October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As cases of the ailment increase in the city, Metrolife interacts with medical practitioners to understand this cancer, ways to spot it and myths connected to it.
Breast cancer cases have been on a rise in cities like Bengaluru and Delhi, notes Dr M Chandrashekar, senior surgical oncologist, Apollo Hospital.
“Bengaluru is known as the breast cancer capital of India. The incidents have risen to 34 per 100,000 people in the city. Earlier cervical cancer was the biggest threat but now it is breast cancer,” he says.
In recent times, age at presentation has dropped down, with people above 30-year-olds being diagnosed with the condition.
“This cancer was found among 40 to 50-year-olds earlier. The urban lifestyle has a lot to do with this. Factors such as childbearing being delayed, breastfeeding not being done often, hormonal replacement therapy after menopause, lifestyle changes like consuming alcohol and smoking and lack of exercises are major contributors,” he adds.
Consuming oral contraceptives for a long period of time can also contribute to breast cancer, observes Chandrashekar.
“Familial background is another issue; around 10 per cent of the incidents is because of this,” he adds.
Getting examined early is important for effective treatment. “Leading a healthier lifestyle by exercising frequently, consuming a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and avoiding smoking and alcohol will help prevent all ailments, including breast cancer,” he says.
‘Men are susceptible too’
Recently, singer Beyonce’s father, Mathew Knowles was diagnosed with breast cancer, which has brought the spotlight on the fact that men are also at risk.
Breast cancer does not only occur among women. “The chances of it occurring among men is rare. One per cent of breast cancer cases can be men,” observes Dr Mansi Khanderia, consultant medical oncologist, Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Narayana Health City.
She adds that the risk factors are the same as of women. “10 to 15 per cent of these cases are because of family history; especially if a first-degree family member has cancer,” she adds.
“Though the exact reason for breast cancer is not known, some men who have liver problems see an increased secretion of estrogen in the body and can be at an increased risk,” she says. Since men do not suspect that they may have breast cancer, they generally ignore a swelling or enlargement of the chest region.
“It is easier to note symptoms in a male as there is less breast tissue in them. Change in the structure of the breast, discharge from nipple etc are common symptoms,” she adds.
Dr Mansi observes that cases of breast cancer have increased over the years. “In the US, 1 out of 6 women have a chance of developing breast cancer.
In India, it was 1 out of 20 women a decade ago but it is slowly reaching 1 out of 10 women. The rate of breast cancer in men has not increased as exponentially as women, although awareness and diagnostic tests have increased,” she adds.
Watch out for
Dr Naresh adds that symptoms include:
- Persistent changes to the breast such as thickening, swelling, distortion, tenderness, skin irritation, redness and scaliness.
- Nipple abnormalities
- Spontaneous nipple discharge.
- Early breast cancer usually has no symptoms and is most often diagnosed through mammography screening.
Breast cancer most frequently diagnosed cancer in women worldwide: doc
Dr Naresh Ramarajan, founder and chief medical officer of Navya, a Bangalore based clinical informatics company, founded in collaboration with Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) and National Cancer Grid (NCG), observes that cancer is constantly on the rise in the modern world. He says, “Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women worldwide with more than 2 million new cases diagnosed in 2018, accounting for 25 per cent of all new cancer cases in women and 6,27,000 deaths from breast cancer worldwide last year.”He adds that these figures highlight that prevention has a key role to play to control this disease. “While early detection is crucial to fighting breast cancer, we have witnessed that a large number of women don’t know the early signs of breast cancer while others are hesitant to seek medical advice out of embarrassment or fear,” he says.
- Ultrasound examination
(If lesions are found, a biopsy is done. If it is found positive then cure is determined)