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Breast Cancer
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Health Care
Cancer / Oncology
Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and its occurrence is steadily increasing. Each year more than 250,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in Europe and approximately 175,000 in the United States, with a death rate of over 165,000 patients in Europe and 44,000 in the United States. Worldwide more than 700,000 women die of breast cancer annually and it is estimated that eight to nine percent of women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

If detected early enough, before spreading outside the breast women with breast cancer have a five-year survival rate of more than 95 percent. Yet despite advances in diagnosis and treatment, breast cancer is the primary cause of cancer-related deaths in women and the third-leading cause overall in Europe and the United States. After primary treatment approximately 50 percent of patients will develop metastatic (advanced) breast cancer (MBC). From the initial diagnosis of MBC, the average survival time for these patients is 18 to 30 months.

Detecting Breast Cancer
Lumps, or changes in the breast tissue, can be detected with regular breast self-examination. Your doctor will be able to provide advice on how to do this. Most lumps in the breast are benign (non-cancerous) and can be removed with no effect. However, at least one in 10 lumps will be cancerous. If you do detect a lump, please see your doctor as soon as possible.

In order to determine the exact nature of the lump, your health practitioner may perform one or some of the following procedures:

  • Mammogram - this is a breast x-ray.
  • Ultrasound scan - this uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an image of the breast.
  • Biopsy - where a small sample is removed and examined under the microscope to see if there are any cancer cells).
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - in some centres a MRI scan may be available. This scan, which doesn't use radiation, gives a three-dimensional image of the breast and may be more sensitive than a mammogram at detecting certain abnormalities of soft tissue.
  • If breast cancer is found, more tests will be done to find out if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastasised).

Standard Treatment
In the past, breast cancer has been treated in many different ways, including chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and hormone therapy. These treatments are given with the goals of curing the cancer and/or limiting its spread, and providing relief from symptoms.

New Treatment Options
Chemotherapy and radiation have long been the main weapons for patients and physicians in their fight against cancer, but can adversely affect the rest of the body. Now new therapies with innovative mechanisms of action are available. These drugs deliver their cancer-fighting agents directly to the cancerous cells. They may offer significant advances to patients as they spare the rest of the body from the sometimes devastating side effects associated with standard cancer treatments.

Hospital pharmacy at the Basel Cantonal Hospital: medicines being prepared for distribution to the wards
Hospital pharmacy at the Basel Cantonal Hospital: medicines being prepared for distribution to the wards
Chest Treatment

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