Dr. Shruthi S

Consultant - Surgical Oncology

Book Appointment

Subscribe to our blogs

Reviewed by

Dr. Shruthi S

Consultant - Surgical Oncology

Manipal Hospitals, Yeshwanthpur

The Necessity of Breast Cancer Awareness

Reviewed by:

Dr. Shruthi S

Posted On: Jan 23, 2024

blogs read 3 Min Read

Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Treatments and Risk Factors

Raising awareness about breast cancer can help recognise the signs early. This, in turn, helps with early intervention. So, it's not just about knowing; it's about making sure everyone is equipped with the right information to protect themselves and their loved ones. This blog aims to spread that awareness by understanding breast cancer, its symptoms, etc.

Understanding Breast Cancer

Normally, your body cells grow, divide, and die in an order. However, in the case of cancer, the cells start growing out of control; they don’t die. They invade, erode, and destroy normal tissues. Breast cancer is no different than this. It arises from the duct-lobular units of the breast. In India, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer, accounting for 13.5% of all cancer cases. The three primary categories of breast cancer are briefed below.

  • Early Breast Cancer: The cancer cells are still in the milk ducts and have not started invading other parts of your body. 
  • Locally Advanced Breast Cancer: The cancer cells have started spreading from their source in the breast to nearby tissues like skin over the breast muscle behind the breast or lymph nodes in the armpit
  • Metastatic Breast Cancer: The cancer cells have spread beyond the breast tissue and lymph nodes into other organs like bone, lung, liver

An expert medical specialist will help you detect the stage and guide you through the treatment procedure.

What Are the Risk Factors Associated with Breast Cancer?

Certain factors make you more vulnerable to developing breast cancer. They can be both non-modifiable and modifiable. Non-modifiable Risk Factors (those factors which are not under your control)

  • Gender: Women are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. Around 26.3% of women are affected with this disease.
  • Age: The risk of breast cancer increases as you grow older. But the incidence of breast cancer in younger women has been increasing nowadays mainly due to lifestyle changes
  •  Family History: Having a blood relative with a history of breast or ovarian cancer can increase your risk of developing breast cancer
  • Genetic Predisposition: Specific gene mutation may increase the risk. It especially includes BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
  • Early Menarche (<12 years): If your period starts at an early age, you may be at a higher risk.
  • Late Menopause (> 55 years): If menopause hits you later than expected, you may be at risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Radiation Exposure: If your body has been exposed to repeated radiation, especially the chest area (for treatment of cancers in childhood) it may increase the risk.
  • High-risk Breast Lesions/ Previous History of Breast Cancer: The chances of breast cancer increase if you have had a high-risk breast lump (Complex fibroadenoma, Papillomatosis, Atypical ductal hyperplasia, Lobular carcinoma in situ). If you have had breast cancer on one side the other breast is also at a higher risk of developing cancer in future.

Modifiable Risk Factors (those factors which are under your control)

  • Lifestyle Choices: Maintain a healthy diet to reduce the risk of breast cancer. You may include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits in your meals. Stay as much physically active as possible. This, in turn, will also assist you in fighting obesity and combat the risks of breast cancer. Avoid/ quit smoking and limit or quit alcohol consumption to reduce the risk
  • Parity: The risk of breast cancer is higher in women who have never been pregnant.
  • Breastfeeding: The risk of developing breast cancer gets reduced with breastfeeding. If you can do it for 12 months, there will be a 4.3% decline in the contributing factors. 
  • Age at First Child Birth: Try to have your first child before the age of 30. This may reduce your risk. Women who have their first pregnancy after the age of 35 are at an increased risk of breast cancer
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy: Going through HRT during menopause can impact the risk factors of breast cancer. So, discuss the potential risks and benefits beforehand to make an informed decision. It would be ideal to avoid long-term hormonal therapy.

Understanding these risk factors will aid you in discussing the situation with your doctor in detail. Consult the top cancer care specialists in Bangalore at Manipal Hospitals Yeshwathpur.

