Worldwide October month has been dedicated for “Breast cancer Awareness” and 3rd week is especially dedicated to Male breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbon symbolizes the Breast cancer awareness & was created by Evelyn Lauder of Cosmetic Conglomerate Group, USA.
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In this year 2014, as an awareness campaign-Empire State Building in New York, The Eiffel tower in Paris, The Colosseum in Rome, The Bandra -Worli Sea link in Mumbai, The Burj Al Arab in Dubai & Peninsula in Hong Kong are likely to be lit up in pink this month.
Know More About Breast Cancer through these Question & Answers:
Why breast cancer awareness is required? OR What are the facts about breast cancer?
The incidence of Breast cancer is increasing. Breast cancer is the leading type of cancer in women worldwide, so also in Indian urban population. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women.
Overall one in every 10 women can develop breast cancer in their lifetime. In US for every 5-6 newly diagnosed cases of breast cancer one dies of breast cancer, it has been reported that one woman dies of breast cancer every 12 minutes in the US.
In India breast cancer has beaten cervical cancer in the past decade as the leading cancer & for every 2 women newly diagnosed as breast cancer, one lady dies of breast cancer (WHO 2012) which is attributed to phobia, lack of awareness & screening. Identifying people with risk factors, regular screening, early diagnosis & treatment can definitely increase the cure rate & survival rate.
What is breast cancer?
It is a disease wherein cancer develops in the breast tissue- May be in the cells lining the milk ducts called “Ductal carcinoma “which is more common or May be in cells lining the milk duct lobules called “lobular carcinoma”.
Unlike normal cells, cancerous cells are abnormal in shape, size & undergo uncontrolled multiplication & invade local & distant tissues.
What causes breast cancer?
Interaction between environmental factors & genetically susceptible host can trigger cancer.
What age is it commonly detected?
- Average age is 43-46 years in India
- Average age is between 53-57 years in USA
However, younger & older age than mentioned are not exempted. In fact 25% of the total breast cancer cases are seen in less than 50 years of age.
What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
- Obesity & dense breast tissue
- Sedentary life style, lack of exercises
- Diet rich in fat, red meat & poor in fruits, vegetables, greens, omega 3 fatty acids
- Smoking, Alcohol
- Early age of menarche, no children or children after 30 years, not breast feeding
- Prolonged use of birth control pills, Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Exposure to radiation
- Hereditary factors (5-10% of the cases)
- Certain chemical exposure like Biophenyles, pesticides, polycyclic hydrocarbons etc.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
- Include mainly Breast lump, although less than 20% of the lumps are cancerous
- Change in breast size, colour, shape, position
- Change in shape of the nipple or any discharge from nipple
- Red scaly patches on the skin, puckering of skin
Those with cancer spread may have jaundice, breathing difficulty, above pain, enlarged lymph node.
How do you know it is breast cancer? OR How do you diagnose breast cancer?
Always gold standard for diagnosis is lump biopsy & a histopathologic study (microscopic study)
What are the treatment options?
Once Biopsy confirms breast cancer, other tests are done to know the spread & staging is done (stage 0-4 depending on the severity).Treatments includes a combination of surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy depending on disease condition of the patient.
Breast reconstructive surgery can be done. Following surgery regular follow up is must & overall healthy diet & lifestyle, exercise, positive thinking, regular screening reduces the risk of recurrence
What is the survival rate?
In the recent years, survival rate is increasing due to awareness, regular screening, early diagnosis & treatment. The survival chance decreases with advanced stage or disease & is as below as per National cancer Institute SEER database (American cancer society):
- Stage 0 -100%
- Stage 1 -99-100%
- Stage 2- 93%
- Stage 3 -72%
- Stage 4 -22%
If breast cancer is caught early, results are excellent.
How can we prevent breast cancer?
Prevention starts with
- Eat Right – say no to junk food, include 5 portions of fruits & vegetables, greens, omega 3 fatty acids in the daily diet
- Weight management – exercise at least 30 minutes 5 days a week
- Healthy Habits – no smoking, alcohol
- Breast Feeding
- Regular screening for Breast cancer
- Undergoing genetic test & counselling for prophylactic mastectomy in genetically susceptible individuals
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What are the screening tests? From what age is it recommended?
Screening is recommended for all women because -in more than 70% of breast cancer patients no risk factor is found. Screening tests are those which can detect the tumour in a precancerous stage or in the very early stage so that immediate treatment would result in almost 100% cure.
Screening tests Include:
- Self-examination of breasts- which can be carried out by herself every month after the periods or on any particular day of month in post-menopausal lady. The drawback here is very small tumour may be missed.
- Clinical examination of the breast by a medical person is recommended every year after the age of 40 & every 3 years between 20-40 years
- Ultrasound examination is recommended in any suspicious lump
- Mammogram-is recommended 2 yearly between 50-74 years or if any lump is suspected
- MRI is the most sensitive test with high accuracy & is recommended when Mammogram is not conclusive
Myths about breast cancer?
There are many ongoing myths unfortunately…..like
- Breast cancer occur only in older age group
- Touching breasts repeatedly causes breast cancer
- Mammogram is very painful & mammogram itself causes breast cancer
- Underwire bra causes breast cancer
- Deodorants & antiperspirants causes breast cancer
- Drinking coffee & plastic water bottle left in hot car causes breast cancer
- Normal mammogram means no cancer
- Breast cancer doesn’t come if no risk factor
Do men get breast cancer?
Men can get breast cancer although it accounts to less than 1%, Median age group of diagnosis 67-70 years .Incidence is rising consistently and the risk factors include obesity, diet, smoking, alcohol, genetic factor. More than 40% of male patients are diagnosed with stage 3/4 due to late approach. 3rd week of October is dedicated for male breast cancer awareness.
Breast Cancer & pregnancy?
Breast cancer in pregnancy is very rare, but is the commonest of all the cancers seen in pregnancy.
Incidence is increasing. Normal Breast changes in pregnancy like enlarged breasts with lumpy feeling & tenderness overlap with cancer symptoms making diagnosis difficult & late.
Symptoms include-lump, skin changes, blood stained discharge from nipple. Evaluation is done with the help of ultrasonography, MRI & biopsy Treatment is challenging in the interest of both mother & baby. Surgery is the gold standard treatment in pregnancy with or without chemotherapy.
In general pregnancy after breast cancer treatment should be planned in discussion with doctor & usually deferred for 2-5 years.
Know more- Truth Behind Some Breast Cancer Myths.