Real Talk

Understanding Breast Cancer from a Doctor’s Perspective

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We talked to a breast surgical oncologist on the importance of detection and treatments for breast cancer.

Breast cancer has become one of the diseases that has been a big concern among women. While early detection, mammogram, awareness, and medicine have helped in reducing it, there is still a lot of work to be done. As the world commemorates Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we talked to breast surgical oncologist Dr. Diana Cua on understanding breast cancer from her point of view as a doctor.

understanding breast cancer from a doctor's perspective
By Dmytro Bosnak

Breast Cancer Diagnosis as Told by a Doctor

In an email interview with Modern Parenting, Dr. Cua said that it’s important to detect the possible lump when doing a breast examination.

“Most women diagnosed with breast cancer do not realize it makes a huge difference when the cancer is detected early as this almost always translates to a cure. More often than not, the word cancer just paralyzes and clouds their critical thinking instantly after seeing their malignant pathology report,” Dr. Cua said. 

“Understandably, no one expects or prepares for a breast cancer diagnosis and it generally shakes their innermost core of stability.”

Asked why women are prone to the condition, Dr. Cua said: “Women have significantly more estrogen hormones than men and as one age, genetic changes occur that also increase the risk for a woman to get breast cancer.”

While breast cancer is much more detected for women in the 30s and onwards, those in the younger bracket can catch it early.  Dr. Cua recalled the time she had a patient who was only 21-years-old.

“My youngest patient with breast cancer was 21-years-old and it was aggressive but there have been reports of even younger girls being diagnosed but luckily, it is quite rare for young girls to get breast cancer.”

Challenges and the Pandemic

The past years have seen more women getting early detection and mammograms to check for any sign of lumps. Dr. Cua said this has helped despite the increasing cases.

“We are catching more and more early-stage ones that are considered highly curable. These days, it has become quite unusual to see a patient with advanced incurable breast cancer.”

But even with a strong campaign, there are challenges that have to be hurdled. The pandemic has caused some women to hesitate in doing check-ups and hospital visits.

“Unfortunately, many women who felt a suspicious lump in their breast have hesitated to seek medical checks due to the scare of going near a hospital for fear of catching the COVID-19 virus.”

“So we have noticed lately less Stage 0 breast cancer detection as more women refuse to go for their annual screening mammogram and breast ultrasound,” Dr. Cua said.

It can also be heartbreaking to inform the patient, she said.

Hope and Early Detection

Dr. Cua said that thanks to technology, the early detection of breast cancer has helped them in reducing the condition.

“Curing breast cancer has a lot to do with catching it at its early stage because that is when the breast cancer is still quite localized and has not spread out. Treatments also tend to be simpler and less extensive as well as less expensive.”

Aside from regular diet and exercise, Dr. Cua encourages women to continue doing self check-ups.

“Practice regular monthly breast self-checks to be familiar with your breasts; Go have a healthcare provider examine your breasts once a year. For women 40 years old and above, go for your yearly mammogram and sonogram.”

Dr. Cua shared that there are new developments in the possibility of reducing the disease among women.

“There will be more personalized precision therapies based on a woman’s genes and tumor mutations. There are also new exciting drugs that can be used to help cure breast cancer like immunotherapy,” she said.

“More novel clinical trials will also be made accessible to more patients. Preventive medicine will also play a bigger role.”

Understanding Breast Cancer from a Doctor’s Perspective

*Dr. Diana Cua is a Breast Surgical Oncologist at Makati Medical Center for over 20 years. She is also the Executive Secretary for the Department of Surgery, Makati Medical Center. She has been an advocate for Early Detection and Early Treatment for Breast Cancer using minimally invasive procedures.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Educate yourself with these stories!

Early Cancer Detection For Teens: What You Need to Look Out For

Pink Ribbon Pride: Breast Cancer Survival Stories

Pink Today, Sunshine Tomorrow

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