Benign changes to the breast

Posted by in Blog, Diagnosis, Prevention, Procedures | 0 comments

Unlike many other organs or tissues of the body, a woman’s breasts are shaped and defined by time. Before puberty, there’s nothing there at all. Then – exciting or intimidating as it may be – breasts begin to grow, taking a few years to reach their final shape and in the process becoming an important part of our body image. In human beings breasts are sexual organs, and it doesn’t take girls (or boys for that matter) long to discover that! Their exquisite sensitivity gives pleasure and their rounded shape helps define our womanly style – small and sporty, large and motherly, firm or soft. During pregnancy and after birth, breasts have a new lease on life as we discover their miraculous capacity to feed our babies as much and for as long as we need to. Though not all women are able to breastfeed, with the right help and support most can enjoy this simple, natural way to bond with and nurture our young. As breasts age, other changes take place which are completely normal – or at least common. Some are medically insignificant, such as the gradual change around the time of menopause from firm, dense glandular tissue to softer fatty tissue. Others tend to draw attention and cause anxiety because until investigated we cannot be sure that they are harmless. These are the benign conditions of the breast or “aberrations of normal development”. Lumps within breast tissue Lumps are common, occurring not only in aging breasts but also sometimes in younger breasts. A lump is a small piece of tissue or area under the skin that feels firmer than the surrounding tissue and can be felt from the outside. It doesn’t usually develop overnight and won’t be noticed until it reaches a certain size – at which point finding it can cause alarm and concern. Lumps that are medically concerning are those which stay there regardless of the menstrual cycle. Some women have naturally lumpy or uneven breasts and when the tissues swell under hormonal influence these “lumps” are more easily felt. For your own peace of mind, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or nurse to check anything that worries you, but it’s the distinct lump which will require further investigation. Worrying as they are, many such lumps turn out to be “benign”. This means that although it is not normal breast tissue and may be growing larger, it does not spread or invade other tissues, either locally or by travelling through the lymph system (as cancer cells do). If you visit your doctor with a breast lump that worries you, he or he will ask you how long it has been there, whether you’ve...

Read More

All I want for Christmas is my two front….implants

Posted by in Blog, Looking Good, Procedures, Surgery | 0 comments

As the former director of French breast-prosthesis company Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP) contemplates the hefty jail sentence that he and his cohorts have just received for selling defective breast implants around the world, it may be time for a closer look at implants and how best to live with them. A breast implant is not just for Christmas – it’s a long term commitment, yet not a “happily ever after” that you have done and never have to bother with again. In recent years, encouraged by the “extreme make-over” culture, the eye-popping silicone-enhanced bosoms of squadrons of celebs and the greater affordability of cosmetic procedures, breast enhancement has taken off in unprecedented ways. Not everyone is thrilled with this, however. Last year a survey in Britain showed a high level of concern about the marketing of “cut price” surgery: “The proliferation of advertising for cosmetic surgery and its use in TV make-over programmes was felt to trivialise surgery and its risks, while making excessive claims of its impact on people’s emotional well-being” – Sir Bruce Keogh, summarising responses from the public in December 2012. For women undertaking surgery for cancer, the situation can be even more difficult. After all, cancer did not wait for you to choose a ‘new look’ or even to research the options. Cancer restructures you without permission! The fact is that women’s bodies, especially our breasts, are an emotive issue – not only for individuals but for society in general. The only people with a simple attitude to the female breast are breast-fed babies, for whom the breast is comfort and survival. For the rest of us, it’s complicated…. Controversy over dangers posed by silicone implants, whether sub-standard or not, continues to rattle around the blogosphere. On the one hand, a recently released research report found no scientific evidence that silicone gel is more than a nuisance factor, even if it leaks into local tissue and/or is transported away from the breast. Women, however, are unique individuals and complex, unexpected emotions can follow breast implantation including constant irritating awareness of the implants, anxiety, breast pain and difficulty sleeping (especially if you are a stomach or side sleeper). Symptoms such as pain must be taken seriously because it could be a low grade infection (see below). Saline (salt water) implants are an alternative to silicone, but they are prone to collapse and don’t feel like natural breast tissue, which makes them less popular with breast surgery patients. So what is a woman to do? Cosmetically, the results of early breast reconstruction can be excellent, which is a huge help in getting your confidence back after a cancer scare. And, the world is what it is. Not...

Read More

Lymph Node Scan

Posted by in Blog, Procedures | 0 comments

Lucien Kaarse of the Nuclear Medicine Department (Drs Visser, Erasmus, Vawda and Partners, Radiologists) provided the following helpful FAQ  for patients undergoing a “sentinel node” scan prior to surgery which will test the lymph nodes following a cancer diagnosis, and/or remove them. What is a sentinel node scan? A sentinel node scan is used to identify ‘sentinel’ lymph nodes. These are the first lymph nodes in a group that receive the lymph from a particular area of the body. The scan is carried out in preparation for your sentinel lymph node biopsy later on the same day, or the following day. How does the scan work? A tiny amount of radioactivity called a tracer will be injected into the skin around the primary site of the cancer. You are then positioned under a scanner called a gamma camera. The tracer moves from the injection site through the lymph vessels to the lymph nodes. The positions of the sentinel nodes will be marked on the skin surface. This identifies those nodes which your surgeon may want to remove. Is there any preparation for the scan? • No • You must tell us in advance if you know you are (or think that you may be) pregnant, or are breast feeding. What happens during the scan? • Our staff will explain the procedure to you fully when you arrive for your appointment. • We will then ask you to lie on the scan bed. We will make sure you are as comfortable as possible for the scan, as is it extremely important that you remain as still as you can. • While you are lying on the bed we will inject a very small amount of the tracer into the skin around the site of the cancer. • You will then be positioned under the scanner and we will take the first pictures for up to 30 minutes. Following that we will take several more pictures, from the front and the side. • When we have seen the sentinel node/s, we will mark the position on your skin with a permanent pen. • Most scans take about one hour, but if we have not seen the node/s, you may be asked to return later in the day for further pictures to be taken. Will I feel anything during the scan? Having the injection will sting momentarily but there are no side effects from the injection and it will not make you feel sleepy or affect your ability to drive. Having the pictures taken will not hurt. What happens after the scan? When we have checked the technical quality of your scan and are happy we have all the information we need, you will...

Read More