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Breast Cancer – Overview, Symptoms, Tests, and Treatment

Overview

BREAST CANCER spreads in the cells of the breasts. Cells grow abnormally, divide rapidly, and form a lump or mass in the breasts. Though breast cancer can occur in both men and women, it is way more common in women.

In India, breast cancer is the commonest cancer among urban women. While women in the West are usually found with early stage breast cancer after their 50s, women in India are increasingly getting caught by the disease when they’re still young, between 30 and 40 years.

In India, breast cancer is the commonest cancer among urban women. While women in the West are usually found with early stage breast cancer after their 50s, women in India are increasingly getting caught by the disease when they’re still young, between 30 and 40 years.

As per National Cancer Registry, over 1 lakh women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. 60% of the cases come to light only when the disease has reached an advanced stage – where the survival rates are fewer than 15%. If the disease is detected in early stages, the survival chances can be more than 90%. Early detection is, therefore, key to survive breast cancer.

With a simple, monthly self-examination, one can easily spot any abnormalities in her breasts and armpits.

Doing self-examination of both breast and axillae (arm pits) in standing position in front of a mirror, and in reclining position in the bed can save many lives (see picture).

breast cancer

Signs & Symptoms of breast cancer

A lump in the breast or armpit

Bloody discharge from the nipples

Nipple or skin retraction

Thickening, ulceration and redness of skin

Risk Factors

Risk factors increase your chances of developing breast cancer. Though there’s no known single cause for the illness, being a woman itself increases your chances of developing breast cancer.

You become more susceptible to breast cancer with age. The older you grow, the higher is the likelihood that you’d get the disease.

Radiation exposure, obesity, alcohol, smoking, junk foods, they all increase your chances of developing breast cancer.

Women with personal or family history of breast cancer are also at a high risk.

Tests and Diagnosis

Breast Exam – the doctor will examine the breasts and lymph nodes in the armpits. He/she will look for any abnormalities in the breasts and armpits that can indicate the presence of cancer in your breasts.

Mammography – it’s the x-ray of the breasts. It’s also the most reliable and affordable test to check the development of cancer in the breasts. Post 40 years, one should get the test done at least once in every two years. After 50 years, the test can be done once every year.

Remember the sooner the cancerous growth is diagnosed, the greater will be the survival rates. To aware women about breast cancer, October is observed as ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’ globally. And it’s helping.

Fine needle aspiration cytology / biopsy – doctors, to confirm breast cancer, remove a small piece of breast tissue for examination in a laboratory. The cells are tested under a microscope to determine whether the suspicious area is cancerous.

Those with a family history of breast cancers can also be tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations to determine their chances of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Treatments

There have been dramatic improvements in breast cancer research, treatment and prevention.

A breast cancer specialist takes into account several factors before he/she finalizes a treatment plan for the patient. These factors include the type of breast cancer, its stage & grade, whether it’s sensitive towards hormones, and the family and personal medical history of the patient. The personal preferences of the patient are also considered while deciding the treatment plan.

Most of the women receive surgeries along with additional treatments before and after the surgery – these treatments generally include radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy.

Prevention:

“Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure.”

Exercise, positive Attitude, adequate Rest and proper Nutrition are the key pillars that help you EARN good health – they also help you against life style diseases like Cancer, Diabetes, Hypertension, Heart Diseases etc.

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables offers protection from breast cancer. Include natural organic foods, like colored vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, grape seed extracts, flax seeds, wheat grass and olive oil, in your diet. Phyto-Estrogens as in tofu and soya milk are recommended as good alternatives for HRT.

Commit to an active & healthy lifestyle because it will help to “prevent the preventable, and delay the inevitable”.

Read this to get to know about what makes DHRC one of the best breast cancer treatment hospitals in India.

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