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
  • Dimpling
  • Nipple inversion
  • Asymmetry
  • 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

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