Breast cancer and its early diagnosis



Breast cancer has been ranked number one cancer among Indian females with age adjusted rate as high as 25.8 per 100,000 women and mortality 12.7 per 100,000 women. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 627000 deaths occurred due to breast cancer in 2018, globally, while 2.09 million cases were reported. Surely, breast cancer has become a growing matter of concern. Onco-surgeon and consultant, Global Hospital, Parel, Dr Sanket Shah, briefs about breast cancer, how early diagnosis is key, what are the risk factors and treatment for it.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer can be formed in the lobules or the ducts of one’s breast. Lobules can be described as the glands which help produce milk. And the pathways that tend to bring milk from the glands to one’s nipple can be known as ducts. Likewise, breast cancer can also occur in the fatty tissue or the fibrous connective tissue present in your breast.

Symptoms and signs of breast cancer

Most common symptom is presence of painless growing lump in breast. In case you notice symptoms like lumps in the breast, unusual changes in the appearance of your breast, dimpling or changes in the skin, recent nipple retraction or peeling, bloody nipple discharge, scaling and redness then it is the right time to seek medical attention. See to it that you do so without any delay, and timely treatment can help cure breast cancer.

Why again this is written?? Are your breasts swollen? Did you notice that lump in the breast? Or is there an unusual appearance of your breast? Then, you must immediately consult the doctor as it could be breast cancer and it is important to undergo the need for investigations.

Do you know about these risk factors?

Women in postmenopausal group (>45 years) are more likely to suffer from breast cancer but it can occur at younger age also. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or have already had breast cancer in one breast then you may also suffer from it in the other breast. Moreover, you will also be shocked to know that factors like obesity, smoking, alcohol and hypertension can also raise your risk of breast cancer.

Likewise, null parity and not breastfeeding the child and early menarche and late menopause can also be the culprits. Taking hormonal pills (not contraceptive pills) is also associated with breast cancer sometimes.

How to diagnose early?

As a woman, you should be aware of the irregularities when it comes to your breast.  Self breast examination should be done monthly about 7th day after the menstruation when you are most likely to find any lumps. Opt for yearly consultation and clinical breast examination by the doctor. Also, mammograms can be helpful.

Mammography can help you to detect breast cancer at early stage and hence increase the chance of cure. If breast cancer is detected at an early stage, then the patients will be able to get cured and preserve their breasts. As per USPSTF recommendation a women should undergo mammograms every 2 years starting at 50 years and till 75 years. Thus, mammogram is very much important for early diagnosis and breast cancer cure.

The treatment

The treatment of breast cancer may vary depending upon the stage, size of the tumour, and the location. Surgeries include lumpectomy which is carried out to help you get rid of the tumour and surrounding tissues by keeping your breast intact. In a mastectomy, the doctor may remove your breast, and both the surgeries can be associated with reconstructive surgery for good cosmoses. Moreover, you might have to undergo chemotherapy, radiation, targeted or hormonal therapy. Timely treatment can be helpful in improving your survival and quality of life.

This is how you can keep breast cancer away

If there is a family history then start screening 10 years prior to earliest documented age of having breast cancer. Monthly self breast examination and yearly clinical breast examination with 2 yearly mammograms is advisable. Consult early with your clinician if any of above symptoms.

Stay physically fit: You must see to it that you exercise on a daily basis for at least 30 minutes. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle and get rid of obesity.

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