Breast Cancer

Mr. Dhafir Alazawi

Consultant General Breast Surgeon

Consultant Image

Breast cancer is currently the second most common cancer in women in Ireland. Each year, it affects approximately 3,000 women and 20 men in this country. All of the body’s organs and tissues are made up of building blocks called cells. In healthy tissue, cells replace or repair themselves when they get injured or are worn out. Breast cancer occurs when cells do not behave as normal and continue to grow. The exact cause of breast cancer is, however, unknown. Certain risk factors can increase your chance of developing breast cancer, including:

  • Gender: Breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than men.
  • Age: Breast cancer is rare under age 30 and occurs most often over age 50.
  • Previous Breast Disease: Your risk is increased if you were previously diagnosed with breast cancer or atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH).
  • Previous Radiotherapy: Radiation to the chest area in the past increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Hormones: Starting your periods early, having your first baby at an older age, having a late menopause, taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and using the contraceptive pill can increase your risk of breast cancer.
  • Family History: A very small number of breast cancers are caused by an inherited faulty gene. Your risk may be higher if a number of close relatives have had breast cancer or other cancers such as ovarian and bowel, as well as breast, cancer or if a close relative under the age of 50 has had breast cancer.
  • Lifestyle: Other factors that might increase your risk of breast cancer include being physically inactive, being overweight, smoking, having a high alcohol intake and eating a diet high in fat and low in fibre and fresh fruit and vegetables.

St. James’s Hospital is one of the eight national breast centers treating both benign and malignant breast disease. Approximately 8,000 patients were seen at its clinic in 2012, of whom 263 were diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment options for breast cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiotherapy and other drug treatments. Your treatment plan will depend on the type of breast cancer you have, and each patient’s care pathway will be individually tailored to their needs.

What is Breast Cancer?

There are many different forms of breast cancer, and these are usually divided into two types: Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) and Invasive Breast Cancer.

  • DCIS is the earliest form of breast cancer. It is pre-cancerous, intraductal, or non-invasive, which means that cancer cells have formed inside the milk ducts but have not spread. Most people have no symptoms and are usually diagnosed from a mammogram.
  • Invasive Breast Cancer: If your cancer has moved beyond the milk ducts and spread to the surrounding breast tissue, it is called invasive. There are several different types of Invasive Breast Cancer, but the two most common are Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (80%) and Invasive Lobular Carcinoma.
  • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma: This is the most common type of breast cancer. It starts to develop in the milk ducts and then invades the surrounding breast tissue.
  • Invasive Lobular Carcinoma: This type of cancer starts in the cells of the lobules where milk is stored. It is less common than Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, affecting approximately one in ten women. Sometimes it is found in both breasts at the same time.