Indus Representative: Give us a basic outline on breast cancer.
Dr. Shona Nag: Firstly, I would like to tell you all that breast cancer is completely curable. It starts off with a small lump in the breast tissue. This is either found by the woman herself or sometimes during a usual gynaecology checkup by the doctor.
95% of breast lumps are non-malignant. Therefore there is no reason to panic or get alarmed when you find a lump in the breast. But the minute you find a lump, it does not make a sense to wait. Go and see the doctor immediately, who is the best person to judge and advice further testing, if, need be.
We are still a better off society than west. In western countries, 1 in every 8 women gets it in their lifetime, where as in India, its only 1 in 30 woman in cites and 1 in 60 in rural areas who suffer from breast cancer.
Indus Representative: What are the various risk factors of breast cancer?
Dr. Shona Nag: The hormonal related risk factors are late marriages, first child birth after 30 years of age, not breast feeding the child and early onset and late finishing (menopause) of periods. Other risk factors are high fat diet, obesity, stress and alcohol consumption.
Women living in urban cities are slightly more prone towards it due to their hectic and unhealthy lifestyles as compared to the one'sliving in rural areas.
In only 5% to 10% of cases, breast cancer is familial. This can be found running in first degree relatives like mother, grandmother, aunt, cousins and sisters. So, when we are saying only 5-10% are hereditary, rest 90% is in our hands, which can be totally prevented through regular screening and preventive checkups.
Indus Representative: How can a woman remain alert and assess herself before hand?
Dr. Shona Nag: Every woman must learn and undergo a monthly self assessment procedure, which is quick and very simple do to. She can do it once a month after her bath. This can pick small abnormalities and make her alert of any unusual changes in her breast. A self breast assessment is widely available on various online portals in videos and pictorial forms, where the woman can learn to do it or she can also ask her gynaecologist the correct way to perform it on her.
Indus Representative: What are the alarming sign and symptoms of breast cancer?
Dr. Shona Nag: Any painless breast lump, particularly if it does not move inside the breast, if the skin on top of the breast is wrinkled and seems pitted or dimply, the nipple gets taken inside (retracted), any blood stained discharge coming out of the nipple or fixed and hard lumps in armpits should bring the woman immediately to the doctor.
Indus Representative: What are various screening procedures or preventive tests that a woman should regularly take up?
Dr. Shona Nag: Breast cancer has an advantage over other types of cancers as it is superficial, so it is easy to diagnose. Screening means testing a woman who is not symptomatic. It comprises of a self breast exam every month and a clinical examination by a doctor in young woman once a year. After the age of 40, we recommend a mammogram, once in three years but after 50 years, the mammogram should be done every year as with age, the incidence also increases.
Indus Representative: Please share a message with our readers.
Dr. Shona Nag: Prevention is the key. When breast cancer is found in its very initial stages, it is completely curable and might not require extensive breast removal or other therapies. Hence, come forward for regular preventive checkups and keep a close vigil on this absolutely detectable disease.