Almost a third of carcinomas among women are diagnosed in the breast. The most frequent form of breast cancer, known in medical parlance as ductal carcinoma, originates in the milk ducts. If the condition originates in the lobules of the breast, it's termed lobular carcinoma. The symptoms, which appear in and around the area of the breast, may include palpable hardening or knots, changes in the skins such as ridges, pitting or swelling, nipple discharge or tenderness, changes in the size or shape of the breast, or enlarged lymph nodes around the armpit, collarbone or sternum.
Young women also affected
Although the risk of contracting breast cancer increases particularly over age 50, younger women are also affected. Around one fifth of all sufferers are below 50 when diagnosed. Even men can get breast cancer, although it's rarely diagnosed and in most cases affects men over age 60.
According to the Swiss Cancer League, other factors besides age can increase the risk of breast cancer. They include:
- Family members in the first degree (mother, sister or daughter) diagnosed with the disease.
- Hereditary dispositions through so-called BRCA mutations, abnormalities in the genes related to breast cancer.
- Hormonal influences: in cases where the woman has her first period before age 12 or her last after age 55, gives birth to her first child after age 30, or has many years of combined hormone therapy for the symptoms of menopause.
- Radiation therapy for other forms of cancer.
- Obesity, smoking and drinking.
Prevention and therapy
The earlier the cancer is detected, the easier the therapy and the greater the patient's chance of survival. Finding out whether a woman has breast cancer involves a mammogram (an X-ray examination of the breast) or biopsy (removing a tissue sample). The three most frequent treatment methods are chemotherapy or radiation and surgery (for a tumour or amputation).
Solidarity with sufferers
This year sees the tenth edition of the Pink Ribbon Charity Walk, with around 5,000 walkers and runners expected to gather in Zurich's Letzigrund stadium on 24 September 2017. The main aim of the event is to show solidarity with people affected by breast cancer. SWICA supports Pink Ribbon Switzerland: if you take part in the walk and also sign up for the SWICA fundraising campaign, we will donate 30 francs to Pink Ribbon Switzerland in your name. You'll find details of the fundraising campaign here: www.swica.ch/pinkribbon. More information on the Charity Walk: www.pink-ribbon.ch.