Saskatchewan Breast Cancer Connect

Breast Cancer Basics

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is cancer (malignant tumor) that develops from breast tissue. Cancer involves abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Not all tumors are cancerous; benign tumours do not spread to other parts of the body.

How is Breast Cancer diagnosed?

Any or a combination of the following methods are often used as screening tools. A biopsy would then be used to confirm whether a lump (mass) is benign or malignant.

Mammograms

Mammography uses special X-ray images to detect abnormal growths or changes in the breast tissue. Using a digital X-ray machine made specially for breast tissue, a technician compresses the breast and takes pictures from at least two different angles, creating a set of images for each of your breasts. This set of images is called a mammogram. Breast tissue appears white and opaque and fatty tissue appears darker and translucent. In a screening mammogram, the breast is X-rayed from top to bottom and from side to side. A diagnostic mammogram focuses in on a particular lump or area of abnormal tissue.

Ultrasound

Breast ultrasound is a procedure that may be used to determine whether a lump is a cyst (sac containing fluid) or a solid mass which might be cancer. If the lump is found to be a cyst, fluid is typically withdrawn from it using a needle and syringe (a process called aspiration). If clear fluid is removed and the mass completely disappears, no further treatment or evaluation is needed. 

Ultrasound can also be used to precisely locate the position of a known tumor to help guide the doctor during a biopsy or aspiration procedure. Ultrasound helps confirm correct needle placement. Ultrasound testing works by transmitting high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, through the breast. The sound waves bounce off surfaces in the breast (tissue, air, fluid) and these "echoes" are recorded and transformed into video or photographic images.

MRI

Breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a test that should not be used to distinguish between benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous) areas, in lieu of a breast biopsy. Due to false positive results, performing this test may increase the number of breast biopsies that need to be performed. It is not appropriate to utilize breast MRI to evaluate a suspicious breast mass, or to follow these breast masses over time. Although MRI may detect tumors in dense breast tissue, the presence of dense breast tissue is not a reason to have a breast MRI scan. Breast MRI scanning cannot detect tiny specks of calcium (known as microcalcifications), which account for half of the cancers detected by mammography.

Biopsy

A breast biopsy is the removal of cells or tissue from a suspicious mass. The tissue or cells are then examined under a microscope to check for breast cancer cells. A biopsy may be performed when an abnormal finding in the breast is discovered during a mammogram, ultrasound, or physical examination.

A biopsy is the only way to determine if a potential trouble spot is malignant (cancerous) or benign. There are many types of breast biopsy procedures. The method recommended by your doctor will depend on how large your breast lump or abnormal area is, where in the breast it is located, how many lumps or abnormal areas such as suspicious calcifications are present, if you have any other medical problems, and what your personal preferences are.

How is Breast Cancer treated?

Breast cancer treatment is catered for each patient. Doctors recommend a treatment plan based on the specifics of each patient, their medical history and their breast cancer characteristics. 

Treatments generally include a combination of:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone Therapy

 

For more information, visit the following agencies and their resources:

Sources for Information

  • Canadian Cancer Society

    The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer.

    Website

    American Cancer Society

    For over 100 years, ACS has worked relentlessly to save lives and create a world with less cancer. Together with millions of our supporters worldwide, we help people stay well and get well, find cures, and fight back against cancer.

    Website
  • Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

    The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation is Canada's leading community-driven breast cancer charity dedicated to funding relevant and innovative research and supporting and advocating for the breast cancer community.

    Website

    Canadian Breast Cancer Network

    CBCN strives to voice the views and concerns of breast cancer survivors and patients through promotion of information sharing, education and advocacy activities.

    Website
  • Breastcancer.org

    Dedicated to providing the most reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer to help women make sense of the complex medical information about breast cancer, so they can make the best decisions for their lives.

    Website

    Living Beyond Breast Cancer

    LBBC is dedicated to assisting you, whether you are newly diagnosed, in treatment, recently completed treatment, are years beyond or are living with metastatic breast cancer. We are here to provide breast cancer information and support.

    Website
  • Rethink

    Rethink is the first-ever, Canadian breast cancer charity to bring bold, relevant awareness to the 40s and under crowd; foster a new generation of young breast cancer supporters; and respond to the unique needs of young women going through it.

    Website

    Willow

    Willow provides free-of-cost support, insight and information to anyone affected by breast cancer or hereditary cancer. Willow recognizes that cancer affects all aspects of your life, and your loved ones' lives, in many ways. 

    Website
  • Young Survival Coalition

    YSC is the premier global organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. YSC offers resources, connections and outreach so women feel supported, empowered and hopeful.

    Website

    Canadian Cancer Survivor Network

    The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network was created by a group of Canadians concerned about cancer. 

    Website
  • National Cancer Institute

    The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is the U.S. federal government's principal agency for cancer research and training.

    Website

    Lymphedema Association of Saskatchewan Inc

    LAS recognized the need to help those who have or are at risk of developing lymphedema and related lymphatic disorders. LAS strives to be a learning association, committed to ongoing education. 

    Website
  • Healing and Cancer Foundation

    The Foundation helps people affected by cancer with an integrated approach to their diagnosis. We offer life skills training and a perspective on mind, body and spirit that can transform the experience of illness into a journey toward wholeness.

    Website

    Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation

    Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation is dedicated to achieving a future without breast cancer by engaging the public and the scientific communities in innovative research on cause and prevention. 

    Website