Howard Ozer breast cancer

Breast cancer information

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer or breast cancer is a malignant tumor of the female, rarely also the male, mammary gland. The mammary gland consists of the glandular tissue, fat and connective tissue. During the breastfeeding phase, breast milk is produced in the glandular lobules (lobules) and is released via the nipple via smaller tubules (ductules) and larger common channels (ducts).
Correspondingly, different types of cancer develop in the mammary gland: lobular carcinoma starting from the lobules and the much more common ductal carcinoma starting from the ducts or milk ducts, as well as other rare types. The different tumor types sometimes also require different treatment methods.
Breast cancer is the most common malignant disease in women. The incidence of breast cancer has increased sharply in the western world and also in Austria in recent years. Around every tenth woman will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. A quarter of the diseases occur between the ages of 30 and 50, the most common occurrence is observed between the ages of 50 and 70.


How does breast cancer develop?

After malignant cells develop, they first spread in the lobules or milk ducts of the mammary gland. At this point they are encapsulated and cannot yet metastasize. This stage is called the in situ stage.
Only when the tumor cells break into the surrounding tissue do we speak of an invasive tumor, the actual breast cancer. From this point on, there is a risk of the tumor cells spreading further. First, the tumor cells are transported via the lymphatic system, primarily to the axillary lymph nodes, but also to those located behind the breastbone. From here the tumor cells can reach other organs and form metastases there.


Are there any reasons for an increased risk?

The actual cause of cancer is unknown. However, there are influences that cause a higher risk. We differentiate between endogenous (coming from the body) and exogenous (environmental) influences. Endogenous noxae include hereditary chromosome changes, which are only responsible for a very small proportion of breast cancers. The exogenous causes include a high-fat diet, alcohol, nitrosamines (created e.g. when barbecuing), radiation, etc. Long-term treatment of osteoporosis with estrogens also seems to cause a higher risk.
Other risk factors are early menstruation and late menopause. The more months a woman has breastfed, the lower her risk. In the case of illness in first-degree relatives (mother, sister), the risk is two to three times higher.
Recent studies show that the pill has no influence on the development of breast cancer. Benign changes in the breast do not have an increased risk, only pronounced mastopathy with atypical proliferating atypia.
Two hours of exercise a week already reduce the risk considerably.


Can I do something as a precaution?

Self-examination: Every woman from the age of 25 should examine her breast once a month, preferably 10 days after her menstrual period. First in front of the mirror by raising and lowering your arms, paying attention to changes in the chest: skin changes, changes in the nipple, flattening or bulging of the chest in one place. The breast is then lathered in the shower and examined for lumps and other changes by palpating it in a circular and sideways manner.
If a change is observed, the doctor should be consulted immediately. Because: the earlier a carcinoma is treated, the better the chances of recovery. Tumors less than 0.5 cm in diameter have a nearly 100% chance of healing, which is why early detection is so crucial.
Mammography: A basic mammography should be performed between the ages of 30 and 40, and an annual mammography from the age of 40. Mammography detects tumors that are too small to be palpated, i.e. at a time that is very prognostically favorable. The radiation exposure of mammography is insignificant. The ultrasound examination is often used as an additional examination method, which should provide further information about a change in the breast.


Details on the treatment of breast cancer at the Elisabethinen Hospital in Graz can be found here.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us in our breast clinic.

Prim. Univ. Doz. Georg Rosanelli
Head of the Department of Surgery