BREAST cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women in Papua New Guinea , a doctor says.
Pacific International Hospital (PIH) chief consulting obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Mathias Sapuri said breast cancer was second only to cervical cancer, and could be treated if detected earlier.
“The problem with breast cancer in PNG is that not many women get a breast examination done,” he said.
There are 4,000 new cases of breast cancer and 1,650 deaths each year, according to the data with Dr Sapuri.
“Breast cancer occurs in four stages,” he said.
“In all the four stages, surgery can be done.
“From stage two, surgery alone is ideal, but, in stage three and four, one would require surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.”
Dr Sapuri said that PNG women turned up to the hospital when the breast cancer was already in stage three or stage four.
He said self-examination of the breast was the best way to detect breast cancer.
“Women must have a self-examination of the breast at least every two months,” he said.
“It is a simple technique of checking both breasts.
“With the right hand, check the left breast and with the left hand, check on the right breast.
“Check all the four quadrants of both breasts to look for a lump or mass.”
Dr Sapuri added that if a mass was identified, the woman must see a doctor as soon as possible to have an ultrasound and a biopsy to confirm whether they were dealing with a benign breast tumour or a cancerous breast tumour.
“You can feel a lump or see a lump in the breast, whereas with cervical cancer you cannot see anything until there is bleeding,” he said.
Dr Sapuri said that there were other preventive measures.
“Women above 35 can see a doctor at the hospital to have a breast ultrasound and also have what is called a mammogram,” he said,
“A mammogram and a breast ultrasound can be done every two years.
“If you have a family history of breast cancer, it is advised to get a mammogram done and get checked every year to make sure there are no problems.
“Breast cancer is treatable if you pick it up early.
“If detected early, you can do a lumpectomy, removing the lump (abnormal tissue) from the breast.
“If the cancer has progressed and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes, then you do a mastectomy.
“Surgical mastectomy is removing the breast.
“In stage three and four, radical mastectomy would be used to remove the whole breast, to remove the lymph nodes in the axilla and the chest.”
Dr Sapuri also warned that breast cancer could affect men, although not as common as women.
“Men have breast tissue as well and can develop breast cancer although it is rare,” he said.
Breast cancer arises in the lining cells epithelium of the ducts (85 per cent) or lobules (15 per cent) in the glandular tissue of the breast.
Initially, the cancerous growth is confined to the duct or lobule (in situ) where it generally causes no symptoms and has minimal potential of spreading (metastasis).
Over time, these in situ (stage zero) cancers may progress and invade the surrounding breast tissue (invasive breast cancer) then spread on to the nearby lymph nodes (regional metastasis) or to other organs in the body (distant metastasis).
If a woman dies from breast cancer, it is because of widespread metastasis.
Generally, symptoms of breast cancer would include:
Treatment of breast cancer often consists of a combination of surgical removal, radiation therapy and medication hormonal therapy.
Treatments also would include chemotherapy and or targeted biological therapy which would be used to treat the microscopic cancer that usually spreads from the breast tumour through the blood.
Such treatment, which can prevent cancer growth and spread, thereby saves lives.
Behavioural choices and related interventions that could reduce the risk of breast cancer include:
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