Breast cancer has overtaken cervical cancer as the leading cause of cancer in Indian women. Approximately 76,000 lives are lost each year to breast cancer, which mostly affects pre-menopausal women, but cases in women as young as 30 are steadily on the rise.
Early diagnosis can help save lives, however, research has suggested that even educated women are reluctant in addressing their health issues and often depend on their family members for their healthcare needs, causing a delay in diagnosis. It is therefore important to educate men as much as women about the significance of early diagnosis for breast cancer.
Causes of Breast Cancer
- Age: The chances of developing breast cancer increase significantly with age.
- Heredity: If a close blood relative has been diagnosed with any kind of cancer during their lifetime, especially breast cancer, then the chances of developing the disease automatically increase.
- Menarche and menopause: Early onset of menses and early menopause may also be associated with breast cancer.
- Radioactivity: Exposure to radioactivity has been proven to be carcinogenic.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: One of the side-effects of hormone replacement therapy is an increased susceptibility to breast cancer.
- Exposure to chemicals: Strong chemicals, such as organochlorides, have been known to induce breast cancer in women who work in environments that expose them to high amounts of chemicals.
- Nulliparity and Late childbearing: A number of studies have linked nulliparity and late childbearing to the development of breast cancer.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
- A lump in the breast, under the arm or near the collarbone which is usually painless. (It must also be noted that all lumps are not cancerous)
- Noticeable changes in the shape of the nipple, such as inversion and tenderness
- Soreness in the breast which persists even after the next menstrual period
- Redness of the breast, nipple, or areola which becomes tender, itchy, scaly or sore
- Sudden asymmetries such as swelling or shrinking of one or both breasts
- Clear or bloody discharge from the nipple of one of the breasts
Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
Various tools and techniques are available today for the diagnosis of breast cancer. These include:
- Mammogram: An X-ray of the breast which is able to discover the presence of abnormal growth and lumps
- Ultra-sonography: High-frequency sound waves which help to identify whether the detected lump is filled with liquid or is solid. This helps in further investigation of the growth.
- Aspiration: Insertion of a fine needle in the lump to take out tissue or liquid from the identified lump for a biopsy.
- Surgical Biopsy: A small part of the lump is removed by surgery which is then tested further.