Breast cancer has become the most frequent type of cancer among women worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, early diagnosis continues to be the best strategy to save lives.

But can you answer the following questions: What is breast cancer? What are the symptoms and signs? How can you prevent it?

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that arises from the cells in the breast area. A malignant tumor can be described as a cluster of cells which can grow and invade the tissues around it. It may also spread to other areas of the body, creating tumors far from the first cancer site. This is known as metastasis.

Breast cancer can affect men as well, although the incidence is far lower compared to breast cancer in women.

Symptoms and Signs

When an individual suffers from breast cancer, there are expected changes or symptoms to be experienced. However, women usually do not have any symptoms at the time of diagnosis.
When one or more of the following symptoms and signs are experienced, it is very important to visit a doctor as soon as possible. Providing extra information such as the date when you first experienced discomfort and the frequency of your pain may allow the professional to give a more accurate diagnosis.

1. Complete or partial breast swelling although no specific protuberance is felt.
2. Irritation, reddening, flaking of the skin of the breast and nipple.
3. Dimpling or puckering in the skin of the breast. The skin may be ridged or pitted like an orange.
4. Pain in the breast or the nipple.
5. Retraction of the nipples.
6. Secretion from the nipple other than breast milk.

According to the American Society of Cancer, sometimes breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes in the armpits or around the collar bone and cause a swelling in that area, even before the tumor in the breast grows enough to be palpable.

The breast self-exam is a preventive method recommended to be performed once a month as well as visiting the doctor regularly for mammography. Women 40 years old and older should visit the doctor at least once a year for routine breast exams.

Early detection of breast cancer will allow doctors to provide proper treatment and improve the chances of remission.

If you are interested in learning more about breast cancer treatment in Costa Rica or would like to speak with a breast cancer or oncology specialist, please fill out the “Help me Find a Doctor” form and a participating medical specialist will contact you to discuss your needs.