What you should know about breast cancer

Oct 15, 2013, 10:23 IST | The Guide Team

Breast cancer has become one of the leading causes of cancer casualties among women around the world. October is observed as World Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and so The GUIDE invited two Mumbai oncologists to debunk several myths about it, and to throw light on the signs to watch out for

Myth: It can’t happen to me. I am feeling well.
Truth: Cancer may strike anyone. Until the disease is advanced, there are often no symptoms.

Myth: Bras/under-wired bras cause breast cancer.
Truth: The type of bra worn is unrelated to development of breast cancer.

Myth: Young people do not develop breast cancer.
Truth: Young and old may develop breast cancer. Although common in women after 40 years of age, it is seen in the 20s and 30s also, although less common.

Myth: My mammogram is normal, hence I am safe.
Truth: Mammograms are known to miss breast cancers. They are less reliable in younger women, mostly less than 50 years of age. Young women have dense breasts which makes diagnosis of breast tumours more difficult.

Myth: I can’t get breast cancer when I am breast-feeding or when pregnant.
Truth: Although uncommon, breast cancer may occur while pregnant or breast-feeding.

Myth: Breast cancer is an emergency and I must get operated immediately.
Truth: Breast cancer, in most cases, is not an emergency. The disease has probably been present for some time. It does not require to be operated in a hurry but should be properly evaluated and treated after due discussion of all options.

Myth: All patients with breast cancer have to get their breasts removed.
Truth: All patients do not need to lose their breasts. Breast preserving treatment gives equally good results in carefully selected cases. Breast preserving treatment has been around for more than a quarter of a century and is well-proven.

Myth: Mastectomy (breast removal) is a safer and better option than breast preservation.
Truth: Mastectomy is not a safer operation as often thought. Breast preserving surgery (breast conservation) gives comparably long-term results.

Myth: If I remove my breast, I will not have to undergo chemotherapy.
Truth: The eMyth:tent of surgery (removal vs conservation) is unrelated to the decision of chemotherapy. Whether chemotherapy is administered depends on how aggressive the disease is and in the sub-type of cancer found on analysis.

Myth: Only women get breast cancer.
Truth: It is known that approMyth:imately 1% of breast cancers occur in men.

— Dr Vinay Deshmane, Hinduja Hospital

Myth: Breast cancer is not curable.
Truth: Breast cancer is curable, if detected early.

Myth: Any lump in the breast without pain, may be neglected.
Truth: The lump with or without pain should always be evaluated.

Myth: Any lump in the breast means cancer.
Truth: Most of the lumps in the breast are not cancerous.

Myth: Biopsy needle will spread the disease.
Truth: Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology (FNAC), a medical diagnosis technique, and biopsy does not spread the disease.

Myth: In breast cancer, full breast is always removed.
Truth: Nowadays, doctors remove a small part of the breast.

Myth: Breast cancer is hereditary.
Truth: Actually, 98% breast cancer is not hereditary.

— Dr SH Advani, Jaslok Hospital

Don’t ignore these symptoms

>> Small lumps in the breast.

>> Changes in the skin over the breast.

>> Retraction of the nipple until it becomes very obvious.

>> Nipple discharge / fluid coming out of the nipple especially on the bra or night clothes may be the first warning sign that something is wrong.

>> Scaling of skin over the nipple and areola. 

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