Breast Cancer : Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention
By Dr. Nitin Bomanwar (Surgical Oncologist)
What is breast cancer?
The exact cause of breast cancer remains unknown, yet certain factors are linked to the chance of getting the disease such as gender, age, weight, genetic risk factors, your family history & personal history, Exposure to breast radiation early in life, the age of onset of menstruation and menopause, Alcohol and tobacco intake etc.
Signs and symptom of breast cancer
Early cancer of the breast usually has no symptoms. Later, as the cancer grows, it may cause a lump or mass that can be felt in the breast. A lump can be painless, hard; or painful, soft. Sometimes, skin over the tumour may become coarse and wrinkled. Other signs of breast cancer include the following:
- Change in the size/shape/feel of breast or nipple
- Swelling of all or part of the breast
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast pain
- Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
- Redness, scaling or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Abnormal nipple discharge
In case of any unusual symptoms, it’s extremely important to see your doctor right away.
How can breast cancer be diagnosed-
To help diagnose cancer at early stage involves screening – that is, looking for the cancer before a person has any symptom
Breast self-examination – Checking one’s own breasts for lumps, changes in the size or shape of the breast, or any other changes in the breasts or underarm (armpit)
Clinical Breast examination – Breasts examined by a doctor. It should be done regularly after 30 years of age.
Mammography (X-ray of the breast) – Helps find breast cancer early Getting mammograms is recommended.
Biopsy (viewing of breast tissue under microscope), MRI, sonography of breast etc can be done to detect breast cancer.
The doctor will decide the tests that are necessary; All of them may not be done.
Getting screened for breast cancer via regular and necessary examinations increases the chances of finding breast cancer early, when it is most treatable.
How can breast cancer be treated?
Various therapies are used for the treatment of breast cancer for e.g. removal or tumour (surgery), killing cancer cells with drugs (chemotherapy and targeted therapy) or radiation (radiotherapy). Depending on the size and spread of the cancer, treatment can include any of these therapies of a combination.
How can breast cancer be prevented?
Some lifestyle changes help in the prevention of breast cancer.
Diet: A healthy diet with a variety of foods that include lots of fruits, vegetables: choosing whole grain foods; limiting
alcohol consumption and meats that are high in fat, avoiding smoking.
Weight: Achieving or maintaining a desirable weight.
Exercise: Can improve physical and emotional health and play a role in preventing cancer.
Regular check-ups: Getting the necessary exam and check-ups done regularly especially in those who have a family history or relatives with breast cancer.
HRT and hormonal contraceptives:
Consult doctor about the risks and benefits before taking HRT or hormonal contraceptives. If one is on HRT, regular check-up is necessary.
For more information, please consult the doctor.
- Being active and exercising
- Eating healthy food consisting of vegetables and fruits
- Getting screened for breast cancer regularly
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Being overweight /obese