Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment

1 in 22 Indian Women is at risk of developing BREAST CANCER.

It’s time you need to be aware of this potentially curable condition.

Breast cancer is the result of the uncontrolled growth of cells in breast tissues. One in 100 cases occurs in males.  Breast cancer is increasing in India and unfortunately, 1 in 2 women with breast cancer in India die of the disease. Breast cancer also strikes almost a decade earlier and associated with a poor survival rate in Indian women as compared to their western counterparts. 

One of the key causes of the high mortality rate in India is because up to 60% of the patients come in a late stage when the treatment options become limited. 

The good news is that early Breast Cancer is treatable with a 90% cure rate and nearly 100 % cure rate in a very early stage.

Watch out for these SYMPTOMS 

Recognizing early symptoms is a great way to fight breast cancer. The most common symptoms include

  • Lump in the breast or thickening which is different from the surrounding tissues

  • Rash on or around the nipples

  • Inverted nipples

  • Fluid discharge from nipples that may or may not be  blood

  • Change in breast skin

  • Alteration in shape, size, and color of breast

  • Scaling or peeling of breast skin

  • Swelling or lump under the arm

Who are at RISK? 

  • Females are more likely to have breast cancer

  • Risk of breast cancer increase with age.

  • The presence of certain breast conditions such as atypical hyperplasia increases cancer risk.

  • Medical history and family history of breast cancer increase the risk.

  • Obesity, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, and hormone replacement therapy increase cancer risk.

  • Never getting pregnant or conceiving at an older age increases the risk.

You have the power to CUT DOWN ON THE RISK by making some conscious decision

You can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer through the following measures:

  • A healthy diet is rich in antioxidants such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

  • Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise.

  • Limit or avoid alcohol intake.

  • Prolong breastfeeding.

  • Monitor the dose and duration of hormonal therapy.

Establishing an early DIAGNOSIS 

Establishing an early diagnosis is the key to improved survival rate and better quality of life. 

The prognosis of breast cancer depends upon the stage at the time of diagnosis. Breast cancer patients have a positive prognosis if the diagnosis of cancer occurs at an early stage. The 5-year survival rate is 99% if the cancer is early while it drops to 27% in later stages. 

Breast self-examination: Look out for symptoms once every month and do not hesitate to contact your doctor in case of suspicious findings.

Regular Medical check-up: One of the best ways to beat breast cancer is to get yourself checked by a medical professional once every 2 years starting in your 30s and even more often if you have a family history of breast cancer. Medical professionals are trained to pick up any abnormal lumps early in the disease state. 

Mammography: Mammography is the best tool available to date to pick up early breast cancer, much before it can be physically felt or seen. It is a special x-ray of the breasts which helps detect early cancer. Women >40 years of age are recommended to undergo mammography once in every 1-2 years for early detection

3D Mammography:  Mammography though a good imaging device may miss up to 20 % of early breast cancers. Tomosyntheses or 3 D mammography takes multiple sections through the breast and thus helps pick up small cancers which can be obscured by overlapping normal tissue. 

Ultrasound: Ultrasound assists in analyzing the lump in the breast. It provides information if the lump is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid tumor.

MRI: Doctors advise MRI to get more data about the lump after the mammography and ultrasound. You may also undergo MRI during your screening process if you are at high risk of having breast cancer. 

Breast tissue biopsy: A breast tissue biopsy is done by taking a small quantity of suspicious tissue and analyzing it in the laboratory. The tissue analysis is done to determine the type of tumor and the extent of its spread.

The world of possibility with TREATMENT 

Your medical team will choose the following treatment modalities depending upon the stage of cancer and your existing health condition. You and your family members are important in deciding upon the course of treatment and providing necessary consent. 

Surgery: The doctor may perform various types of surgeries, depending upon the stage of the disease. Lumpectomy is done to remove cancerous tissues along with a small lining of healthy tissues, while mastectomy is done to remove the complete breast tissue. The doctor may also remove the lymph nodes if cancer has spread to lymph nodes.

Radiation Therapy: In radiation therapy, high-energy radiations kill cancerous cells. Radiation therapy may be used as an adjuvant to surgery. You may receive radiation therapy before or after surgery.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancerous cells. The doctor may call for chemotherapy if your cancer grows at a rapid rate. You may also receive chemotherapy after surgery to reduce your risk of cancer recurrence.

Other therapies: Treatment of breast cancer can be done through other therapies such as hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.

Frequently Asked Questions about Breast Cancer

What is triple-negative breast cancer?

Triple-negative breast cancer occurs in around 10-20% of patients with breast cancer. The characteristics of triple-negative breast cancer tumors are lack of progesterone receptors, lack of estrogen receptors, and the absence of additional HER2 protein on the surface. This type of cancer spreads quickly and is difficult to treat.

What is breast cancer screening?

Breast cancer screening is a routine check-up to diagnose breast cancer before the signs and symptoms appear. Breast screening includes a physical examination of breasts and mammography. MRI may also be done in high-risk women.

When should you start screening for breast cancer?

Depending upon the risk you have, your doctor may advise the perfect time for initiating screening for breast cancer. Women who are in the age range of 40-45 years should get mammography done at least once in every two years.

Is breast cancer a genetic disease?

Only 5-10% of all the cases of breast cancer are hereditary. The most common genes responsible for inherited breast cancer are BRAC1 and BRAC2. However, it is to be noted that not every woman who inherits the mutated BRAC1 and BRAC2 develops cancer.

 

Dr. Rupa Ananthasivan

Consultant – Radiology

Manipal Hospitals Bangalore - Old Airport Road

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