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Tackling Breast Cancer

Times of India
15 January 2010
By Zeenia F Baria

Breast Cancer Women
Breast cancer remains
the best cancer to beat –
approximately 87.3 per
cent of women survive
beyond five years
following diagnosis
PT speaks to experts about breast cancer, and how it can be prevented
AMONG the most dreaded diseases that affect women, breast cancer affects millions of women across the globe. According to Dr Anil Heroor, breast cancer is the most common cancer that urban women face today, even beating cancer of the uterine cervix (opening of the uterus). “A woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is one in eight or approximately 12 per cent and India will reach this figure by 2020. Though the disease is more common in the fifth and sixth decade of life, no age is immune to it. Women in their early twenties have also been diagnosed with breast cancer. In spite of these dismal figures, it still remains the best cancer to beat and approximately 87.3 per cent of women survive beyond five years following the diagnosis. Hence it can be called a potentially curable disease. Unfortunately, there is no particular causative agent for it and prevention can be only attributed to ‘risk reduction’ strategies,” says onco surgeon Dr Heroor. He says it is important to assess whether the patient has a general population risk, which refers to risk in women who are not known to have any medical conditions, family history or specific exposures that would increase the risk of breast cancer, or an increased risk that refers to people who are suspected to be at increased risk because of personal or/and family history of medical conditions or related cancers (eg breast or ovarian cancers).

Dr Heroor says that today charts for self examination are easily available. “Though not an exact method, it can help in increased awareness of any lump developing in the breast. An annual screening mammography for women over the age of 40 is a must. In large studies, this technique has shown to save lives by diagnosing cancer early. Breast cancer can be potentially prevented by a change in lifestyle, which includes a healthy diet, exercise and stress free living. This along with being alert and going for testing can help one conquer this monster disease,” he says.

Kylie Minogue
Singer Kylie Minogue is
known to have successfully
beaten breast cancer a
few years ago
The increase in incidence of breast cancer is mainly due to lifestyle changes in last two decades says consultant surgeon and oncologist Dr Sanjay Sharma. “Girls are getting married late and bearing children late because of their professional commitments. The same factors lead to less or no breast feeding to the new born thus putting them into a high risk group of developing breast cancer. The most important fact is that urban women are consuming food with high, saturated fats. Added to this, is lack of exercise in majority urban women leading to their high Body Mass Index. Unfortunately women in India don’t go for breast examinations and are also unaware of this disease. Apart from the routine cases of breast cancer, there are up to two per cent women having a genetic pre disposition. This is due to presence of a special gene, which is now discovered and called as BRACA I and BRACA II. We’re able to detect this gene with a biopsy from the breast in women who have strong family history of breast cancer.

Some steps to follow to help reduce the risk of breast cancer include:
  • Avoid having too much food with saturated fatty acids from an early age.
  • Have a balanced diet comprising lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Make sure you exercise at least four to five times a week. A vigorous walk of about 30 minutes, three to four times a week will help prevent an increase in your Body Mass Index.
  • Always consult a gynaecologist or an oncologist before starting any Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) if you’re menopausal.
  • If there is a strong family history of breast cancer, consult your surgical oncologist for an estimation of BRACA I and BRACA II genes.
  • If there is a strong family history of breast cancer, consult your surgical oncologist for an estimation of BRACA I and BRACA II genes.
  • If there is a strong family history of breast cancer, consult your surgical oncologist for an estimation of BRACA I and BRACA II genes.
It is advisable to do a self breast examination if you’re over 35 years so as to detect cancer at an early stage. There have been a lot of discoveries for the treatment of breast cancer and we’ve been able to save a majority of patients after we understand their biology by doing their molecular text,” says Dr Sharma.

zeenia.
baria@timesgroup.com

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