by S Sharma | 06 OCT 2017
Breast cancer is a common cancer in women, but screening and therapy now make it treatable in many cases, explains Dr Kanika Sharma, Sr Consultant, Radiation Oncology - Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, New Delhi
Q. What are the warning signs of breast cancer?
Ans. Warning signs of breast cancer may differ from women to women depending on their age and level of ailment. Breast cancer commonly presents with a painless lump in the breast. The other common signs include nipple discharge, swelling in the armpit/neck, nipple retraction or as a nodule in skin/ulcer in skin or nipple.
Q How often should one do a breast self-exam?
Ans. Breast self- examination should be performed at least once in a month. It is ideally to be performed 10 days after menstrual cycles. The women who have achieved menopause should do a self breast examination on a fixed day every month.
Q How is breast cancer diagnosed?
Ans. Breast cancer is usually diagnosed with Triple Assessment. The clinical examination raises the suspicion of cancer which is confirmed on the investigations – mammography and FNAC or Trucut Biopsy.
A doctor may consider some specific way to choose a test for diagnosing the ailment, type of cancer, signs or symptoms, age or medical condition.
Some cancer diagnosing tests are listed below for further understanding
Ultrasound, MRI and diagnostic mammography
Biopsy – a small tissue is peeled or removed from breast to understand the suspicious disease under a microscope.
Q Is there a link between hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer?
Ans. The hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is considered to increase the risk of breast cancer. Combination HRT increases the risk of breast cancer by 75% even used for short duration. Whereas oestrogen only HRT increases risk of breast cancer when used for more than 10 years
Q How can one reduce my risk of breast cancer?
Ans. In order to reduce the risk one should undergo regular screening form of monthly self breast examination, once in a year clinical examination by a doctor and mammography after the age of 40 years. Avoid consumption of alcohol and tobacco. Avoid sedentary lifestyle and maintain a healthy body weight. Consume fruits and vegetables which are rich source of antioxidants which can prevent cancers. Breast cancer can be abstained and reduced with number of prevention factors, the changes needs to be inculcated in your daily life and regime. Lifestyle changes have shown some drastic changes and reduce in breast cancer in women.
Q What are the treatment options for breast cancer?
Ans. The main modality of treatment for breast cancer is surgery which may include either removal of the entire breast along with removal auxiliary lymph nodes or remove of the tumour with a small amount of breast tissue (in every case). After surgery many patients require chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and radiation therapy. At times chemotherapy is given before surgery to decrease the size of tumour.
Q Is the number of young women diagnosed with breast cancer on the rise?
Ans. The incidence of breast cancer in younger women is rising. Approximately 6.6% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer are aged less than 40 years.
Q Why are we seeing an increase in young women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer?
Ans. The breast cancer in younger age are more aggressive rapidly growing and with a bad receptor profile leading to its diagnosis in an advanced stage.
Q. What are the risk factors for breast cancer in young women?
Ans. There are multiple factors contributing towards breast cancer in younger women. There are some nonmodifiable factors like genetic inheritance which predisposes to develop cancer at younger age. The modifiable factors include late marriage with delay in first childbirth, lesser number of children and lower breast feeding.
Q. Are there steps young women can take to help lower their risk for breast cancer?
Ans. Prevention and screening is the best mode to lower the risk. Avoid consumption of alcohol and tobacco (which acts like a fuel in cancer causation). Adopt a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and consumption of food rich in coloured fruits and vegetables. All women should learn and practice self breast examination so that they can pick up even small size lump. Women below age of 40 years can undergo ultrasonography of the breast if there is genetic history or clinical suspicion of breast cancer.
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