The number of cases of breast cancer increases, but also survival and recovery from breast cancer. To this day, this cancer affects one in eight women over a lifetime: it is the most common cancer in women and represents 29% of all cancers affecting women.
In an interview on Radio 24, Dr. Corrado Tinterri, director of the Breast Unit – Senology in Humanitas, reminded all women of the importance of being followed in specialized centers and experience, able to follow, study and treat many cases. To be treated in a dedicated centre means to have a higher survival of almost 20%.
The data say that “the incidence of breast cancer increases slowly, but on the other hand it reduces mortality – said Tinterri -. This is thanks to the effectiveness of care, to the increasing empowerment of women, who are increasingly attentive to prevention, to their bodies and sensitive to this problem”.
Breast cancer: healing is possible
“Breast cancer is cured today, more and more if you make an early diagnosis.” This is the reassurance that Dr. Tinterri wants to give to women. Despite being a disease that still frightens, and certainly not to be underestimated, “we should stigmatize the word tumor, which is a deterrent sometimes because today 75% of women who have had breast cancer, ten years after the disease, are alive. No other cancer has this result so far”.
Prevention and control: mammography
The women most at risk are obviously those who have already had cases of breast cancer in the family, which, as we remind you, is not exclusively female: 1% of breast cancers also affect men, with consequences that should not be underestimated among the risk factors.
“Having a man in the family who has had breast cancer – recalled Dr. Tinterri – makes it very likely that there will be genetic mutation in the family, therefore a very high risk, in the family that should be constantly monitored.
Women over 50 years of age are included in the screening and prevention programs provided by the National Health System, so “to young women under 50 years of age we must devote more time and attention because they are outside the screening programs.
They are advised to use ultrasound rather than mammography: the young breast is denser and the rays penetrate less, giving the doctor less information.
Finally, many women tend to postpone check-ups and mammograms because they are afraid of the rays: “the dose of rays absorbed with today’s new mammograms is much lower than the rays absorbed during a Milan-Rome flight”, explained the doctor. In addition, “mammography is the only examination in the world that has given favorable results on screening campaigns”.
Lifestyle: how much it can affect breast cancer
Nutrition plays a very important role, “especially in cases of recurrence of the disease – explained Tinterri -: women who have had cancer must be attentive to sedentariness and diet. For example, they must reduce foods that are dangerous for all cancers such as fine sugars, unsaturated fats or dairy products.
Even women who follow hormone treatments should be particularly careful: “basically the birth control pill is innocent – clarified Tinterri – there is no evidence of increases in cancer related to this. This is not the case for women who follow these hormonal therapies after the age of 45, because we must be sure that they do not have a condition of risk, since the hormone could be a stimulant for some breast tumors”.
Cures: lighter and more conservative
In recent years, research has made it possible to find various treatments for breast cancer, not limited to surgery.
“Breast cancer today, thanks to the teamwork of the Breast Unit, is addressed in a multidisciplinary way – explained Dr. Tinterri -, the right cure is not always surgery. There are new possibilities of medical therapies, anti-hormonal treatments or of course chemotherapy, for certain types of tumors.
Chemotherapy often frightens women of contraindications such as hair loss, fatigue, nausea, but even this therapy “has changed in the last decade and the contraindications are less severe and there are no more cases of death from chemotherapy”.
Surgery in the operating room has also changed a lot: “it is much more attentive to aesthetics and conservation than it used to be. The goal is to return the woman to her former social and even sexual life”. For this reason, in the operating room, doctors work in multidisciplinary teams, including aesthetic surgeons who apply their know-how and techniques also by intervening on breast cancer.
Metastatic cancer: when the disease becomes chronic
As already pointed out several times, while once we spoke of cancer as an incurable disease, now in some cases we speak of chronic disease as in the case of diabetes, renal failure or heart disease.
“We have 35 thousand women in Italy who live with breast cancer and lead a virtually normal life – said Tinterri – the tumor has not actually changed the quality of life thanks to drugs that allow long-term control of the disease. Obviously, never lower your guard: those who suffer from it are always followed by specialists of the breast unit and in dedicated breast centers with examinations, checks and appropriate controls”.
The role of a therapist and in particular of the psycho-oncologist is fundamental for women affected by breast cancer and also for their families: for this reason experts and specialists have asked the Ministry of Health to intervene and make mandatory the presence of this figure within the Breast Unit. “The psycho-oncologist is not a normal psychologist, but a specialist who has skills to manage the fear of death, because this evokes the words cancer at the time of diagnosis, both in those who suffer from it and in people close by. These specialists are able to give answers to these fears and feelings”.