Top Things You Need to Know about Breast Health
In our latest Ask the Expert article, featured in West Essex Life Magazine, Miss Tasha Gandamihardja, Consultant Oncoplastic Breast and Reconstructive surgeon talks about the Top Things You Need to Know about Breast Health. You can read the full article here.
The best way for a woman to know her breasts is to check them regularly. If you are familiar with how they look and feel, any lumps or changes will be more noticeable.
What are the signs to look when checking my breasts:
- Lumps or thickening that feels different
- Changes in the shape of the breast
- Skin changes, such as redness or a rash
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- The nipple pulling inwards (inversion)
- Liquid or a bloody nipple discharge
- Swelling in the armpit or around the collarbone
- Constant pain in the breast or armpit.
What should I expect if I am referred to a breast clinic?
If a woman notices any of the symptoms listed above, she should see her GP, who will refer her to a breast clinic. Ideally, the clinic should be a ‘one stop shop’, where examination and imaging are undertaken during the same visit. The surgeon will take a detailed history of the symptoms and perform a thorough breast examination. Imaging will then take place – either an ultrasound scan or a mammogram, or both.
The results will be discussed with the patient immediately afterwards, so by the time she leaves the clinic, she has had a full check-up. This not only saves time, but minimises the anxiety that
comes with having to wait for results.
In a small proportion of women, an abnormality may be found, in which case a biopsy may be taken. For these women, the results will be given at a separate follow-up appointment.
What are the treatment options for breast cancer?
Breast cancer treatment and surgical techniques have advanced significantly in recent years. While treatment remains the utmost priority, emphasis is also placed on the aesthetic outcome. Oncoplastic breast surgery is a relatively new term that refers to when plastic surgery techniques are used, alongside breast cancer surgery, to ensure best aesthetic surgical outcome is achieved.
If the cancer is relatively small compared to breast size, a lumpectomy – where just the lump is removed – followed by radiotherapy is normally advised. Scar placement, achieving symmetry and efforts to minimise breast defects are also taken into consideration.
Mastectomy and reconstruction
If a mastectomy (removal of the breast) has been recommended, the surgeon will offer breast reconstruction. This can be undertaken at the same time as the cancer operation or at a later date.
Depending on the the patient’s breast reconstruction preference, an implant may be placed under the chest wall muscle or tissue from another part of the body, such as the back, abdomen or inner thigh, might be used.
Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and endocrine treatment
The need for these treatments depends on the type of cancer and the extent of the disease. After detailed discussion between surgeons, pathologists, radiologists and oncologists, a suitable
treatment plan will be recommended.
Most breast symptoms are not worrisome, yet it is always best to be safe. If you have any concerns about your breasts, please see your GP as soon as possible so they can refer you to a breast clinic if necessary.
Miss Tasha Gandamihardja BSc MBBS MEd PhD FRCS, is a consultant oncoplastic breast and reconstructive surgeon. She incorporates plastic surgical techniques during breast cancer surgery.
Miss Gandamihardja has clinics at The Holly Private Hospital on Mondays and Fridays.