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Breast cancer – same disease, same stage but different treatment. Why?

| On 31, Jan 2015 

The answer is simple. Every cancer is different.

The explanation from

Cancer cells are “born” when abnormal changes in DNA tell cells to grow faster and behave differently than they should. As these cancer cells multiply to form a tumor, they continue to change — becoming more and more different from each other.

As a cancer grows, new and different types of breast cancer cells are created within that same cancer. The mixture of cells that builds up over time becomes more and more complex. So even though every cell of a cancer is related to the same original “parent” cell, all the cells that make up a cancer are not the same.

By the time a breast cancer tumor is one centimeter (less than half an inch), the millions of cells that make up the lump are very different from each other. And each cancer has its own genetic identity, or fingerprint, created by the DNA in its cells. So two people with breast cancer who are the same age, height, weight, and ethnicity, and who have similar medical histories, almost surely have two very different cancers. The only thing the cancers have in common is that they started from a breast tissue cell.

We Ask: Dr Radhika Lakshmanan, Consultant Breast & General Surgeon

Dr Radhika(2)

She treats both benign and cancerous breast cases. Her sub-specialty is in cancer surgery combined with reconstruction of the breast. She is also a member of the Breast Cancer Foundation Singapore and is an avid speaker in promoting breast cancer awareness in Singapore and the region.

Most patients and their relatives/friends are unfortunately not aware that every cancer is different. We consider breast cancer a heterogeneous entity i.e. it has varied presentation and impact in different women. Breast cancer in each woman is different in terms of cell type, characteristics, and aggressiveness in terms of metastatic (likeliness to spread) potential.

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