Breast cancer changes life,and the change can be beautiful
Breast cancer in our society is different than the one seen in the developed world. Our patients are relatively younger. Aggressive subtypes and late stage presentation is more common
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer and the second most common cause of cancer related death in women across the world. Due to the increased number of cases which continue to rise every day, it is perhaps the most researched and published field. Although there is an ocean of information online, at your fingertips, one gets misguided along especially if not steered properly through the facts
Though we know the risk factors, except for the 10% which are hereditary, we are still unaware what exactly causes it. Hence it is not completely preventable.
Breast cancer in our society is different than the one seen in the developed world. Indian patients are relatively younger. Also, aggressive subtypes and late stage presentation are more common. These are a few of reasons why we are witnessing poor overall survival as compared to western standards.
Its proven fact, however, that key to success in breast cancer management is in its early diagnosis. Breast Self-Examination and regular screening mammograms have made this possible. Unfortunately, Breast screening is not yet a national policy nor is covered by any health insurance in India. Lack of awareness, scarcity of centers and cost of imaging are some of the leading reasons why its underutilized. One in every 30 women poses a risk of developing breast cancer and one in two dies because of it. The figures are alarming and what's more is that , they are in the absence of wide spread Breast Screening programme. Thus, in reality, these figures may only represent a tip of an iceberg. We are on the brink of this new 'Pandemic'.
Once diagnosed, patients need to be treated with various modalities of treatment, surgery being the foremost and obligatory. There are many recent advances in Breast Cancer management. Unlike its assumed, losing a breast is not an option now a days. Breast can be conserved not only in early stages but also for the patients with locally advanced tumor by downsizing it with neoadjuvant therapies. And by various oncoplastic techniques, we can maintain shape, size and symmetry even after major volume loss during cancer surgery. In cases of complete mastectomy, whole breast can be reconstructed immediately with implants or your own excess body tissue which helps to beautify the body image by contouring donor site. It can be done later as delayed reconstruction too. Large ptotic breasts can be reduced to a desired size and shape symmetrically during cancer surgery by reduction mammoplasties. By using Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy, it is now possible to avoid unwarranted morbidity of armpit clearance surgery by performing it only when it's really necessary. Moreover, many patients can avoid chemo-radiotherapy side effects by tailormade approaches.
In a nutshell, breast cancer is curable even in advanced stages with proper and timely treatment. Thanks to modern advances in medical science, it is now possible to live a dignified and healthy life with complete confidence even after breast cancer.
Dr Tushar Jadhav (Surgical Oncology) & Dr Amit Patil (Plastic Surgery)
Director, Mumbai Breast Care
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