Understanding Breast Cancer

Understanding Breast Cancer

What is Breast Cancer?

Understanding Breast Cancer is important as it is one of the most common cancers in Indian women and also the leading cause of cancer related death in women. More and more women are now being diagnoses with breast cancer in their thirties and forties.

Who is at risk of breast cancer?

Being woman itself is a risk factor for developing breast cancer. Any woman irrespective of age can develop breast cancer. Some factors which may increase the risk of breast cancer to some extent include, late marriage and late child bearing, absence of breast feeding and prolonged use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.

Does a breast lump always mean cancer?

A lump in breast does not always mean cancer as a lot of breast lumps in young age may be normal or non-cancerous. What is actually needed is awareness in going to see your doctor and getting yourself checked if you have a lump in your breast or abnormal nipple discharge.

Can I have breast cancer even if I don’t have a lump?

Most people think that a lump in the breast may be a sign of breast cancer, other warning signs include blood stained nipple discharge, change in size or contour of breast, change in color or appearance of nipple or areola and redness or orange peel appearance of skin of breast.

Can breast cancer occur in young women?

All women are at risk of developing breast cancer. Although most women get it after the age of 40 years, it can happen even in young women, even in their 20s. Even women who are pregnant can get cancer. Breast cancer is actually the most common cancer in pregnant and postpartum women.

If someone in my immediate family has breast cancer, does it always mean  “I WILL” also get breast cancer?

Most women with breast cancer don’t have a family history of the disease and only 5-10 percent breast cancers are hereditary.

What tests need to be done if I have a suspicion for breast cancer?

Common test include clinical examination by a trained specialist, mammogram and ultrasonography cytology or biopsy of suspicious lumps seen on imaging.

Is Breast Cancer Curable?

Good news is that breast cancer is curable especially if detected in early stage. There have been much advancement in breast cancer treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Today if one develops breast cancer, there is no need to remove the entire breast. We can remove the tumor and arm pit glands and reconstruct the breast using oncoplastic techniques. If armpit nodes are not suspicious on imaging, we can do a sentinel node biopsy and avoid complete (axillary clearance).

My tip for the day will be to be alert for any changes in your breast. Regularly do a breast self examination and at least once in an year clinical examination by a specialist and annual screening mammogram in women above forty years age.


MS Surgery, DNB (Surgical Oncology), MNAMS