Why breast cancer awareness is important?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Indian women accounting for 26.3% of all cancers in women. It is largely preventable and treatable if detected early, yet 60% of breast cancer cases in India are diagnosed at an advanced stage.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the breast tissue where cells grow uncontrollably/abnormally to form a tumor that may invade the surrounding tissue or travel to other parts of the body to form new tumors (Metastasis). Breast cancer mostly affects women, however, can rarely affect men too.
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Who gets breast cancer?
Certain genetic, environmental, and personal factors may contribute to the development of breast cancer. (Table 1)
An overweight woman with strong family history, who has had a long menstrual history [early periods (before 12 years) /late menopause (after 55 years)], & had childbirth after 30 years of age is at higher risk of developing breast cancerTable 1: Risk factors for breast cancer
Types of breast cancer
Breast cancer can be
- Invasive (invades surrounding tissue or spreads farther)
- Non-invasive or carcinoma-in-situ (confined to ducts/lobules)
Warning signs of breast cancer
A painless lump in or near the breast that feels different from the rest of breast tissue is the most common symptom. The other symptoms maybe:
- Change in the feel of the breast, shape, contour, or size (affected breast becoming larger)
- Change in skin texture (thickening, scaly, inflamed, redness, ulceration, puckering, or dimpling)
- Change in the look/position of the nipple
- Inverted, retracted, or deviated
- Rash on/around the nipple
- Discharge from the nipple (blood-stained/clear fluid)
- Constant pain in the breast or underarm
Management of Breast cancer
Diagnosis involves symptomatic evaluation, clinical examination followed by Imaging tests (Mammography, Breast Ultrasound scan) and biopsy for microscopic analysis. The treatment includes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormonal therapy for early stages. Palliative treatment is given in the advanced disease to prolong survival & improve quality of life.
5 Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention
- Early detection through screening is the cornerstone of protection against breast cancer. It includes self-examination (be aware of changes in the contours or normal feel of your breasts), clinical examination by the doctor to detect lump/nodes, and mammography (get a baseline scan at 35 years of age and then annually after 40) (Table 3)
Table 3: Screening tests for Breast cancer
- Eat a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight and keep stress at bay
- Breastfeed for at least 1 year (breastfeeding reduces the risk of cancer)
- Avoid smoking & excessive alcohol consumption
Lifestyle changes, early detection through screening, and advanced treatment have the immense potential to prevent cancer, improve outcomes and survival rates. All we need is awareness of breast cancer to save lives before cancer gets a hold over the body…