Is it breast cancer?

A lump in your chest. The fear strikes you around the heart: it will not be breast cancer anyway? Often it is a false alarm. But be on your guard, because as many as one in eight women will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer …

In cancer, something goes wrong with cell division. The human body is made up of cells containing genetic material. These cells multiply each time so that dying cells can be replaced by new ones.

But sometimes that is wrong. Then erroneous cells are formed that together form a malignant tumor: a tumor. The medical term is a carcinoma.

What is breast cancer?

In breast cancer there is cancer in and around the breast tissue. The medical term for breast cancer is breast cancer. Mom means breast. In the vast majority of women, the disease starts in the milk ducts. Usually it is cancer in one breast.

It is the most common form of cancer among women. Every year around 14,500 women (and about 100 men) with this disease come to the Netherlands. From the age of 35 you run an increased risk, but especially after the transition, the risk of breast cancer increases significantly. Two-thirds of all patients are 50 years of age or older when the diagnosis is made.

Causes of breast cancer

Many fables are circulating about the causes of breast cancer , such as getting deodorant or wearing a bra. Many people think that breast cancer is always hereditary, but that only applies to 5 to 10 percent of women who get breast cancer. Usually the cause of breast cancer is unknown.

Risk factors

There are risk factors that increase the risk of breast cancer, but it is not that you always get breast cancer if you have a certain risk factor for you. Conversely, there are patients with breast cancer where it is not clear which risk factor could have played a role. The development of breast cancer has to do with a combination of factors.

The female sex hormones influence the risk of breast cancer. The longer you are exposed to estrogen and progesterone, the greater your risk of breast cancer. Women who started to menstruate before the age of 12 and were late in menopause, had no children or had their children after 35 years, are at greater risk. In addition, the contraceptive pill and hormone preparations for menopausal symptoms increase the risk of breast cancer. Late for the first time and early in the transition, a pregnancy at a young age, multiple children and long-term breastfeeding, reduces the risk of breast cancer correct.

Lifestyle factors also play a role. The link between diet and breast cancer is not yet clear. What is known is that obesity, alcohol and smoking increase the risk of breast cancer. Movement actually reduces the risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer is most common in women aged 50 and older.

Symptoms in breast cancer

These changes in the breast may indicate breast cancer:

A nodule.

A dimple.

Change of the nipple: redness, flakes, recently withdrawn, fluid secretion, a strand (etje) to the nipple.

Warm feeling chest with red discoloration.

Bad healing spot.

Painful place.

Swelling in the armpit

The breast tissue always feels a bit lumpy. Even just before menstruation , your breasts often feel differently than in the rest of the month. In addition, nodules and the other mentioned changes can have an innocent cause. Still, it is wise to always go to the doctor with changes in the breasts to be sure. The earlier you discover breast cancer, the greater the chance of a cure.


The doctor examines the breasts and lymph nodes. If necessary, he will refer you to a surgeon or breast clinic. Many hospitals have a breast clinic, a special outpatient clinic with all kinds of specialists where you undergo several examinations in one day. Often you get the results the same day.

The surveys can consist of:

(One more time) physical examination.

Mammography: X-ray of the chest.

Ultrasound: doctor moves a device over the skin that emits sound waves. The doctor makes photos of organs and tissues.

MRI scan .

Puncture: tissue cells and / or fluid are sucked up with a hollow needle so that they can be viewed.

Biopsy: doctor removes a piece of tissue so that it can be examined.

If a malignant tumor is discovered, then follow-up research is needed to see if there are metastases and how far the tumor has expanded.

Treatment of breast cancer

The most common treatments for breast cancer are:

An operation: in one third of patients, the entire breast should be removed. In two thirds of the women, the tumor and surrounding tissue is removed (breast-conserving surgery). Sometimes the lymph nodes in the armpit are also removed in an orthodox way.

Irradiation (radiotherapy): the cancer cells are killed by radiation.

Chemotherapy: treatment with drugs that disrupt cell division or destroy the cancer cells.

Hormone therapy: treatment that counteracts the effects of estrogen.

Targeted therapy: medication that only addresses the tumor cells and leaves the healthy cells alone.

Often the treatment consists of a combination of the above options.

What is the chance of a cure?

When you are told that you have breast cancer, your world collapses. Many patients especially want to know one thing: how do my survival chances lie? This is determined, among other things, by the type of breast cancer.

Some forms of breast cancer are more aggressive than others. Furthermore, it depends on the stage in which the disease is located. The larger the tumor and the further the metastases, the worse the outlook. That is why it is also so important to be there early.

In general, you can say that the average survival rates after five years currently fluctuate around 80 percent. The ten-year survival is 69 percent.

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