Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women, but if it is diagnosed at an early stage, there is a good chance it can be successfully treated, according to an expert.
As the world marks October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Professor Semih Gorgulu informed Anadolu Agency about breast cancer, its treatment, diagnosis and self-examination methods.
“One out of eight women in Turkey is diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Gorgulu, an expert in breast and endocrine surgery.
Factors leading to breast cancer
Gorgulu said genetics is one of the factors that causes breast cancer, noting that two different breast cancer genes — abbreviated as BRCA1 and BRCA2 — and those along with other genes are known to mutate for various reasons.
He stressed that genetic predisposition accounts for between 10%-15% of all breast cancer cases.
“In general, women feel comfortable if they do not have a family member diagnosed with breast cancer, but 85% of our patients are the only cases in their families,” he added.
Hormone therapy, specifically estrogen supply, applied to relieve menopause-related complaints is also a serious risk factor of breast cancer, Gorgulu said.
“Tumors that cause breast cancer in approximately 75% of our patients are due to estrogen. Nowadays, this method is not recommended unless it is necessary, and if necessary only small doses of hormone are used,” he added.
Obesity is another serious risk factor, said Gorgulu.
“If you eat well, you will protect yourself. Poor nutrition can also lead to many other diseases.”
Giving birth, breastfeeding, and cutting down on alcohol is known to reduce the risk of cancer, he added.
Medical and self-examinations
“Every woman above the age of 20 should have a medical examination every three years and examine themselves every month,” Gorgulu said, adding women above 40 should also have a mammogram along with a medical examination.
Stressing that the ideal period for self-examination is when a woman has minimal hormonal activity within the first week after menstruation ends, Gorgulu said differences such as deformities, asymmetry, redness of the breast skin, nipple retention and fluid leaks should be observed in front of the mirror.
“First standing and then lying down, the person should rest her neck on her arm and examine the entire breast, including the armpits, for suspicious lumps with the fingers, going in circles starting from the nipple,” Gorgulu added
Once cancer is diagnosed, the patient is treated with medication or preventive surgery, which is removing the tissue where the tumor is located or all breast tissue and replacing it with a prosthesis, Gorgulu said.
Removing the tissue is not enough in protective surgery, as radiotherapy should follow the treatment, he added.
“For early diagnosis, regular checks are a must,” he concluded.
Turkey is raising awareness against breast cancer across the country with campaigns and official announcements.
Some 2.5 million women were screened for breast cancer in 2018 in coordination with the Turkish Health Ministry, while 102,000 people were examined and 36,000 others were diagnosed at an early stage and treatment was started.
With the community-based scans, the rate of early diagnosis increases every year in Turkey. Community-based breast cancer screening is carried out free of charge by the Ministry of Health’s Early Diagnosis, Screening and Training Centers (KETEM) as well as at Family Health Centers and Healthy Life Centers across the country