Why breast cancer is so much talked about?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in India. Also, the reason that it is much talked about is that if diagnosed early, the patient survival is excellent. This brings us to the topic of breast cancer screening.
What is breast cancer screening?
Breast cancer screening simply means a systematic plan for cancer detection in ‘apparently’ normal population. By apparently normal, it means that there is no sign or symptom of the disease. This screening plan gives us the time advantage of early cancer detection even before the onset of signs and symptoms.
How to do breast cancer screening?
Every woman should do self breast examination monthly beginning from age of 20 years. It is recommended that she visits a doctor (gynecologist, surgeon, family physician) every one to three years for clinical breast examination. This visit to the doctor is an excellent chance to ask the doctor about your doubts and to learn the proper method of self breast examination. After the age of forty years, annual mammography is advisable. In women with family history of breast cancer, it is advisable to start annual mammography at age of 35 years and to do yearly clinical breast examination by doctor.
Breast cancer awareness: The need of the hour.
The word cancer feels our mind with fear and sadness. Through this article I wish to enlighten you about few facts about this condition and what efforts you can put in to prevent it and to fight it.
The word cancer is derived from the greek word karkinos (meaning crab). Ancient doctors used this to describe cancer tumors and their surrounding engorged blood vessels which appeared like crab.
A cancer is simply a group of abnormal cells that have become almost immortal. These immortal cells multiply rapidly to give rise to an even larger population of immortal cells and the process goes on to form a mass of abnormal cells called a tumor. These tumor cells may do their original function normally, lesser, more or even abnormally and give rise to the various symptoms and signs which may lead to the eventual diagnosis of cancer. These cancer cells also have a tendency to migrate (transport) themselves to abnormal and distant locations in the body. This is called as spread or metastasis of cancer.
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Screening tools/ modality:
Mammography is the technique used for breast cancer screening. Two types of mammography techniques are available- X ray mammography and sonomammography. Both these techniques are equally effective. Sonomammography is especially useful in the reproductive age group. Mammography is important for the early detection of breast cancer especially non-palpable breast cancer (lump not felt by the hand).
Non-palpable breast cancers are usually stage 1 (early stage) where the cancer is limited/ localized to the breast and has not spread beyond it. Early stage cancers are almost curable if treated and have prognosis (excellent survival chances).
In our experience, we have till date detected several non-palpable breast cancers during routine breast cancer screening. After receiving the appropriate treatment, our patients (cancer survivors) are now leading a cancer-free life.
Mammography can also differentiate between benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) lesions in almost eighty percent cases. Therefore, regular breast cancer screening by mammography is the need of the hour.
Prevention of breast cancer:
Eat healthy. Fruits and vegetables are protective. Avoid starchy and fatty foods.
Avoid alcohol and smoking.
Exercise at least on five days in the week.
Prevent weight gain.
All these recommendations improve your hormone levels and help in preventing breast cancer.