In this Health Hub article, we explore the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer.
Breast cancer occurs when the cells in the breast grow too fast and out of control. The cells then form a tumour when can be felt as a lump and seen on an x-ray.
Facts & Figures
- Average age of diagnosis: 59.6 years
- 1 in 10 women in Ireland will get breast cancer at some stage in their lives
- Every year, around 2,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 660 women die from the disease
Breast cancer can also occur in men
Signs & Symptoms
- A new lump
- Change in nipple
- Change in breast shape
- Change in skin
- Nipple discharge
Screening & Diagnosis
The simplest way to check for breast cancer is actually after a shower or bath. Get into the habit of checking your breasts once a month using this simple technique:
- Press your fingers together
- Press your fingers against the side of your breast
- Move your fingers across your breast pressing down
- If you notice any lumps or masses you should make an appointment with your doctor
If you do find a lump or notice unusual changes in your breasts, your doctor will begin a “triple assessment”.
Your doctor will check for lumps in the same way you check yourself.
A mammogram is an x-ray specifically designed for the breasts. Each breast is held in position and squeezed slightly while images are taken from the side and top. The scan usually takes about 30 minutes.
A biopsy involves a needle being inserted into the breast and a tiny piece of tissue taken out. The tissue can then be examined under a microscope and using DNA sequencing to check for any cancerous cells or faulty genes.
Screening - Breast Check
Under the National Cancer Control Program (NCCP), BreastCheck centres were setup around Ireland to screen women for breast cancer using mammograms.
- For women aged 50 – 64
- Free mammogram every 2 years
Breast Cancer Treatments
Treatment available in hospital
Treatment available from the pharmacy
- Oral tablets
- Injections (Biological treatment)
Common Side Effects of Breast Cancer Medicines
- Hot flushes
- Fluid retentions
- Vaginal bleeding
- Thromboembolisms (clots)
Advice From The Pharmacist
- Check your breasts once a month
- Get to know your body and what is normal for you
- Check the BreastCheck register to ensure you are on the national screening list