carcinoma: This starts in the breast lobes where milk is produced. It accounts for 10-15% of cases.  
  • Inflammatory breast cancer: This rare and aggressive type blocks lymph vessels in the skin, causing redness and swelling.
  • Paget’s disease of the nipple: This centres on the nipple and accounts for only 1% of cases.
  • Triple-negative: This refers to cancer that lacks receptors for estrogen, progesterone and HER2. It makes up 10-20% of breast cancers.

Risk Factors Regarding Breast Cancer

Several factors can increase the chance of getting breast cancer:

  1. Gender – Simply being a woman is the main risk factor. Male breast cancer is rare.
  2. Ageing – Most breast cancers occur in women over age 55.
  3. Genetics – Having close relatives with breast or ovarian cancer raises your risk.
  4. Reproductive history – Early period, late menopause and never having children can increase risk.
  5. Previous breast cancer – Having had it before makes you more likely to develop it again. 
  6. Lifestyle factors – Lack of exercise, obesity, and alcohol intake also play a role.

Symptoms of Breast cancer

Common signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A lump or mass in the breast 
  • Swelling in the breast
  • Nipple changes like inversion, rash or discharge
  • Changes to the skin over the breast like dimpling or puckering
  • Pain or soreness in the breast or nipple 

Screening and Diagnosis

The main screening tests used to detect breast cancer are:  

Mammogram – This special X-ray can often show tumours before they can be felt. Screening mammograms are recommended every 1-2 years starting at age 40-45.

If an abnormality is spotted, your doctor will run other tests to make a diagnosis:

  1. Diagnostic mammogram – More detailed images from x-ray views.
  2. Ultrasound – Sound waves produce internal images of the breast. 
  3. MRI – Magnetic imaging gives a better visualization of some abnormalities.  
  4. Biopsy – The only way to confirm cancer is to extract cells or fluid from the tumour to examine under a microscope. This can be done with a fine needle, core needle, or surgical biopsy.


Treatment & cost of Breast cancer

Breast cancer treatment at HCG Hospital Bangalore typically involves more than one approach:

Breast cancer not only poses significant health challenges but also presents a considerable financial burden on individuals and healthcare systems. The cost of breast cancer treatment encompasses various factors, making it a complex and often overwhelming aspect of battling this disease.

Financial Variances in Breast Cancer Treatment:

The cost of treating breast cancer can widely differ based on several variables. Factors such as the stage at diagnosis, the type of treatment required (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy), the duration and frequency of treatments, the necessity for additional medications or procedures, and the choice of healthcare provider or facility can substantially impact the overall expenses.

Surgical Procedures and Their Costs:

Surgical interventions are often a crucial aspect of breast cancer treatment. Mastectomy (removal of the breast) or lumpectomy (removal of the tumour) alongside reconstructive surgeries can significantly impact the financial aspect of treatment. The costs of these procedures can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy Expenses:

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are common treatments for breast cancer that come with their cost considerations. It involves the use of powerful drugs. It can be administered intravenously or orally, with costs varying based on the specific medications prescribed, the duration of treatment cycles, and the frequency of administration. Similarly, radiation therapy costs depend on the number of sessions and the technology used for treatment.

Medications and Targeted Therapies:

Targeted therapies, hormonal therapies, and medications aimed at specific types of breast cancer are often integral to treatment plans. These medications while effective, can also be expensive, sometimes reaching thousands of dollars per month.

Financial Impact Beyond Treatment:

Beyond direct medical expenses, breast cancer treatment may lead to indirect costs. These include lost income due to time off work for treatments and recovery, transportation expenses for hospital visits, and additional costs for supportive care, such as counselling, rehabilitation, or home healthcare.

Navigating Financial Challenges:

The financial burden of breast cancer treatment can be daunting. For many individuals, health insurance coverage plays a critical role in managing these expenses. However, not all treatments or services may be fully covered, leading to out-of-pocket expenses.

Seeking financial assistance, and exploring government aid programs, nonprofit organizations, or support groups can provide valuable resources to mitigate the financial strain. Some healthcare facilities may also offer financial counselling services to help individuals navigate the cost aspect of treatment.

The choice of treatments depends on the cancer type, stage, patient’s age and preferences. The goal is to provide the most effective options with the fewest side effects.


While breast cancer remains a leading cause of cancer death in women, early detection and better treatments can continue to improve survival rates. All women should familiarize themselves with risk factors, symptoms and guidelines for breast cancer screening. Consulting with a doctor about personal risk allows appropriate prevention and surveillance measures to be undertaken. Continued research provides hope for finding cures and improving outcomes for breast cancer patients.

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