Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women globally as well as in India. In India, approximately 1.7 lakh new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed every year. Most cases occur in women over the age of 50 but breast cancer can occur in younger women. If breast cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, less treatment may be needed and it is more likely to be effective: Dr. Sreya Mallik, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Karkinos Healthcare Pvt. Ltd.
What is breast cancer? Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. Most breast cancers are diagnosed when a tumor has grown from within a duct or lobule into the surrounding breast tissue.
What are the risk factors for breast cancer? Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, certain risk factors increase the chance that breast cancer will develop. These include:
· Age (risk increases with advancing age)
· Early menarche and late menopause
· Lack of breastfeeding
· Being childless, or if you had your first child after the age of 30
· Family history: if you have close relatives who have or have had breast cancer/ovarian cancer
· Previous history of radiation to chest in childhood
· Long-term use of combined hormone replacement therapy
· Excess alcohol intake
What are the common symptoms of breast cancer? Many women find that their breasts become more lumpy and tender before their periods. Breasts also alter their size and shape with increasing age, pregnancy, and marked weight changes.
What is important is that you get to know your breasts – how they look and feel – and report any changes promptly to a doctor.
There are several things to look out for which might be breast cancer signs:
· A breast lump-The usual first sign is a painless lump in the breast.
Other symptoms and signs of breast cancer:
· Changes in the size or shape of a breast.
· Dimpling or thickening of some of the skin on a part of a breast.
· The nipple turns in (becoming inverted/ retracted).
· Discharge occurs from a nipple (which may be bloodstained).
· Swelling or lump in an armpit.
What are the early detection methods of breast cancer? Early Detection Saves life:
Screening: Breast cancer can be detected in the very early stage or even in the pre-cancerous stage by screening. Screening is the method to detect the cancer before the symptoms appear.
1. Breast Self-Examination: Monthly self-examination of the breast from age 20.
2. Clinical Breast Examination: Clinical breast examination by a healthcare worker/ physician (<50 years – once in 2 years, >50 years – yearly).
3. Mammogram: Yearly mammography after the age of 40 (Females with increased risk of breast cancer are advised to start screening with mammography at an earlier age).
How to diagnose breast cancer?
· Initial assessment: Mammography/ ultrasound of breasts.
· Biopsy: to confirm the diagnosis.
· Assessing the extent & spread: Chest X-Ray, USG of Abdomen, Bone Scan, and/or CT Scan.
What are the treatment options for breast cancer? The treatments used depend on the stage & grade of cancer, age of the patient, menopausal status, general health status, and personal preferences for treatment.
Surgery for breast cancer:
· Breast-conserving surgery-A lumpectomy (or wide local excision) is one type of operation where just the tumor and some surrounding breast tissue are removed.
· Removal of the affected breast (mastectomy)-This may be necessary if there is a large tumor in the breast.
· Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer by using anti–cancer medicines which kills the cancer cells or stop them from multiplying. The type of chemotherapy given depends on the stage & type of cancer.
· Hormone therapy/ Targeted therapy/ Immunotherapy– These are the drugs that are being used in different stages of breast cancer depending upon targetable receptors/ genes. These drugs have lesser side effects than chemotherapy.
Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy is a treatment that uses high-energy beams of radiation which are focused on cancerous (malignant) tissue.
About Medella Karkinos Oncology Institute, Kolkata: Medella Karkinos Oncology Institute is a comprehensive cancer hospital with all facilities under one roof like radiation oncology (Halcyon- Radiation machine), medical oncology and surgical oncology. It is a 50 bedded hospital with fully equipped ICU and OT for handling complicated cancer surgeries backed with an in-house team of experienced Onco-pathologists, technologists and board of advisors. It is located at 87F, BT Road, Kamarhati, Agarpara, Kolkata 700058.
About Karkinos Healthcare: Karkinos Healthcare is a technology driven oncology focused managed health care platform for early detection and diagnosis of common cancers. The organisation espouses use of a distributed cancer care network, while working with a network of healthcare institutions and domain experts within the ecosystem, with an aim to provide comprehensive cancer care closer to individuals’ homes. To learn more, visit https://www.karkinos.in/about-us/.