Every woman's approach to breast cancer diagnosis is different

Breast cancer is the leading cancer type among Swiss women, affecting approximately one in eight. Early detection improves survival rates significantly. Nadine Reemts is a Breast Care Nurse in Zurich, Switzerland. And she offers guidance on self-care monitoring and emotional support for affected women.

Every year, around 6,600 women in Switzerland develop breast cancer1. But every woman's approach to the diagnosis is different.

Breast cancer occurs when cells start to multiply uncontrollably. There are various types of breast cancer, with the most common types developing in the cells of the milk ducts or glandular lobes of the breast. Specialists also distinguish between invasive (cancer cells that have already 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. "The diagnosis may be the same, but every woman handles it differently," says Nadine, a Breast Care Nurse in Zurich. Breast Care Nurses are qualified nursing specialists who specialise, through further training, in supporting and advising the patients affected by breast cancer and their families during the various phases of the disease in both physical and psychosocial matters.

"I support patients through all stages of the disease, I answer their questions, I take time for them and respond to their needs." It's a profession that asks a great deal of Nadine, but it also gives back a great deal. "If a patient says during or even after her therapy that she can deal with the disease more calmly as a result of my counselling, then I'm happy. This always shows me how valuable my work is."

If the cancer is diagnosed and treated early, the chances of recovery are very high. A node is usually the first symptom that can indicate breast cancer. "Checking your breasts once a month is a good way to detect both lumps and other potential evidence of a tumour at an early stage," advises Nadine.

Before menopause, the optimal time for the monthly check is one week before the start of menstruation. Then, the breast is particularly soft and lumps are easier to feel. After menopause, women should set a fixed day for a preventive check.

In addition to lumps, the following symptoms can also indicate breast cancer: changes in the nipple (the nipple may contract inwards), skin changes or signs of inflammation on the chest such as redness and swelling, pain in the chest or armpit. "If you notice any changes in your breasts or you have any of the symptoms just mentioned, you should visit your gynaecologist and ideally a" says Nadine.

Self-examination is an important first step, but not a substitute for a medical examination. Various methods of examination can be used for the early detection of breast cancer. "In mammography, the female breast is X-rayed, ultrasound makes tissue structures in the body visible, and MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) is a very sensitive method that can find even smaller tumours," explains Nadine.

The Swiss Cancer League advises women from the age of 50 to undergo regular mammograms. In 13 cantons invitations to this early detection are sent out every two years, and participation is voluntary2. "The biggest mistake women in their 50s and older can make when it comes to prevention is to ignore this letter."

Women under the age of 50 should have their breasts and armpits checked by their gynaecologist as part of their annual preventive check.

The number of breast cancers has increased in Switzerland and, unlike in the past, younger women are also affected more frequently. A quarter of all those affected are under the age of 50 at the time of diagnosis3. "Today, women take the pill for much longer, they have children later and our modern living conditions encourage an increase in risk factors such as obesity, nicotine and alcohol consumption," says Nadine when asked about the reasons.

At the same time, however, she also notes that the mortality rate of breast cancer has declined: "80% of women with the disease are still alive five years after diagnosis." The less advanced the disease is, the greater the chances of recovery. However, this also depends on the type of breast cancer in question.

Men can also develop breast cancer, but this is rare. On average, around 50 men in Switzerland are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and 80% are aged 60 or over at the time of diagnosis4.

"Every woman must first process the diagnosis of breast cancer," says Nadine. "But it is extremely important not to give up, to find out about the treatment options and to get help." In certified breast centres patients can find competent advice and therapy tailored to them. Each case is discussed by experts and an individual therapy plan is created.

In the meantime, there are also digital services that can help breast cancer patients: "thefor example, offers patients support in their day-to-day lives and gives them the opportunity to network with other affected people and professionals."

Exchanges like this can help ensure that breast cancer patients do not feel alone with their disease. In addition to medical treatment, close attention must also be paid to psychological stress. "I am an important piece of the therapy puzzle," says Nadine. "I am always ready to lend an ear, answer all important questions and also accompany women to their examinations if they want." She also points out that "the therapy is exhausting, there are many ups and downs, but you can meet the challenge and we help you to stay positive."

Today's health systems are based on data that have been largely collected and processed by men for men. This leads to a bias in terms of women's experiences and needs.is a long-term commitment that pushes partnerships, financial support and other measures to fill the gaps in women's health. One example is close collaboration with start-ups in the field of FemTech (short for "Female Health Technology") to promote new, innovative solutions specifically for women.

You can find more

Theconnects people who have breast cancer. On website Focus Mensch, patients and their families can find important information and assistance that can make it easier to deal with the disease.

You can find more


  1. Cancer types from A to Z: Breast cancer | Swiss Cancer League:This reference also applies to the fact listed in the Lead.

  2. Cancer screening programs in your region |

  3. USZ University Hospital of Zürich | Diseases and therapies | Breast cancer

  4. USZ University Hospital of Zürich | Diseases and therapies | Breast cancer

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