2.3 million women, in 2020, were diagnosed with breast cancer and 6,85,000 women died due to this. According to research, there were 7.8 million women diagnosed with breast cancer by the end of 2020 in the past 5 years. And in India, breast cancer accounts for 14% of cancers in Indian women. This cancer is the most commonly known disease to women after skin cancer. It usually occurs to women at any age after puberty hits them and it increases rates in later life too.
According to statistics by NICPR ( National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research ) in India, in urban areas, 1 in 22 women is likely to develop breast cancer during her lifetime as compared to rural areas where 1 in 60 women develops breast cancer in her lifetime and for every 2 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one woman dies of it in India
Breast cancer arises in the lining cells of the ducts or lobules in the glandular tissue of the breast. It can start from any part of the breast. It usually forms a tumor that can be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. And if not taken care, immediately, it is prone to spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. It can spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, bones, or brains and it is then supposed to be known as metastasized breast cancer. There are two kinds of breast cancer:
- Invasive ductal carcinoma: In this, the cancer cells begin in the ducts and then grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma: In this, cancer cells begin in the lobules and then spread from the lobules to the breast tissues that are close by. These invasive cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.
In general, a woman dies because of the spread of cancer from the breast. Research says that 50-80% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage when it becomes a challenging task to cure it, especially in low and middle-income countries, where it becomes more expensive and almost becomes incurable. If identified early, breast cancer treatment can be highly effective and the survival rates are quite high. Breast cancer treatment consists of processes like surgical removal, radiation therapy, and medication to treat cancer that tends to spread through the blood. To tackle the growth, it is necessary to make time-to-time checkups, get access to data collection through good cancer registries.
What exactly causes breast cancer? There are multiple answers and it all depends on the health and medical history of the person or how she is leading her day-to-day lifestyle. Research says that hormonal imbalance, lifestyle, and environmental factors are identified as a part of the risk of having breast cancer. But then some women do not have any risk factors, yet they develop cancer and it is likely caused by a complex interaction of their genetic makeup. So, being aware of the symptoms of breast cancer is a smart way to reduce the risk of having this.
Symptoms of breast cancer may differ from person to person given their health and body system. Here are a few symptoms, ladies which can help you in identifying this disease and fighting it:
- The most common sign is a lump in the breast or the armpit that does not go away and those lumps can start paining after a point in time.
- Swelling in your armpit and near the collarbone is another sign and it can also mean that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in that area. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands in a group that protects you from things like bacteria or viruses which can cause you sickness.
- Look for changes in your nipple, like if it is pulled inward, is dimpled, feels like burning, or is itching a lot, developing sores, etc, then there are chances you have breast cancer.
- Unusual discharge, like clear, bloody, or any kind of fluid, from the nipple, is also a sign to look out for.
- Look for changes in the size, shape, temperature of the breast.
- Be aware of Redness, peeling off the skin, scaling of the skin, dryness surrounding the nipple area.
If you find or feel any kind of these symptoms in your breast, immediately consult a doctor and get your breasts check out. The sooner you consult, the better you will reduce the risk of increasing the danger.
Prevention or ways to reduce the risk of having breast cancer
As discussed earlier, breast cancer is something that can happen to any woman, with the risk factors or without. There are no ways mentioned in medical science and history by which you can prevent it. But what harm is there to practice the ways which can and will help you to reduce the risk as far as possible. Few risk factors like aging, and family medical history cannot be altered, but you can help yourself with lowering the chances.
The first thing is, become familiar with your breasts through breast self-exam for awareness. Ladies, becoming familiar with your breasts will help you identify any kind of unusual signs, lumps, or changes in your breast and it will help you talk more freely to your doctor about what you felt in crystal clear words.
2. Maintain a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet does not mean to eat only greens and absolutely do not enjoy the pleasure of having good food. Learn about what is entering your body system, and every health system differs and varies from person to person, so learn about that. There is no harm in having a delicious cheesy burger or having that bowl of ‘Gajar ka Halwa’, but the next meal, do try to balance it out. Nobody better than you can understand the inner system of your body, so eat everything but make it healthy with fresh fruits and vegetables.
3. Be Active
Having a healthy diet is not enough, being active helps too. Ladies, we know how busy you are but aiming for 30 minutes of exercise on at least 3-4 days of the week is something achievable. Start slowly, do not rush at all. You do not have to win or lose anything in this, it is just 30 mins of your day being active, like going for a walk, or doing skippings, or if you are a dancer, perform your favorite routine from your favorite series ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ or anything you like, do yoga, etc. There are multiple options, all you have to do is have willpower and go for it.
4. Limit the Consumption of Hard Drinks
Fourth, if you are a social person and consume hard drinks, limit the amount. Drinking in moderation will help you reduce the risk a lot.
5. Effects of Hormone Therapy
Fifth, hormone therapy is known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Few women experience bothersome signs during their menopause, and for them, the risk becomes acceptable to relieve the signs and symptoms of menopause. Consult the doctor and talk freely about the effects of hormonal therapy, and reduce the intake as much as possible.
6. Avoid Pumping Your Milk Out
Sixth, many mothers pump their milk out from the breast and give it to their kids. Try to avoid that and breastfeed your kid.
7. Go for Regular Checkups
Talk to your doctor about breast cancer screening and ask him when can you start and talk about the benefits and risks of screening. Coming up with a strategy and regular checkups will make you feel in control of your health.
Breast cancer is one of the leading cancers amongst women and there is no textbook process to prevent it and reduce the risk. What a woman can do is follow a healthy lifestyle, be more aware of her body in literal terms and medical terms, not be afraid to talk to her doctor openly about breast issues and ask questions. Breast cancer survival rates have increased due to early detection and the women being aware of it in other countries like the USA. But in a country like India, there is still a long way to go.
According to a few pieces of research, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in India, having overtaken cervical cancer. In cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, this accounts for 25% to 32% of all female cancers, more than 1/4th of all female cancers. It’s also said that this cancer is more common in the younger age female group. Almost 50% of all cases are in the age group of 25-50. And more than 70% of the cases present in the advanced stage had poor survival and high mortality. We need more awareness to fight this and reduce the number of deaths and increase the survival rates. Science and technology have moved forward, it is high time women in our countries should be aware of the ways and should gain knowledge about this.