Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in India and accounts for 25-32% of all cancers in women. In most of the major cities like Mumbai, Thiruvanantapuram, Chennai, Bangalore Breast cancer is the most common cancer and in rural areas it is the second most common cancer in women.
According to National cancer registries like PBCR, the survival rate for breast cancer patients is less than 60% in India while it is 89% in USA. For every 2 women diagnosed with breast cancer, one woman dies of it.
As population of younger generation is increasing the number of breast cancer patients in the younger generation is also increasing. Currently more than 48% of breast cancer patients in India are aged below 50.
Most breast cancers in India come to light only when symptoms appear. But these symptoms appear at very late stages (Stage III or IV). This makes it difficult to treat and the chances of survival slim down. This is happening due to lack of awareness and screening. Most women in India are not even aware of breast cancer so they are also not aware of self-screening for breast cancer.
What is Breast Cancer? What are the causes of breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the unnatural or uncontrolled growth of breast cells. It is more common in women than in men. Exact cause of breast cancer is not yet known. However, few risk factors like hormonal therapy during menopause, menopause after the age of 55, family history, alcohol consumption or age may lead to breast cancer. Some cases do not have any of these risk factors.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The symptoms for breast cancer may not appear until later stages. Most cases can be diagnosed before the appearance of symptoms. The symptoms may vary from case to case. However a few likely symptoms could be:
- A lump in the breast or armpit,
- Thickening or swelling of the breast,
- Dimpling of the breast or skin irritation,
- Orange or flaky skin in the nipple area,
- Blood or fluid discharge from nipple or
- Inverted nipple.
How to detect Breast Cancer?
Diagnosis includes self-examination of the breast. Medical diagnosis includes mammography, MRI, other imagery scans and biopsies. There are several types of breast cancers and the diagnosis help to accurately detect the type of cancer.
What is the treatment for Breast cancer?
Once cancer is confirmed, treatment depends on the cancer stage and the spread of the cancer cells. The treatment is aimed to remove cancer cells through surgery or radiation. There are various kinds of treatments available for breast cancer. Through surgery, cancer cells are removed from the breast, called lumpectomy or, if the cancer cells have spread across the breast, the breast is removed, called mastectomy. Sometimes various drugs containing toxins or hormone suppressers are administered depending on the cause of the cancer cells. New information on breast cancer is researched every day and the treatment changes regular on a case to case basis.
How to prevent Breast cancer?
As there are no specific causes for breast cancer it is difficult to have preventive measures. However, the reducing or preventing risk factors like maintaining healthy body weight, low alcohol or drug use, regular exercise etc.
Also being aware of the symptoms and regular check-ups and self-examination can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
India needs to have more and more awareness programs for Breast cancer for people to detect breast cancer early and have an effective treatment. Various initiatives are being taken by Government and NGOs but every citizen needs to self-educate themselves about breast cancer so he/she can be alert.