The incidence of breast cancer in India is at an “alarming” rate. India contributes to a huge 6 percent among the deaths that occur all over the world due to breast cancer. It is estimated that its occurrence in India is at the rate of 85 per 100,000 women per year. The incidence of breast cancer in urban areas is much more than when compared to that in the rural areas. The main reason for this might be due to vast changes in the life style and environmental alterations among both the areas.
Common Types of Breast Cancer
v Non-invasive breast cancer: This type of breast cancer is also called as in-situ breast cancer. The name itself suggests that in this type, the cancer has not spread to other parts of the breast tissue such as the duct or lobule.
v Invasive breast cancer: This type of cancer is dangerous and spreads to other breast tissues such as the duct and lobules and accordingly they are again classified into invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma.
Risk Factors of Breast Cancer
The causes of breast cancer are numerous; however, it could be broadly classified into reversible and irreversible causes.
Irreversible risk factors
The irreversible risk factors are those that cannot be changed. The following are the irreversible risk factors of breast cancer:
- Genetic factors
- Family and personal history of breast cancer
- Women with denser breast tissue
- Lesions that occur in the body
- Duration of menstruation
- Pregnancy related factors
The irreversible risk factors include age, genetic factors and duration of menstruation. It is a proven fact that the risk of a women getting affected by breast cancer increases with age. Thus with the advancement of age, women should focus on regular health checkups in order to prevent such complications. It is also been noted that women coming from families with breast cancer history are found to be more prone to this type of cancer.
The most important and irreversible risk factor for breast cancer in women is none other than their own sex, the feminine gender. That sounds quite funny, right?
The risk rate of breast cancer increases with the increase in number of menstrual periods occurring in a woman. So if a woman attains puberty at an early stage, then she is at a greater risk of developing breast cancer when compared to others. This factor can also be related another risk factor namely, the number of pregnancies occurring at an early age. There might be an interrelation between the reductions of the menstrual periods that occur on increased number of pregnancies. From this it is evident that women who have fertility problems are at high risk.
Reversible risk factors
These factors could be altered with respect to human decision and we can very well avoid these external factors so as to keep breast cancer away from us. Let us quickly go through the various reversible risk factors:
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Lack of physical activity and obesity
- Getting pregnant at later age
- Oral contraceptive use
- Post menopausal hormone therapy
- Avoiding breast feeding
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
- Clear or bloody discharge from the nipple
- Breast become very tender
- Swelling or lump formation in lymph nose
- Lump formation that can easily be felt on touching
- Pain in nipple
- Scaly nipples
- Swelling of breast
- Itching breasts
- Red or blotchy breasts
- Increase in the temperature of breasts
Early Diagnosis is very important
Although this type of cancer is highly prevalent among Indians, the main advantage lies in the prevention of the disease from becoming more serious by early diagnosis of breast cancer by frequent breast examination. This reveals the necessity of undergoing a complete breast checkup every month soon after a girl reaches her twenty years of age. This might sound quite humorous to all our Indian women, because they give the least importance to their own health. If women ignore to undergo a monthly health check up, this it-self might serve as a reason for lack of proper treatment during the initial stages of the disease.
The best and inexpensive way of detecting the breast cancer at an early stage is by self examination of the breast by women themselves. This method might sound simple but in order to accomplish this, a thorough understanding and examination of how a normal breast looks is very essential. The diagnosis at an early stage requires very keen examination of the breast. Hence, even minute changes should be recorded so as to start the treatment very early. It is found that early detection of breast cancer has enabled the doctors to save the life of many women.
However, a mere lump formation could not be confirmed as a tumor. The physical examination of breasts could not be used as a primary stage of analysis of a cancer. Here are some simple ways to self exam the breasts:
Clinical Methods of Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
Screening is the step in breast cancer detection in which the individual is tested for cancer before the development of symptoms. The first and foremost stage in the development of breast cancer is the formation of a cancerous lump. Only after the cancer a tremendous stage, the symptoms are manifested externally.
Screening tests are done when the doctor suspects that you do not have cancer, whereas the diagnostic tests are done to confirm the presence of cancer. The diagnostic tests that are done to detect breast cancer include mammogram, biopsy, hormone level detection tests and MRI.
- Mammogram is the widely used method in the detection of breast cancer. It is mostly carried out as a screening test. It makes use of the X-ray technology and reveals the lumps formed in the breasts that are harder to be examined by self examination itself. The lumps that could not even be felt when touched could be detected using mammography.
- Biopsy: It is the microscopic examination of the breast cells that are suspected to have attacked by tumor. The cancerous cells are detected by comparing with that of the normal cells. It is usually carried out following the mammography.
- The status of hormones such as progesterone and estrogen could also be used to detect the breast cancers. If the percentage of these hormonal cells is found positive, then it indicates the incidence of cancer. In such cases, anti-hormone therapy is carried out.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This therapy makes use of magnetic radiations to detect the breast cancer in the form of pictures shown in the form of scan.
