According to GLOBOCAN (WHO), for the year 2012, an estimated 70, 218 women died in India due to breast cancer, more than any other country in the world. 1 in 28 Indian women develop breast cancer during their lifetime, reveals a recent study. Of these, 1 in 22 women in the urban areas show higher risk and are prone to the disease at an average age between 43-46 years.
Now, we witness an AGE SHIFT, and the average age of developing breast cancer has shifted from 50 – 70 years to 30 – 50 years; and cancers in the young tend to be more aggressive.
Risk factors for breast cancer
Remember, different cancers have different risk factors, and, having a cancer risk factor does notnecessarily mean that a person will get cancer. Studies have revealed that some women with one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease, while those with breast cancer have shown no apparent risk factors. This is the reason women should have periodic examinations, says doctors.
Significantly higher risk
· Women with history of cancer in one breast are 3-4 times likelier to develop a new breast cancer unrelated to the first one.
· Dense breasts: If a Mammogram reveals ‘dense’ breasts, the woman has higher risk of breast cancer
Moderately higher risk
· Risk increases with age. About 77 percent of women with breast cancer are over 40 and almost 50 percent are 55 years and over.
· Direct family history – having a mother, sister or daughter with the disease. The risk is more if any of the direct relatives with breast cancer has developed the disease before menopause
· Genetics – women with inherited alteration in the two breast cancer genes
· Breast lesions – a previous biopsy showing atypical hyperplasia
Slightly higher risk
· Distant family history of aunts, grandmothers and cousins having the disease
· Previous abnormal breast biopsy
· Late childbirth – having your first child after age 35 or never having a baby
· Early menstruation – if you began having your period before you turned 12
· Late menopause – if you begin menopause after age 55
· Overweight – Being overweight especially round the waist, with excess caloric and fat intake, especially after menopause
Detection is better than cure!
The first sign of breast cancer often is a breast lump or an abnormal mammogram. Breast cancer stages range from early, curable breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer, with a variety of breast cancer treatments. As a ‘cancer’ grows, its ‘invasiveness’ increases! If we were to catch a cancer much before it produces any symptoms, we will be able to treat it with minimum number of modalities, decreasing the trauma, and at the same time, increasing the survival of the patient. And we definitely do it for several cancers, like breast cancer, cancer of cervix etc. By regular check-ups and by being alert, we can catch the cancer in its initial stage.
Screening is the best initiative you can take towards having a cancer-free life. Thanks to great advancements in the technology, that systematically evaluates of a ‘normal’ individual to see if there is any underlying cancer. A ‘normal’ individual implies one who does not have any symptoms or signs of cancer, and one who is living a normal life.
· Breast Self- Examination( BSE): This includes regular and systematic palpation of the breast by a woman herself to assess for any abnormality. You can find the details here. After age of 20 years, a woman must regularly do a BSE, and must be evaluated by a clinician, atleast once every few years. Up to the age of 40, this is all that is needed.
· Mammography: Mammography will be advised by a clinician yearly, after a woman crosses 40 years of age. If mammography is normal, screening continues every year.
Make sure, a qualified medical personnel who skilled and updated with diseases of the breast and who is involved in the treatment of breast cancer should be involved in screening.
Male breast cancer is not uncommon and must be taken seriously.
Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Center has organized Breast cancer screening program, starting from 15th of October to 31st of October 2014.
The screening includes,
· Mammography/Ultrasound of breast
Small resolutions for a better life
Avoid contraceptive pill after 30 – Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the combined contraceptive pill are associated with a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.
Breastfeeding can lower breast cancer risk, especially if a woman breastfeeds for longer than 1 year. Making milk 24/7 limits breast cells’ ability to misbehave. Most women have fewer menstrual cycles when they’re breastfeeding (added to the 9 missed periods during pregnancy) resulting in lower estrogen levels. They tend to eat more nutritious foods and follow healthier lifestyles while breastfeeding.
Watch your Health– Lead a healthier lifestyle by making simple changes like exercising and eating healthy/fibre food.
Avoid things in plastic containers- Chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) are used to make plastic containers, the linings that coat the insides of food and drink cans, and plastic food bags. It is a substance that acts like the oestrogen hormone increasing breast cancer risk.