Protect yourself from Breast Cancer
- Over last ten years or so, breast cancer is the most common cancer in most cities in India, and 2nd most common in the rural areas.
- Although women are highly prone to breast cancer, men may rarely get it.
Know the risk factors
- Age: More incidences in India occur in women over the age of 40-50. However, breast cancers in young pre-menopausal women tend to be more aggressive.
- Family history: Women with close relatives or first-degree female relative (sister, mother, daughter) who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Race and ethnicity: White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than are African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to die of this cancer.
- Dense breasts due to age, menopausal status, certain medications (including menopausal hormone therapy), pregnancy, and genetics.
- Exposure to the hormone estrogen:
- Longer Menstrual periods, i.e., early menarche or late menopause
- Combined hormone therapy given to women after menopause
- Parabens and phthalates in cosmetics, hair spray and many other cleaning product fragrances.
- Previous exposure to radiation for treatment of some malignancy (e.g., lymphoma).
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure
- Environmental pollutants such as organochlorine pesticides.
- Occupational exposures: Women employed in commercial sterilization facilities (exposure to high levels of ethylene oxide) and the night shift workers (disturbed sleep/wake cycles).
- Contraceptives: Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and Depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate, DMPA (injectable progesterone for birth-control).
- Benign breast conditions: Women diagnosed with certain benign breast conditions might have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Lobular carcinoma in situ: Also known as lobular neoplasia, it is an abnormal cellular outgrowth which may become cancerous (invasive) if left untreated for long.
- Other factors include alcohol-consumption, obesity and lower rates of breast-feeding.
Stay healthy, get screened
A screening plan is planned by the doctor depending upon the unique situation of the patient, if one has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
- A monthly breast self-exam: Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away.
- A yearly medical breast exam by a doctor at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health
- Clinical breast exam (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over
- One might have one screening test, such as a mammogram, and then have a different test — an MRI — 6 months later.
In addition to the recommended screening guidelines for women at average risk, a screening plan for a woman with a history of breast cancer may include the above screening tests.
- For women aged 20-30 years, breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for those starting in their 20s. A breast self-exam is when you check your own breasts for lumps, changes in size or shape of the breast, or any other changes in the breasts or underarm (armpit)
- For women aged 40–49 years, mammography may save lives, but the benefit for younger women may be less than for older women.
- For women aged 50–69 years, all women in this age group should have mammograms on a regular basis
- For women above the age of 70 years, screening mammography is probably beneficial for women aged over 70 years who are in good health and have a life expectancy of about 10 years.
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