The Indian mindset of putting the family’s wellbeing much before their own health is typical of many women. This is one of the biggest health mistakes women make. It’s not always easy to shift the focus from work and family to oneself, but the likely payoff – a longer, healthier life is worth the trouble. This is more pertinent for Indian females since life-threatening diseases like breast cancer are on the rise and are assuming epidemic proportions.
Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist, Dr T. Raja opines, “It has been recognized for years that the combination of early diagnosis and effective treatment has resulted in significant improvement to cure breast cancer. Despite this, low awareness levels ensure that there remain many patients where diagnosis or treatment of breast cancer gets delayed. Most Indians don’t suspect they may have cancer is the biggest challenge. This exceptionally poor ‘suspicion index’ leads to delayed diagnosis and treatment. If you have chest pain, you are promptly taken to the hospital. But cancer happens insidiously. For anything that continues over three weeks – a lump in the breast, visible changes in the appearance of the breast, one need to check for breast cancer. But it’s ironic that often come across patients who change doctors when asked to go for a screening or a biopsy.”
“It is often suggested that women should undergo mammograms at age 40. After that, an ultrasound scan of the breast may be made part of an annual health check-up. Only women at high risk, who have a family history of breast cancer, are prescribed more frequent mammograms. It has been estimated that about 20 percent of the cancers detected in a given year will be missed at the screening but will become clinically evident in the period before the next screening. That’s why regular self-examinations are important to see if there are any changes in the appearance of the breast or feeling a lump,” adds Dr T Raja.
Why is this so important?
The prevalence of breast cancer is higher among women in urban areas than in rural areas. And recent studies show that the incidence of breast cancer has overtaken cervical cancer, cited as the most frequent cancer in Indian women only a decade ago. The disease burden is very high accounting for 25 per cent of all female cancers. An early detection certainly helps with the possibility of higher cure rates as compared to late-stage detection.
Geetha Sinha (renamed) This woman got menopause at the age of 42. Therefore, the doctor asked her to periodically check for breast cancer. Doctors also said she was at risk of breast cancer due to reaching menopause at an early age. But she ignored it. When Gita turned 52, she was diagnosed with breast cancer from a test performed. But with timely treatment, Geeta is now fully recovered from the illness. Her aunt was also diagnosed with cancer in Geeta's house and had lost her life due to the illness. Women with family history should perform regular tests as mentioned above, but genetic testing should also be done.
How to do breast cancer examination?
To find out if you have breast cancer, do your own breast augmentation once a month from the age of 20 year onwards. Examine changes such as nodules in the breast, swelling, nausea, dullness of skin or color changes, resizing of nipples. This can lead to the diagnosis of breast cancer. If any of these symptoms are found, you should contact your doctor immediately. It is necessary to have an annual breast examination by a doctor from age of 30. It is equally necessary to go to the official center from age of 40 year and check the annual mammography. For the diagnosis of complaints for women under the age of 40 years, prior to breast sonography, ultrasound examination is performed. Sonography uses sound waves, without the use of x-rays. If the age is over 40, Mammography is done first and then sonography if necessary. While both tests are complementary, they are often used for complete diagnosis.
What to do to avoid breast cancer?
Exercise at least half an hour daily. Exercise reduces the chances of the disease by 3-5 per cent. Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Do not take hormones medication after menopause. Control the weight. Keep fruits, vegetables, cereals high and oil ghee low in the diet. Keep in mind that even if you do all these things, the disease cannot be prevented by 5 per cent. Therefore, diagnostic tools are just as important in the primary stage.