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Breast Cancer Awareness: Need of the hour

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. It is one of the leading causes of death among women in the world, accounting to 23% of the deaths. In India, it is the second common cancer among women, after cervical cancers. In urban areas of developing countries breast cancer is on a rise due to increase in life expectancy, urbanization and adoption of western lifestyle. Though the incidence of breast cancer in India is low as compared to developed countries, mortality rate is high. This is due to large population, inadequate screening programs, lack of education and the social taboo attached to the diseases, which leads to patients seeking medical attention only at the advanced stages of the disease. This makes them vulnerable to all complications and spread of the disease beyond salvage.

Many breast cancers diagnosed are sporadic and not associated with any identifiable causes. However, 5-10% of breast cancers have familial inheritance associated with gene mutations (like BRCA1 and BRCA2). Breast cancers are commonly detected in women who are nulliparous, conceived late in life, never breastfed, are obese, have a sedentary lifestyle, are regular drinker, eat fatty and refined foods.

Early detection of the disease can have a complete cure with surgery and medication thus, does reducing cancer-related deaths. In order to identify breast cancer at early stages certain screening methods like self-examination of breast and mammography after 40 years of age are advocated. Early notifying to the doctor in case of any painless lump in breast, change in shape of the breast or the nipple, any abnormal discharge from nipple helps in detecting breast cancer early on.

Early detection is the only key to battle the rise breast cancer incidence. If we are not sensitized about the pandemic problem, by 2020 the cases of breast cancer will surpass cervix cancer in India. The light ahead of the tunnel is that government has taken initiative to create by mass media education, screening programs and health camps. And days/months, such as these (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) also provides the right impetus to the drive. With advanced medical facilities and top-notch experienced doctors available, it is just only a matter of timely intervention.

Dr. Varalakshmi

Consultant - Gynecology and Obstetrics

Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital and BirthRight, Malviya Nagar, Delhi