Understanding Breast Cancer

Understanding Breast Cancer

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. There are different types of breast cancer:

  • Non-invasive cancers are cancerous changes that are contained within the breast ducts or lobules; for example, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) or Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS).

  • Primary cancer, also known as invasive cancer, is a tumor that grows outside the ducts and lobules into the surrounding breast tissue. 

  • Secondary breast cancer, or metastatic breast cancer, is when cells from the breast tumor spread to other parts of the body, starting with the axillary lymph nodes under the armpit, and then form tumors in other locations such as the bone or the brain. 

The kind of breast cancer depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer.

  • Risk Factors:

Genetic Risk Factors

  • Gender

Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times, more often in women than in men.

  • Age

Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after the age of 55.

  • Family History

If your mother, sister, father or family member has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Your risk increases if your relative was diagnosed before the age of 50.

  • Personal Health History

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the other breast. Also, your risk increases if abnormal breast cells have been detected before (such as atypical hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

  • Menstrual & Reproductive History

Early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55), having your first child at an older age, or never given birth, can also increase your risk for breast cancer.

  • Dense Breast Tissue

Having dense breast tissue can increase your risk for breast cancer and make lumps harder to detect. Be sure to ask your physician if you have dense breasts and what the implications of having dense breasts are.

Environmental Lifestyle Risk Factors

  • Lack of Physical Activity

A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk of breast cancer.

  • Poor Diet

A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.

  • Being Overweight or Obese

Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of breast cancer. Your risk is increased if you have already gone through menopause.

  • Radiation on the Chest

Having radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 can increase your risk for breast cancer.

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy

Taking combined hormone replacement therapy, as prescribed for menopause, can increase your risk for breast cancer and increase the risk that the cancer will be detected at a more advanced stage.

  • Breastfeeding

Some studies suggest that breastfeeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if it is continued for 1½ to 2 years. One explanation for this effect may be that breastfeeding reduces a woman’s total number of lifetime menstrual cycles (similar to starting menstrual periods at a later age or going through early menopause).

  • Smoking

Smoking causes several diseases and is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger and premenopausal women. Research shows there may be a link between very heavy second-hand smoke exposure and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

  • Drinking Alcohol

Consumption of alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater is the risk.


  • Ultrasound

Ultrasound is used to target a specific area of concern found on the mammogram. Ultrasound helps distinguish between cysts (fluid-filled sacs) and solid masses, and sometimes can help differentiating between benign and cancerous tumors. Ultrasound may be most helpful in women with very dense breasts. Clinical trials are now looking at the benefits and risks of adding breast ultrasound to screening mammograms in women with dense breasts and a higher risk of breast cancer.

  • Mammogram

Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. Mammograms for older women should be based on the individual, her health, and other serious illnesses, such as congestive heart failure, end-stage renal disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and moderate-to-severe dementia. Age alone should not be the reason to stop having regular mammograms. As long as a woman is in good health and would be a candidate for treatment, she should continue to be screened with a mammogram.

  • MRI

Women at high risk for breast cancer based on certain factors should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. This includes women who:

Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of about 20% to 25% or greater, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history.

Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.

Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, but have not had genetic testing themselves.

  • Biopsy

A biopsy is done when mammograms, other imaging tests, or the physical exam finds a breast change (or abnormality) that is possibly cancer. A biopsy is the only way to confirm if cancer is present.

During a biopsy, a sample of the suspicious area is removed to be looked at under a microscope, by a specialized doctor with many years of training called a pathologist. The pathologist sends your doctor a report that gives a diagnosis for each sample taken. Information in this report will be used to help manage your care.

Contact & Testing Centers:

  • Shaukat Khanum Diagnostic Centre 89-G, Jail Road Lahore, Pakistan

    Telephone: +92 42 35905000 Ext: 3453

    UAN: +92 (42) 111 756 756

  • Shaukat Khanum Diagnostic Centre, Liberty 2-E 1, Main Boulevard United Christian Hospital (UCH)-Liberty Gulberg III, Lahore, Pakistan

    Telephone: +92 42 3590500 Ext: 3483

  • Karachi Diagnostic Centre and Clinic Plot DDCH1, 1st Street Phase VII Extension DHA Karachi, Pakistan

    Telephone: +92 21 3531 8495-99 or +92 21 3531 8513-16

    UAN: 111 756 756

  • Citi Lab 525-A Maulana Shoukat Ali Road, Faisal Town Lahore, Pakistan

    Telephone: 0332-1555333

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.