Breast cancer is NOT a death sentence anymore. If diagnosed early, it has a very good survival. It’s an old time thinking that once diagnosed with Breast cancer, the patient needs to lose her breast completely. It’s an era of ONCOPLASTY surgery wherein we do scar less / hidden scar surgery. There is a very minimal difference that can be appreciated. All this is possible only if the patient arrives at an early stage. Breast being an external organ, can be easily palpated and the notorious lump if present can be found with a little awareness.
With more and more young patients being diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s imperative to have more and more affordable screening programmes. All women who are above 40 years are recommended to get their X- ray mammograms along with Ultra sound of both breasts, done every 2-3 years (depending on their risk factors) and yearly after they are of 50 years. Those who are premenstrual should do the screening 7-10 days post their menstrual date. Those who have attained menopause can do it at any time of the month. If the above recommendations are not kept in mind, then these tests may be painful.
In case of any complaints in the breast, if the patient is below 40 years of age, she should NOT get mammograms since this test will not be beneficial to the patient and she may be exposed to unnecessary radiation. In such conditions, simple ultra sound of breast will suffice (unless x-ray Mammogram is actually indicated).
Nearly 80-85% of the diagnosed cases are not hereditary, hence with the increase incidence of Breast cancer in India (especially in metro cities), it’s highly recommended that women should practice Breast Self Examination and the screening protocols.
Now Mastectomy (complete Breast removal) is an obsolete method of breast cancer treatment. Oncoplasty Breast surgery techniques, superior Chemotherapy & IMRT technique of Radiation therapy has increased the survival rates significantly. But these are applicable ONLY if the patient reports. Those with the Hereditary Breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC), there are tests to detect the faulty genes and take appropriate measures to keep this dreadful disease at bay.
Dr. Namita Pandey is a Breast Oncosurgeon at Dr. L H Hiranandani Hospital with a Fellowship from Tata Memorial Hospital.