Breast self-examination should start from the age of 20, at least once a month.

Ladies, when was the last time you got a mammogram or got yourself screened for breast cancer? A simple self-examination at home might lead to early detection, and in turn boost chances of recovery.

We’re not exaggerating.

“Breast cancer accounts for 25% of all female cancers diagnosed worldwide. It is the most common cause of cancer death among women, across the globe,” says Dr Tushar Jadhav, consultant, surgical oncology, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai.

So, what exactly is breast cancer?

Breast cancer occurs when there is a cancerous growth in the milk gland organ. It is of two types – invasive and non-invasive (pre-cancerous).

What are the risk factors of breast cancer?

Less than 10% risk factors are hereditary. “Common risk factors included habitual smoking, alcoholism, less fibre content in food, lack of physical activity, nulliparity (condition in which a woman has never given birth), elderly first pregnancy, and hormonal replacement therapy,” says Dr Jadhav.

What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

Heaviness in breast, or unexplained sudden weight loss can be indications of breast cancer. “A lump in breast or arm pit, nipple retraction (specially on one side and recent onset), blood stained nipple discharge, change in size of breast, sometime redness on breast like orange peels, are advanced signs of breast cancer,” says Dr Sandeep Bipte, consultant breast onco-surgeon, Fortis SL Raheja Hospital, Mumbai.

How is breast cancer detected?

Breast self-examination should start from the age of 20, at least once a month. After the age of 47-50, screening and mammogram once in three years is a must.

Clinical examination, imaging and pathology are the three pillars of confirmation of diagnosis. “Imaging like ultrasonography, digital mammography, image guided core biopsy, histopathology examinations on biopsy can confirm the diagnosis,” says Dr Jadhav.

What are the treatment options for breast cancer?

It is curable if detected at an early stage. “The treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy or targeted drug therapy. But, the mainstay of treatment in early cancer is surgery,” says Dr Bipte. In early breast Cancer, it is recommended that one undergo breast conservation surgery (removal of only the affected part), but it depend upon the patients clinical presentation and the stage of the disease.


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