1. How common is breast cancer in India? I thought it is a disease of the west
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide. In India, it has overtaken cervical cancer to become the commonest cancer amongst urban women. 1/22 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. This incidence is predicted to rise to 1/7 women by 2020
2. What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
Majority of the cases are random with no identifiable cause. Some of the known risk factors are:
- Age – Incidence increases after 40 years of age
- Previous history of breast cancer
- Reproductive history
- Family history
- Genetic abnormality
- Postmenopausal Obesity
- Hormone replacement therapy
3. What does “Being breast aware” mean?
It can be explained in a 5 step rule of self examination to be done once a month
- Know what is normal for you
- Look and feel your breasts (upper chest & armpits too)
- Know what changes to look for
- Report any changes without delay
- Make sure you attend breast screening if you’re 50 or over
4. What abnormalities do I have to look for?
Any obvious lumps in breast, armpits or above the collar bone
- Skin thickening
- Nipple inversion
- Spontaneous nipple discharge
- Rash around the nipple
5. What if I find something abnormal?
Report it immediately to your doctor. Most of the time, it will be non cancerous , but needs checking out by an expert
6. How often should one have a mammogram?
Every year from the age of 50. Younger women can opt for ultrasonography done at a good centre
7. How is breast cancer treated?
Treatment depends on the stage of diagnosis, which means that the treatment will be different for each patient. Usually it is a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone pills.
8. Do I have to have the full breast removed if I have breast cancer?
Treatment has advanced over the last 20 years & we no longer recommend mastectomy for majority of the patients. They will just need removal of the lump & testing of the lymph nodes in the armpit.
9. How long do I have to stay in hospital after surgery?
You can be discharged the same day or the next day after surgery.
10. Can men get breast cancer?
Yes. Though rare (1-2%), men can still get breast cancer & unfortunately usually present at a later stage.
Dr Archana Shetty
Consultant Breast Oncosurgeon