Breast Cancer


The Disease

Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast, usually in the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and the lobules (glands that produce milk). Breast cancer occurs in men and women. However, the incidence of this disease in males is rare.

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women, diagnosed in more than 1.2 million women worldwide and accounting for approximately 23% of all cancer cases. An excess of 450,000 patients were reported to have died from this disease in 2008. The disease is also the most common form of cancer reported among Malaysian women from 2003-2005 (18% of all cancers reported).

Causes and Risk Factors

Risk factors that can increase an individual's likelihood of developing breast cancer include family history of the disease, increasing age, not having children or having them at an older age and a long menstrual life (early menarche or late menopause). Some researchers believe that obesity, a high-fat diet, excessive alcohol intake, and use of hormone replacement therapy may also increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Diagnosis and Screening

Detecting breast cancer early, before it has grown very large or spread to other sites is important as treatment is more likely to work if the disease is detected at an early stage. The main methods for detecting breast cancer include:

  1. Mammography with the use of X-rays to make a picture of the breast.
  2. Breast examination by a doctor or a nurse.
  3. Lab test with breast tissue.


Breast cancer is managed with a range of treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, monoclonal antibody therapy and radiotherapy. These treatments are administered with the goals of curing the cancer and/or limiting the disease's spread and providing relief from its symptoms. The choice of therapy depends largely on the stage and type of breast cancer diagnosed. Therefore, and the treatment that's best for one patient may not be best for another.

Your doctor is the best person to explain your treatment choices, the expected results, and the possible side effects to you.