Take the opportunity to detect breast cancer early and live!

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in Switzerland. On average, one in eight women is affected. However, breast cancer is not a death sentence. The earlier a tumour is detected, the better the chances of recovery. A Breast Care Nurse will tell you what to look out for during screening and how to get emotional support.
What do I do if I am diagnosed with breast cancer?

Breast cancer develops when cells start to grow uncontrollably. There are different types of breast cancer, but the most common type starts in the cells of the milk ducts or glandular lobules in the breast. Specialists distinguish between invasive (cancer cells have spread to the surrounding tissue) and non-invasive (the tumour is still localised) breast cancer.

The diagnosis of breast cancer is very frightening for many women at first. "The diagnosis may be the same for everyone, but each woman deals with it differently," says Nadine Reemts, a breast care nurse in Zurich. Breast care nurses are qualified nurses who have specialised in supporting and advising breast cancer patients and their relatives through the various stages of the disease, both physically and psychosocially. "I accompany patients through all stages of the disease, answer their questions, take time for them and respond to their needs. It is a job that demands a lot from Mrs Reemts, but also gives a lot. "When a patient tells me, during or after treatment, that my advice has helped her to cope better with her disease, it makes me very happy. That always shows me how valuable my work is.

Regular breast palpation is part of the process

If cancer is diagnosed and treated early, the chances of recovery are very good. A lump is usually the first symptom that can indicate breast cancer. "Palpating your breasts once a month is a good way to detect both lumps and other potential signs of a tumour early on," advises Reemts.

When do I need to do more breast palpation?

Before menopause, the best time for monthly breast palpation is one week before the start of menstruation. This is when the breasts are particularly soft and lumps are easier to feel. After the menopause, women should set a specific day for preventive breast palpation. In addition to lumps, the following symptoms can also indicate breast cancer Changes in the nipple (the nipple may turn inwards), skin changes or signs of inflammation in the breast, such as redness and swelling, pain in the breast or armpit. "If you notice that something is changing in your breasts, or if you have any of the above symptoms, you should see your gynaecologist and ideally a certified" says Reemts.

Mammography, ultrasound or MRI

Self-examination is an important first step, but it is no substitute for a medical examination. There are several tests that can be used to detect breast cancer at an early stage. "Mammography produces X-rays of the female breast, ultrasound visualises tissue structures in the body, and MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a very sensitive method that can detect small tumours," explains Reemts.

The Swiss Cancer League advises women over the age of 50 to have regular mammograms. In 13 cantons1, invitations are sent out every two years, and participation is voluntary. "The biggest mistake women over 50 can make when it comes to screening is to ignore this letter".

Women under 50 should have their breasts and armpits palpated by their gynaecologist as part of their annual screening.

More cases, but the death rate is falling

The number of breast cancer cases has increased in Switzerland and, unlike in the past, younger women are more often affected. A quarter of those diagnosed are younger than 50. "Nowadays, women take the pill for much longer, have children later, and our modern lifestyle promotes an increase in risk factors such as obesity, nicotine and alcohol consumption," says Reemts, explaining the reasons.

At the same time, however, Reemts also points out that breast cancer mortality has decreased: "80 percent of women with the disease are still alive five years after diagnosis. The less advanced the disease, the better the chances of recovery. However, this also depends on the type of breast cancer.

Men can also get breast cancer, but this is rare. On average, about 50 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Switzerland, and 80% are 60 or older at the time of diagnosis.

Do not give up: Ask for and get help

"Every woman has to deal with the diagnosis of breast cancer," says Reemts. "But it is enormously important not to give up, to find out about treatment options and to seek help. Inpatients find competent advice and a therapy tailored to their needs. Each case is discussed by experts and an individual treatment plan is drawn up.

There are also digital services that can help breast cancer patients: "for example, offers patients support in everyday life and gives them the opportunity to network with other patients and specialists". This kind of sharing can help breast cancer patients not to feel alone with their disease. In addition to medical treatment, much attention needs to be paid to the psychological impact of the disease. "I am an important piece of the therapeutic puzzle," says Reemts. "I always have an open ear, answer all the important questions and accompany the women to their examinations if they wish. And she stresses: "Therapy is exhausting, there are many ups and downs. But you can overcome the challenge and we help you to stay positive.

Today's healthcare systems are based on data that has largely been collected and processed by men for men. This results in a bias against women's experiences and needs. XProject is a long-term commitment that drives partnerships, financial support and other actions to close the gaps in women's health. One example is working closely with FemTech (Female Health Technology) start-ups to develop new, innovative solutions specifically for women.


  1. Cancer screening programmes in your area |

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