Treatment of Breast Cancers
- Surgery: Surgery is the procedure used in the removal of the cancerous tissues from the breasts thereby preventing the cancer cells from attacking other normal cells. Surgery can be of two types namely the mastectomy and lumpectomy. Mastectomy is the removal of only the cancerous cells from the breast whereas lumpectomy is the complete removal of the breast itself. Another type of surgery namely the prophylactic ovary removal is done in the ovary in order to reduce the production of feminine hormones that act as a risk factor for the development of breast cancer.
- Chemotherapy: It is the therapy that makes use of chemicals in the prevention of cancerous cells from rapidly dividing in the body, either in the form of pills or given intravenously. It is the most widely used therapy against many of the cancers because of its effect in stopping the rapidly dividing cells as well as its reduced risk of re-occurrence of cancer. But it has an adverse effect on the normal rapidly dividing cells such as hair, nails, skin, and stomach and so on. Hence the growth of these cells is damaged due to the effect of chemotherapy on the body. Chemotherapy is beneficial in the fact that it treats the cancer cells in the whole body. The main side effect of chemotherapy is the loss of hair. In order to prevent the loss of hair in patients such treatments, scalp cooling is carried out so as to reduce the heat generated.
- Radiation therapy: This type of treatment makes use of radiation to damage the DNA of the rapidly multiplying cancer cells. This therapy is either given alone or combined with the above given methods depending upon the stage of cancer.
- Biological therapy: This treatment blocks the biological process that takes place within the tumor cells and thereby prevents it from spreading and multiplying within the body. The therapy is administered in the form of drugs.
- Clinical trials: Cancer patients are also treated by the method of clinical trials, during which the patients are subjected to experimentation to test various drugs. This makes such patients gain a thorough knowledge of their own condition and the use of advanced and latest treatments in them. Various types of clinical trials that are currently followed are prevention trials, screening trials, diagnostic trials, treatment trials and supportive care trials.
Role of Nutrition in Breast Cancer
Diet plays a very important role in each and every stage of breast cancer. Indulging in physical activities such as walking, swimming and exercise would keep their mind relaxed as well as will keep the person energetic. This might seem to be beneficial by yielding better results for the cancer treatments.
There are various studies focused on the relationship of foods on the incidence of breast cancer. Although not even a single food is diagnosed to prevent the incidence of breast cancer, the inclusion of all the nutrients in our diet in the right proportion definitely reduces the risk of breast cancer.
The following dietary tips would be helpful for patients diagnosed with breast cancer. These dietary tips are not very helpful in curing the breast cancer, whereas it is definitely helpful in lowering the risk of the breast cancer attack.
The patient should always be energetic. This could be easily achieved by including more of energy yielding foods that are easily digestible as well as indulging in regular physical exercise. Maintaining a healthy body weight is also found to be effective.
- Inclusion of proteins in excess is mandatory in order to maintain a good body weight as well as to build up resistance. This could be achieved by taking more of soybeans since it contains nearly 40% of protein. But the intake of soy during treatment of breast cancer is found to cause deleterious effect. So it is not good to consume larger amounts of soybeans due to the negative effect caused by soy isoflavones on the hormone activity.
- Inclusion of green leafy vegetable and fruits so as to improve your body’s antioxidant status thus providing resistance against diseases.
- Increased intake of fish is found to improve the omega 3-fatty acid in the body. The omega fatty acids have a significant role to play in the prevention of breast cancer attack. Omega -3 fatty acids are beneficial in improving the resistance of the body. The body does not have the ability of producing these nutrients in the body; therefore it has to be made available to the body in the for of diet. Thus including fishes that have a higher omega 3-fatty acid content such as mackerel, sardines, salmon, shark, tuna, and herring is beneficial.
- Reduced intake of fat is recommended due to the effect of cholesterol on elevating the risk of breast cancer. Restricting the amounts of calories taken from fats to about 25% is found to be effective in reducing the risk of breast cancer development.
- Antioxidants and phytochemicals inhibit the formation of carcinogens such as free radicals. Thus consumption of foods rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, carotene are found abundant in foods like red wine, green tea, fruits and vegetables. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant and is concentrated in tomatoes.
- Macrobiotic diet: A macrobiotic diet consists mainly of vegetables and whole grains. The foods included in this type of diet are very less processed ones and certain foods like sugar, coffee, red meat are excluded. Macrobiotic foods are focused on the theme that chemicals are not included in the foods and also healthy methods of cooking are recommended so as to keep the nutrients available to the body.
Thus following the above given dietary guidelines and regular examination of breast could prevent the onset of the disease. A general awareness of breast cancer among the women highlighting the basic causes, methods of breast examination in the house hold and the treatments given would definitely be very much helpful in detecting it at an early stage.