About Cancer

Decoding Breast Cancer in Simple Language

What is Breast Cancer?

Cancer arising in breast tissues is called breast cancer. It tends to grow rapidly, continuously and spread to lymph nodes or other organs of the body.

Is every swelling/lump in breast be cancer?

Nope, all breast lumps are not cancerous. Nevertheless, one needs to get oneself tested and examined to rule out any cancer in a breast lump.

What should I do if I feel a swelling/lump in breast?

Don’t panic. Consult a doctor, get yourself examined and tested.

Is pain in breast, a symptom of cancer?

  • Cyclical breast pain before or after menstrual cycle is not related to breast cancer.
  • Majority breast cancers are painless. However sometimes in advanced stages breast cancer may be associated with pain.

Who is at risk of breast cancer?

  • Being women, itself is a risk factor for breast cancer or in other words every woman is at risk of breast cancer and this risk increases with advancing age.
  • It is more common in women who have their delayed pregnancy above the age of 30 years and who did not have their biological children.
  • Women who are overweight and physically inactive also carry higher risk.
  • Risk of developing breast cancer is also higher in women with history of cancer (Breast/ovary/Uterine/Prostate) in their families. It is important to note that of all breast cancers only 5-10% are related to genetic factors while rest are not.

Can Breast cancer occur in men also?

Yes, rarely breast cancer can occur in men.

Is incidence of breast cancer increasing in India?

Incidence of breast cancer is increasing in world as well as in India possibly due to change in lifestyle as well as availability of better tools to diagnose cancer.

What can I do to decrease my chances of developing breast cancer?

  • Living a physically active life with daily exercises, body weight management and balanced diet goes a long way in prevention of all cancers including breast cancer.
  • Early marriage, timely childbirth and breast feeding also helps reduce chances of breast cancer.

What should I do to keep a check on my breast health or timely detection of any breast abnormality including cancer?

  • Being aware about your breasts and doing monthly self-breast examination is least one can do.
  • After the age of 30 years, once in a year, one should see a doctor for clinical breast examination.
  • There are no standard guidelines for regular mammogram in India due to our large population base. One should get an annual mammogram starting at the age of 45.

What is Mammogram? Is there any MRI done for breast cancer diagnosis?

  • Mammogram is simply X ray of breast to detect any abnormality.
  • Sometimes additional Ultrasound or MRI of breast may be done after mammogram as problem solving tools.

Can Breast Cancer be cured? Is effective treatment available for breast cancer?

With timely detection in early stage, majority breast cancers can be cured through effective anti-cancer treatment.

Is biopsy safe for breast cancer? Can cancer spread faster after biopsy?

Biopsy is an essential test to confirm the diagnosis and type of cancer. It is a safe procedure and does not increase risk of spread of cancer.

Does every patient with breast cancer require removal of breast or mastectomy?

All patients with breast cancer do not require removal of breast or mastectomy. Majority patients can safely conserve/keep their breast with only removal of tumor after discussion with their cancer specialist.

What are the key changes in breast cancer treatment in last 10 years?

Awareness of breast cancer in public is one of the key changes.

Availability of safe and effective tests for diagnosis and treatment is the second key change. Together both these changes have translated into improved survival for cancer patients.

Do all patients with breast cancer require chemotherapy?

Not every patient with breast cancer requires chemotherapy. Some selected patients can avoid chemotherapy and be treated with hormonal and other targeted therapies in consultation with their cancer specialist.

Why do patients with breast cancer require radiation therapy?

Patients with breast cancer have reduced chances of local recurrence and better long-term disease control with use of radiation therapy.

Are there any newer and better radiation therapy treatments for breast cancer patients?

There are several advances in breast cancer radiation therapy using techniques like IMRT, IGRT, 4 D RT, ABC and APBI which have all increased safety and effectiveness of this treatment.

About the Author- Dr Vineeta Goel is Director and Head of Radiation Oncology at Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh and Vasant Kunj. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of Oncology and is trained from Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. She has specialized training and expertise in treating breast cancer.

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