Among the several types of cancer, a human body is vulnerable to, Breast Cancer is now the most common cancer surpassing cervical cancer in Indian women.
Dr.Shona Nag is associated with the Jehangir Breast Care Centre, an affiliate member of the Breast Centers Network by the European School of Oncology.
“One doesn’t know the exact reason why breast cancer develops, except the development of a pre-cancerous lesion that turns cancerous,” opines Dr Shona Nag, Senior Oncologist and Breast Cancer Specialist.
Irrespective of the fearsome image that breast cancer carries, the truth is that ‘ Breast cancer is curable, especially when detected in stage 1 and stage 2 and early detection is key to winning this battle.’
In the best interest of our readers, we spoke to Dr Shona Nag who gave us the finer details on Breast Cancer and tackling it effectively.
The most common type of breast cancer are the ones that arise from the lining of the ducts in the breast – Invasive ductal carcinoma that make up almost 90% of all breast tumours. Other less common subtypes are lobular, medullary etc.
Then there is a Her2 positive subtype seen in 15 to 20% of women and though aggressive is cured by anti Her2 therapy if caught early.
The triple negative subtype is a difficult one. It occurs in young women and only has chemotherapy as a treatment option at present. It is regressive and if spread to other organs, the survival is poor. It makes up almost 25% of all breast cancers seen in India.
“More than what the cancer looks like, it is more important to know which receptors the breast cancer expresses as this determine the course of the disease and response to various treatments. Therefore, breast cancer is divided into 3 subtypes. The ER and/or PR positive subtype which is slow growing that occurs in older women and responds well to estrogen blockade by hormonal therapy.”
Answering the question on whether it is hereditary or not, she says, “Only 5-10% of breast cancer could be hereditary.
The most important and common genes causing breast and ovarian cancer are the BRCA 1 and 2 genes. People inherit an increased likelihood of developing cancer, not the disease itself and not all people who inherit mutations in these genes will ultimately develop cancer.
The only way to keep in check is to ensure the same with regular screening.
The only way it can be diagnosed is via screening, digital mammography.
The self-breast exam followed by a clinical check every year by a trained doctor will help in early detection.
This clinical checkup should start early in a women’s 20’s. Awareness is key to the process of diagnosis early.”
Common complaints include a painless lump in the breast, bloody nipple discharge, skin redness/warmth and swelling with skin changes and also a lump in the armpit.
As these symptoms are common for a lot of conditions, all breast masses should be checked by a physician or a breast surgeon.
She feels that Urban women in India are at a higher risk due to pollution, chemicals pesticides and stress. “It is best to adopt the ways of our forefathers, with good old-fashioned cooking at home, use of turmeric and keeping your lifestyle as natural as is possible.
- Do not put on weight. Push yourself to exercise and enjoy everything in moderation – be it drinking or junk food.
- You need to keep your estrogen under control. So, have children early and please breast feed them.
- Besides, avoid fads of soya and plant estrogen and don’t take hormonal replacement therapy for years.
- Also keeping a control on habits of drinking and smoking is the other important way. Moderation is key.
Although there are many risk factors for breast cancer, however late childbearing, lack of breast feeding, late menopause are some of them.
Other important reasons are lifestyle factors like obesity or high fat diet. All these factors increase estrogen exposure in the body.
Obesity is now proven to be the main reason for increasing the risks of breast cancer amongst women.
She also shares that even educated and well-read women have been seen to neglect issues related to their health. “We have had cases where lumps have been detected by women and they have chosen not to come forth for treatment.
This loss of three to four months makes all the difference between cancer being detected and treated to a full-blown stage 3 or 4 cancer treatment which pushes your rates of survival.
So, shrug off the negative attitude because cancer can be treated. Prevention and detection are key.”
Physical activity is good for overall health and especially preventing breast cancer. It’s now proven by research that physical activity only helps to keep cancers from returning. Yoga is known to help cancer patients and survivors.
Also running, walking and any format of exercise that keeps patients fit and does not allow for weight gain is extremely helpful in ensuring that cancer is kept at bay.
#All views and information shared in this post are purely intended for reader awareness and not to be construed as professional advise from the specialist quoted.
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