Breast cancer is the most common cancer occurring in females in India and in the world. This is as per the statistics from the GLOBACON 2018 report. It is interesting as well as disturbing to know that this incidence i.e. number of new cases occurring every year is increasing. Also in India, there is a huge disparity between the occurrence in urban and rural areas. The incidence is more in urban countries. This is attributed to the westernization or the urbanization of our society. This in turn is causing an increase in the risk factors for breast cancer.
Breast cancer incidence is more in western/urban females, thus it is also now called a lifestyle disease. Obesity, more consumption of saturated fats, less dietary fibers, late age at marriage, late age at first child, less/no children, no breastfeeding are some of these changes happening that have caused an increase in this disease over years.
Also, the advancements in imaging techniques and the awareness amongst females have caused more cases to be detected. As a result of which, now more cases in the early stage are detected as previously.
The early-stage disease has higher cure rates, with lesser side effects of treatment.
Most of the times breast cancer would develop as a breast lump or mass or swelling, which is painless. This lump may increase in size and spread to the skin and muscle of the breast and also to the underarm/armpit areas. In advanced stages, it may spread to other areas of the body as well.
It is thus recommended for all females above 20 years to examine their breast regularly/monthly and to consult an expert even at the slightest doubt. This is a simple procedure that can be done by all females at home once a month to know if there is anything abnormal in their breasts.
Luckily the answer is NO !!
Most of the time, the lumps are benign or due to some hormonal changes in the breast, but it is always better to consult an expert and let her see that nothing is going wrong in your body. Lumps due to hormonal changes usually increase towards the approach of periods and vanishes after it.
The next step will be an Ultrasound or a Mammography of the breast depending on your age, to know if that swelling/mass/lump is doubting cancer or not.
Screening means the detection of cancer in females even before it has started showing any symptoms. This is recommended by various national and international guidelines to be started at least after the age of 45- 50 years and be done once every 2 years with the help of Mammography. Mammography is nothing but a simple X-Ray of the breasts and can be done on an OPD basis in a few minutes.
As prevention is better than cure, all attempts must be made to prevent this situation.
These include leading a healthy, active lifestyle; eating a well-balanced diet, having good reproductive habits.
Another important point is if there is any family history of breast or any other cancer in your close relatives/siblings/parents, do talk to an expert about the role of genetic screening in your case.
Breast cancer claims the lives of women daily. Having a blood test for breast cancer detection would be wonderful, but it doesn't exist. Although it would be wonderful if we could avert it, it is quite unlikely that we would be able to do so by 2020 or the next few years. On the other hand, a woman may opt for the most effective screening method at the time which at present is breast mammography.
Let your expert oncologist decide what needs to be done after mammography and stay aware and examine yourself regularly.