Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness

breast cancer ribbonOctober is breast cancer awareness month. Indian women are at the risk of getting breast cancer in their forties, which is about 10-15 years younger than the west. Almost all women diagnosed here have kids, get married by 30 and have breast fed. Therefore at least 80% of the cases seen have no risk factors.

Breast cancer is growing at an alarming rate. Studies say that the cancer of the breast will soon overtake cancer of the cervix in Indian women. Worldwide every minute a woman is diagnosed of breast cancer. Naturally, as a woman you are worried. Breast cancer can happen to anyone.

From 28 to 90-year-olds, I have seen women of all ages getting diagnosed with breast cancer, says Dr Siddharth Sahani, Breast Cancer specialist at Artemis Health Sciences.

The interplay of several factors decides a woman’s risk of developing the disease—her age, genetic predisposition, age at the start of menstruation and menopause. Some of the factors are beyond the control of women, like race, family history of cancer and medical history. There is no need to despair because there are many factors that you can control, like obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption.

The human breast is a gland that contains milk ducts, lobes, fatty tissue and a network of lymphatic vessels. Cancerous tumours can arise in virtually any part of the breast and are most often detected when a woman feels a lump. In general, cancerous lumps are firm, never go away and usually (though not always) pain-free. The vast majority of breast lumps are not cancerous. (many are cysts or fibroid masses too) Breast cancer can also cause a yellow, bloody or clear discharge from the nipples.

Typically, breast cancer arises from cells lining the milk ducts and slowly grows into a lump. It is thought that it takes about 10 years for a tumour to become 1 cm in size starting from a single cell. Once breast cancer develops, surgery is the usual treatment. If detected early enough, the breast can be conserved by removal of the lump alone without a mastectomy.

Chemotherapy is usually given as an adjunct to surgery to kill any stray cells that might have escaped and lodged elsewhere.  Anti-estrogen drugs are also used very effectively in women whose tumours are responsive to hormones. Sometimes chemotherapy is given first to reduce the size of the tumour so that breast conserving surgery can be performed. Once breast cancer spreads to other organs the disease usually becomes incurable and the treatment is directed at relieving symptoms, if any. Nevertheless, much can be achieved with treatment by anti-hormone medications as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

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Category: Defeat Cancer
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