October is observed as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month all over the world. The aim is to build awareness and spread concrete information and resources among people about breast cancer. It is a common type of cancer, seen in women more often than men. Especially older women above the age of 50 years.
Symptoms of breast cancer are, thankfully, visible. They include formation of lumps or swelling in the breasts or underarm. Irritation, pain or reddening of the breast. Unusual changes in shape or size of the breast and discharge from the nipples, including blood.
Risk factors for breast cancer include age, family history of cancer, reproductive health, mutation in genes and having dense breasts. Women (and in some cases, men) who have had breast cancer before or have undergone radiation therapy at a younger age are also at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Here are some quick facts about breast cancer that you should know:
1. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Indian women. In 2018, we reported 1,62,468 new cases of breast cancer and 87,090 deaths.
2. India has a low 5-year survival rate for breast cancer – a mere 66%. Countries like Australia and the USA, on the other hand, have 89.5% and 90.2% respectively.
3. The reasons for the above fact is lack of awareness among Indian people about breast cancer, which leads to less self-examination and screening appointments. Doctors usually meet the patient when she is already in the third or fourth stage of breast cancer and treatment is difficult.
4. Having mother, sister or daughter diagnosed with breast cancer increases a woman’s risk by 200%.
5. The risk of breast cancer has increased since the 70s. While this can be attributed to increased screening efforts and better detection methods, lifestyle changes leading to obesity prevalence and changes in reproductive patterns with increased hormone use are also responsible.
6. Women who drink more alcohol are at a higher risk of breast cancer.
7. Breast density is a risk factor for breast cancer. Your breasts change their density over time. Normally, younger, breast-feeding or pregnant women and women with lower body weight or those who are taking hormone replacement therapy have dense breasts.
8. The lymphatic system is one of the major ways breast cancer spreads in a body.
9. Women are suggested to start doing annual breast cancer screenings from the age of 40.
10. Getting a second opinion after breast cancer diagnosis is highly beneficial.
Self-examination is an easy and important practice in women. They should periodically check their breasts on their own for any unusual symptoms, pain or lumps. In case they do, they should report it to their doctor. Women can also take regular mammograms, which are X-ray reports of their breasts and one of the best ways to assess breast cancer risk.
While some risk factors of breast cancer are out of our control, some are not. To reduce your risk of breast cancer, it is important to maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Women should also limit their alcohol intake. Ask questions to your doctor about any ongoing treatment or family history of breast cancer.
The more knowledge and awareness women have about breast cancer, the more they are likely to reduce risk of developing it. Early detection is very important in breast cancer and can potentially save many lives. Our job is to keep updating our knowledge, whether it’s from reliable sources on the internet or our physicians and pass on the information to others. Together, we can fight breast cancer and emerge victorious.
1. What Is Breast Cancer? Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/what-is-breast-cancer.htm. Accessed on 29 September 2020.
2. What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer? Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/symptoms.htm. Accessed on 29 September 2020.
3. What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer? Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/risk_factors.htm. Accessed on 29 September 2020.
4. What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Breast Cancer? Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/prevention.htm. Accessed on 29 September 2020.
5. What Is Breast Cancer Screening? Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/screening.htm. Accessed on 29 September 2020.
6. Breast Cancer. Available from: http://cancerindia.org.in/breast-cancer/. Accessed on 29 September 2020.
7. India Still Has A Low Breast Cancer Survival Rate Of 66%: Study. Available from: http://cancerindia.org.in/india-still-low-breast-cancer-survival-rate-66-study/. Accessed on 29 September 2020.
8. For October, here are 31 facts (one a day) about breast cancer. Available from: https://www.cityofhope.org/blog/31-facts-about-breast-cancer. Accessed on 29 September 2020.