Navigating Breast Cancer: Understanding, Prevention, and Early Detection

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By Dr. Bhushan S. Bhalgat, Consultant Onco-Surgeon

Pune, 28 September 2023: Breast cancer continues to be a significant health concern, with increasing incidence rates worldwide. While heightened awareness and early detection have contributed to the rise in reported cases, there are several critical factors that individuals should understand to reduce their risk and ensure timely diagnosis and treatment.

Understanding Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a complex disease, and while some cases may have genetic predispositions, the majority are non-familial, affecting individuals with no prior family history of the disease. The chief hormone associated with breast cancer is estrogen. Elevated estrogen levels, often resulting from factors such as early menarche, late menopause, delayed or absent childbirth, and inadequate breastfeeding, can increase the risk of breast cancer. Obesity and a diet rich in processed fatty foods are additional risk factors.

Early Detection and Prevention

Early detection is a cornerstone of effective breast cancer management. Two primary methods for detection are self-breast examinations performed monthly and clinical examinations conducted by an oncologist at least once a year. These examinations can help identify any suspicious lumps or changes in the breast tissue. Complementary tests like mammography and sonography are valuable tools for detecting abnormalities, and a biopsy may be recommended if cancer is suspected.

Comprehensive Treatment Approaches

The treatment of breast cancer typically involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. In recent years, innovative approaches like targeted therapy and immunotherapy have emerged, offering more effective treatments with fewer side effects, particularly in specific cases. Importantly, breast conservation surgery with oncoplasty is an option that allows women to preserve their breasts, offering hope and relief, especially for younger patients.

Screening and Beyond

Screening plays a vital role in early detection. Mammography and sonography should be part of every woman’s routine healthcare after the age of 35 to 40, with annual screenings recommended. Younger women and those with a family history of cancer should not delay in utilizing these screening modalities.