Myth 1: All lump/swelling in the breast are cancerous
Fact 1: Most of the lumps in young breast are benign and they don’t spread outside the breast. Lumps in elderly females, painless lumps growing in size and changing the skin or nipple architecture can be malignant.
Myth 2: Breast cancer run in families
Fact 2: Yes, breast cancer is genetic in origin, but this is not the most common cause of this cancer. If someone has a close relative suffering from breast cancer, that relative shall undergo genetic testing. Once the genetic test is positive then only we can label it as a familial cancer.
Myth 3: Males do not have breast cancer
Fact 3: It is true that female breast cancer is far more common that male breast cancer. Males can have breast cancer and such cancers are usually genetic in origin. They are usually diagnosed at an early stage and are managed in a similar way as female breast cancer
Myth 4: Mammography is unnecessary and painful screening test
Fact 4: Mammography is a special type of breast x-ray used in healthy females, to screen or detect pre-cancerous or early cancer changes in breast. For healthy females, this test is done annually starting from the age of 50 years. This is an OPD investigation which is painless and harmless to you.
Myth 5: Complete removal of the breast is the best type of surgery for breast cancer
Fact 5: Early breast cancer is treated by surgery which can be done either as a breast conservation surgery (BCS) where only the tumor affected area is removed or by complete removal of the breast. As compared to complete removal, breast conservation surgery is the standard method across the world and does not have inferior survival or oncological outcomes. The only fact to remember is that all patient undergoing breast conservation surgery will need postoperative radiotherapy.
Myth 6: Breast cancer is treated by surgery alone
Fact 6: Modern-day breast cancer management is a multi-disciplinary team effort where a medical oncologist (Onco physician), Radiation oncologist and Surgical oncologist (Breast Surgeon) discuss and chart the best plan for a patient. The tumour board decides the right sequence of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery to have the best outcomes which are comparable to the western world.
Myth 7: Chemotherapy for breast cancer is very painful and I will be bedridden
Fact 7: Chemotherapy is an integral part for many breast cancer patients and also has few side effects. The degree of side effects depends upon the age of the patient, associated medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiac disease etc. Due to improvement in supportive care such as efficient drugs to control vomiting, growth factors to increase WBC, antibiotics to control infections, most of the side effects arising out of chemotherapy drugs are easily managed. There is very less chance that you will suffer from severe pain or become bedridden. In fact, many of my patients cope up so well with chemotherapy that they continue daily household chores or their job during chemotherapy cycles.
Myth 8: Newer drugs such as targeted therapy or immunotherapy are unavailable in India
Fact 8: In 2020, we have many newer targeted therapy and immunotherapy approved by regulatory authorities to be used in early as well as advanced breast cancer patients. All these drugs are available in our country and we have enough experience to manage them. Though immunotherapy is costly, targeted therapy is affordable and we have many good Indian companies who have generic drugs available at a comparable quality.
Myth 9: Advanced breast cancer is un-treatable
Fact 9: Advanced breast cancer can be treated by chemotherapy, targeted therapy and hormone therapy depending on the type of breast cancer (Triple-negative, Hormone positive, her positive). If you are treated in the right way, with the right drugs and under a trained medical oncologist, you will have good results.
Myth 10: I will have a very poor Quality of life after treatment
Fact 10: Almost all the patients lead a normal life and come back to their routine a few months after completion of their treatment. The surgical defect in your chest wall can be repaired by good plastic surgery. Skin changes, nail changes, hair loss and nausea during treatment all recover within 2 – 3 months of completing chemo/radiotherapy.
A Positive attitude will help you, not only to live the new normal but also make you strong enough to help others in the fight against cancer. #CANFIGHT