Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in India which accounts for 14% of all cancers in women. Overall, 1 in 28 women is could develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Breast cancer is mostly a preventable disease. Awareness about prevention and when to seek help is very important.
Tests for early detection:
- Breast self-examination (BSE): It should be done by women above 20 years to look for early signs of breast cancer. It can be done at home. Women who are menstruating should examine their breasts every month 1 week after the menses have stopped. Post menopausal women can do if on a fine day every month. There are Five Steps of Breast Self-Exam which one can learn from your health care provider. If you notice any lump, discharge or any change in breast you should consult your doctor.
- Clinical breast examination (CBE): CBE by a doctor is recommended for all women once a year after 30 years of age.
- Mammogram test: A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast used to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. Between the age of 40 and 44 one has the option to start screening with a mammogram every year. Women between the age of 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.Wo men 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue as long as one is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years.
Although there is no proven way to completely prevent breast cancer, you may be able to lower your risk by simple changes in lifestyle like maintaining healthy weight, doing regular physical activity, quitting smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, breast feeding your baby, avoiding unnecessary radiation exposure and avoiding the use of post-menopausal hormone therapy to ease symptoms of menopause. For women with genetic mutations which increase the risk of breast cancer, preventive removal of the breasts [prophylactic mastectomy] may be considered.