What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

  • There are a few distinctive signs that may indicate breast cancer. 
  • The feeling of a lump or thickened area in the breast or underarm and it is important to remember that these lumps are often painless to begin with. Pain is usually a later symptom of cancer and is not seen in the early stages
  • Change in your breast size or shape
  • Nipple discharge could be watery or bloody. This does not include breast milk
  • Changes in the texture of the skin over the breast, redness of the skin, nodules over the skin or ulcers on the skin/ nipple
  • Inverted nipple

Even though these symptoms may not always mean breast cancer, you will never be sorry if you are safe. If these symptoms are persistent, you must immediately consult an expert for a thorough evaluation.

Screening for  Breast Cancer

Just like any other disease, breast cancer also requires certain screening procedures to detect the abnormalities early. The objective is to identify cancer at the premalignant stage or early stage and decrease the chances of death from cancer.

Clinical Tests

Certain imaging techniques help in detecting breast abnormalities and cancer. The most helpful technique among those is a mammogram. It provides an X-ray picture of the breast. This test can identify breast lesions even before they are felt. Although it cannot prove that an abnormal area is a cancer, it raises a significant suspicion of cancer. This procedure may indicate the need for a biopsy. Yearly mammograms are recommended for all women above the age of 40. The other tests include:

  • Ultrasound
  • MRI

Although not as sensitive as a mammogram but can be used in specific cases for screening only when advised by your doctor

Self Breast Examination

It is advised for all women to follow self-breast examinations regularly to help detect breast cancer. It is a systematic approach where you can look and feel the changes in your breast tissue. You can examine it in the shower, in front of a mirror, or while lying down. The procedure involves visually inspecting the breasts for changes in size or shape. You can use your fingertips to feel for lumps or abnormalities. The more familiar you make yourself with your breast tissue, the easier it becomes to identify the concern. 

Please do not consider self-breast examination as a substitute for clinical tests. However, it surely empowers you to notice and report any unusual findings. Keep practising this approach to assess any complication as soon as possible.

Right Timing for Self-breast Examination

The perfect timing of self-examination is shortly after the end of your menstrual cycle every month (ideally 7th day from the start of your period). During this time, your breasts are less likely to be tender or swollen. This makes it easier to detect any abnormalities. Self-examination should be done every month to stay updated with your breast tissues. You may start with this self-test from the age of 18. 

Other Screening test

Clinical examination- by an expert doctor should be performed once every 1 to 3 years for people between 20 and 40 years of age. For ages above 40 years, these tests should be performed once every year along with a mammogram.

What to Do If You Find a Lump?

First, do not panic because not every lump implies breast cancer. However, you must report this abnormality to your doctor. Only they can examine your condition and identify the issue.

Treatment of Breast Cancer

If any of the diagnostic tests detect any abnormality, doctors often recommend a biopsy. In this process, a tissue sample is taken from the suspicious region. It is then examined under a microscope for accurate identification. 
The pathological tests can determine if the cells are cancerous. It can also detect what type of cancer one is affected with.

Some other examinations to detect the cancer type or its stage include:

  • Immunohistochemistry
  • PET-CT / CT scan/ Chest x-ray/ Ultrasound abdomen/ Bone scan.

Your doctor may also suggest some other tests to check your fitness for a suitable treatment procedure.

The treatment options for breast cancer include the following:

  • Surgery- Current advancements in surgery include:
    • Breast-conserving surgery
    • Sentinel lymph node biopsy
    • Immediate and delayed reconstruction
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Targeted therapy

The suitability of the treatment plan will depend on your specific condition. Doctors may also opt for genetic testing to reduce the risks of other cancers either by surgery or hormonal therapy. Breast cancer can be detected even before it shows any symptoms. You just need to stay cautious. A practising self-breast examination from the age of 18 years and a yearly mammogram from the age of 40 years can help in the early detection of breast cancer. Early detection ensures a cure.



Yes. Even though it accounts for 1% of all breast cancer cases, it may occur.

No, all lumps are not cancerous. Some may not be harmful at all. However, if you notice anything unusual, you must report it to your doctor.

According to experts, every 10 grams of alcohol consumption may increase your risk of developing breast cancer by 10%.

Share this article on:

Subscribe to our blogs

Thank You Image

Thank you for subscribing to our blogs.
You will be notified when we upload a new blog