Breast cancer

What causes cancer? 

Cancer can occur if the genetic material in your cells changes. Various factors can contribute to these mutations. The following play a role in the occurrence of cancer:

  • the natural ageing process
  • lifestyle (unbalanced diet, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption)
  • external factors (viruses, harmful substances, passive smoking, UV radiation)
  • hereditary factors or genetics

When should you consult a specialist?

Breast cancer often causes no symptoms for a long time, which is why breast cancer awareness is so important.Depending on the type of tumour, it may take several years before you can feel it. By then the tumour has often reached a diameter of around one centimetre.


However, there may already have been warning signs. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should speak to a specialist:

  • nodule or lump in breast, often not painful (or a hard area in the breast)
  • skin changes (inflammation, redness, cellulite)
  • shrinking or swelling of the skin (particularly around the nipple)
  • changes to the nipple (inflammation)
  • sudden differences in size between the two breasts
  • discharge from the nipple (except during pregnancy or breastfeeding)
  • swollen lymph nodes (in the armpit, under the clavicle or on one side of the sternum)
  • unexplained weight loss

Early detection: mammography every two years over the age of 50

A mammogram is a special x-ray. It enables very small tumours to be identified, long before they can be detected through palpation or before other symptoms appear. That is why it is so useful for early diagnosis.

Women aged between 50 and 70 have an elevated level of risk, so there are cantonal screening programmes. You should be examined every two years, even if there are no warning signs of breast cancer.

This examination is regulated by the canton. Cantons often bear part or even all of the costs of the examination – regardless of the health insurance franchise chosen.

Do you have questions about the screening programme in your canton or would you like to book an appointment straight away? Call us on +41 22 366 93 67 or send us a message.

Diagnosis: mammography and other techniques

Do you have breast pain? Can you see deformations or feel nodules or lumps? In that case, mammography can show any anomalies in the breast in greater detail.

  • The following imaging methods may also be used beside mammography:
  • Ultrasound. This examination can confirm the mammogram results and give greater detail.
  • Magnetic resonance tomography (MRT). Produces medical images in 2D and 3D. It is used if no clear interpretation of the mammogram is possible or the results of palpitation and mammography are contradictory.
  • PET/CT scanner. This method combines positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT). It produces images that supplement each other. Cancerous tumours and metastases can be identified precisely and their development monitored.

If medical imaging shows any anomalies, a subsequent biopsy provides clarity. For this, the specialist takes a tiny tissue sample from the area where a tumour is suspected. The procedure is carried out using the visual aid of mammography, ultrasound or MRT, so the needle or punch can extract the sample in exactly the right place.

The tumour board: experts for the correct diagnosis 

At the Centre du Sein GSMN, the breast centre of Swiss Medical Network, an interdisciplinary team meets every week: the tumour board. Experts from all specialist areas are involved.

Gynaecologists, breast surgeons, radiologists, radio-oncologists, oncologists, plastic and reconstructive surgeons, pathologists, psychiatrists, physiotherapists and specialised nurses – the Breast Care Nurses – discuss the clinical situation of every patient.

Together the experts determine the next steps: the right screening strategy, the correct diagnosis or the best treatment pathway – be that an operation, radiotherapy or systemic treatment.

The tumour board at the breast centre meets every Tuesday from 5:15 pm to 7:00 pm. Are you a doctor who would like to discuss a case? Then call us on +41 22 366 93 67 or send us a message at

Specialists for a second opinion 

Cancer is a serious disease. Neither doctors nor patients take decisions about treatment lightly. So it is all the more important that you make the right decision, and that you’re sure you have all the information you need to make it.

Wanting a second opinion is perfectly natural. Your doctor will not see this as a sign of distrust. In many cantons the right to a second opinion is even enshrined in law – for example in the canton of Waadt.

At the Centre du Sein GSMN, we encourage our patients to get a second opinion elsewhere. And of course you can also get a second opinion about your treatment from us, through a different specialist.

Would you like a second opinion on your diagnosis or treatment? Then call us on +41 22 366 93 67 or send us a message at

Tailored treatment

The progress of breast cancer is different for every patient. So treatment and care are also individually tailored.

Whether it’s surgery, radiotherapy or systemic therapy – your personal treatment recommendation is developed on an individual basis by the interdisciplinary team of experts on the tumour board. Your doctor will explain the plan in detail. And the Breast Care Nurse is there to support you throughout.

At the breast centre we offer the following treatments (detailed information can be found in our brochure ‘Breast cancer – from diagnosis to treatment’):

Medicine is making major advances in the treatment of breast cancer. As a result, the treatment approaches are continually updated. We work with the leading research centres, meaning our patients always have access to the latest drugs as soon as they have been authorised – and sometimes even beforehand as part of studies under the supervision of the federal government and cantons.

Your treatment: a five-step plan

Your treatment at the Centre du Sein GSMN is based on a personalised concept for therapy and care:

Step 1: Making contact with a specialist. You should book an initial appointment if you discover clinical symptoms. Your consultant will know which tests are then needed.

Step 2: Diagnosis based on medical imaging, cytological examination and blood tests. We determine the pathology and – if necessary – take samples in a biopsy for further investigation. We then establish the best treatment strategy.

Step 3: Fine-tuning the diagnosis, explaining the advantages and side effects of the planned treatment in consultation with various specialists. We want you to understand which therapy is best suited to your condition. That allows you to get behind the decision 100 per cent. The personalised treatment plan gives you information about every stage.

Step 4: Carrying out the treatment. You complete the treatment from your personalised treatment plan step by step. If further tests provide new information, the plan is adjusted.

Step 5: Follow-up once the treatment is completed and aftercare in collaboration with the Swiss Medical Network breast centre specialists and your GP.