Best Breast Forward

By Dr. Grace Chen 2019-11-22 15:02:42

In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr Grace Chen at ParkwayHealth offers advice and insight into one of the most world's most common types of cancers

Breast cancer. Just hearing these words is enough to make any woman feel extremely uncomfortable, but the sad fact is we are not talking enough about it.

According to Breast Cancer Care, UK, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc, U.S., 1 in 7 women in the UK and 1 in 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Now, you have probably heard a statistic like this before, however, what you may not know is that breast cancer isn’t exclusive to women, it can also develop in men.

Gaining better understanding about breast cancer is essential and likely to be the best defense anyone can have against it.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts from cells of the breast. People of all age groups are affected, but breast cancer occurs more commonly in women who are middle-aged and older. The exact causes of breast cancer remain unknown however studies have shown that risk for developing breast cancer is due to a combination of factors :

Age - Sadly, as we get older the risk for breast cancer increases; most cases are diagnosed after the age of 50.

Early menstruation / starting menopause after age 55 - Women who start their periods before the age of 12 are start menopause after the age of 55 are exposed to hormones longer, which then slightly raises the risk for breast cancer.

Genetic mutations - Inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited these genetic changes are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

• Delayed pregnancy or no pregnancy - Studies have shown that women who either have children after the age of 30 or never fall pregnant are subject to a higher risk of breast cancer. This is due to the hormones released during a women’s pregnancy that cause genetic changes in the mammary glands allowing mature cells to protect against the disease.

Not being physically active - Women who regularly exercise have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.

Being overweight or obese - Older women who are overweight have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.

Having dense breasts - Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram. Women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.

Other factors include, taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills), having a personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases, family history of breast cancer, previous treatment using radiation therapy. the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) - which was given to some pregnant women in the United States between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage and drinking alcohol to excess.

Recognising the signs:

Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain and may cause no symptoms at all. But as the cancer grows, it can cause changes that women should watch for such as:

• A lump in the breast or underarm area

• A change in the shape or size of the breast

• A change in the colour or feel of the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple

• Nipple discharge, erosion, inversion, or tenderness

Although there are several screening options (e.g. breast self-examination, clinical examination, ultrasound or mammography) available, Dr Chen suggests mammography (an x-ray of the breast). For women aged between 50-74 years old she would recommend to do this once a year every year to be on the safe side.


Dr Chen emphasises that with the exception of advanced-stage disease, the cornerstone of breast cancer treatment is surgery; the goal of which is to remove the cancer while preserving as much of the breast as possible. For patients with early-stage breast cancer, Dr Chen adds that breast-conserving surgery, accompanied by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, is the preferred treatment option. For patients with larger tumors who wish to opt for breast-conserving surgery, chemotherapy can sometimes be given to shrink the tumor before surgery.

The good news it that with advances in diagnosis and treatment, more women are surviving breast cancer than ever before. You will probably never develop breast cancer, but if you do, detecting it early will increase your chances of effective treatment.

According to Breast Cancer Care, UK, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc, U.S., 1 in 7 women in the UK and 1 in 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

Dr Grace Chen


Department: Gynecology

Dr Grace Chen is a Gynecologist at ParkwayHealth with over 20 years of clinical experience specialising in minimally invasive procedures and the diagnosis & treatment of general gynecology.



Telephone: 400-819-6622