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Medical science constantly challenges the boundaries by finding not only the cures to the most dangerous diseases, but finds a way to prevent them even before they occur. With years of research, practice and data available for analysis, scientists are using advanced technology in combination with years of research to create a predicting mechanism for often fatal diseases like cancer.
Breast cancer screening has always been done with mammography. The fact is that this method is only 75% accurate, laden with false positives and misses a whole set of women totally- and that too when cancer has already developed. Part of the problem comes from the dense breast tissue which one in three women have. This tissue masks the lumps, which makes it difficult for mammograms to accurately screen cancer.
Some breakthrough scientific methods are changing this by drawing on years of research to predict this deadly disease, years before it can manifest itself.
A genetic test to predict cancer 10-11 years ahead of time. This test was performed to see how environmental factors could influence cancer, along with habits like smoking, abusing alcohol or hormones, genetic changes that occur and are put a large percentage of the women at a high risk of developing this disease.
A simple blood test is used for the genetic analysis of hereditary cancer. Researchers found a biological marker, methylation of the ATM gene, which has a very high ability to predict the risk of developing cancer, several years before diagnosis. 'Methylation' concluded that when one biological indicator is exposed to carcinogenic substances, or other abusive substances like tobacco and alcohol, it may trigger the development of cancer. On the flip side, this test will take time to reach the commercial market and even then cannot give an exact timeline as to when someone may develop the disease.
A simple blood test to predict breast cancer 5 years before it develops. This is the kind of medical miracle the world is looking for. Last year in April, researches in Denmark identified a simple blood test that can predict breast cancer five years before it actually develops with an accuracy of a whopping 80%.
It works by "measuring all of the compounds in the blood to build a 'metabolic profile' of an individual, in order to detect changes in the way chemicals are processed, during a pre-cancerous stage," says Laura Donnelly, health editor at The Telegraph, which covered this development. Danish researchers observed 57,000 participants over 20 years, gathering blood samples along the way, specifically comparing a set of 800 women who remained healthy or developed breast cancer within 7 years of their first blood sample. The researchers found they were able to predict, with 80 percent accuracy, which patients would be affected by the disease, just by looking at the metabolic profiles they built from the participants' blood samples. The results have been published in Metabolomics. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Gynaecologist.
I have diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma, NOS, in right breast (in biopsy report, triple negative (ER-negative, PR-NEGATIVE, HER 2-NEGATIVE). The tumor measures 4 cm* 3 cm mammographically. After giving 3 no. Of chemo My doctor suggest me for modified radical mastectomy. Please tell me if I go for complete breast removal & subsequent chemotherapy Radiotherapy is must or optional?
Breast cancer is a form of cancer which develops from the breast tissue. Breast cancer is indicated by signs such as a lump in the breast, changes in breast shape, fluid flowing from the nipple, dimpling of skin, or the development of red scaly patches. Breast cancer is a fatal form of cancer in women and immediate diagnosis is required on observing the symptoms.
Diagnosis of breast cancer
Other than the regular breast screening, the diagnosis of breast cancer involves the following steps and methods:
- Seeing your general practitioner (GP): It is very important to visit your GP soon after noticing the symptoms of breast cancer. Your GP will examine you properly and in case your symptoms need more assessment, he/she will refer you to a breast cancer clinic.
- Mammogram and breast ultrasound: You will be required to have a mammogram, as recommended by a specialist breast unit. This is an X-ray of the breasts. An ultrasound scan may also be required. Breast ultrasound should be undertaken only if you are less than 35 years of age. This is because, young women have denser breasts and a mammogram is not as effective as ultrasound in the diagnosis of breast cancer. In ultrasound, high frequency sound waves are used for obtaining an image of your breasts. It is observed to notice any abnormality or lumps. A breast ultrasound is also important for determining whether a lump is solid or contains liquid.
- Biopsy: In this diagnosis process, a sample of the tissue cells is taken from the breasts and tested under a microscope to find out if it is cancerous. A scan and needle test for the lymph nodes present in your armpit is also done to check whether they have also been affected. A biopsy is undertaken in several ways, depending upon the condition and severity. A needle aspiration biopsy is used for testing a sample of your breast cells without the removal of the tissues. This is the most common form of biopsy and it is also used for draining a small fluid-filled lump or benign cyst. During the process, you will be given a local anesthetic. Usually, a needle biopsy is carried out guided by an X-ray, ultrasound and an MRI scan as well. This helps in distinguishing it from non-invasive changes such as ductal carcinoma in situ.
Another form of biopsy used for the diagnosis of breast cancer is called vacuum assisted biopsy or mammotome biopsy. In this process, a needle gets attached to a suction tube, which helps in obtaining the sample and for clearing the bleeding. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a general-surgeon.
I want to know about disk pain. i am suffering from this pain from very long . please suggest me good treatment
Breast cancer awareness
October is breast cancer awareness month and a great time to highlight the importance of maintaining healthy habits to support breast health. One disease that most women fear these days, you would probably reply" breast cancer.
Understand what you can do to reduce your breast cancer risk. So follow these guidelines and know that you are doing all that you possibly can to protect yourself from developing breast cancer. Be thankful every day that your breasts are healthy.
Check your own breasts regularly. Do monthly self-breast examinations after your period is over. If you find any lumps or tenderness that concerns you, have it checked out right away. Fortunately, 80% of breast lumps are benign. When you examine your breasts, remember that lumps which are soft, movable, and change with your menstrual cycle are much less likely to be cancerous. Any discharge from the nipple other than breast milk should be checked out by your health professional.
Get regular mammograms. In a woman without breast symptoms and with no significant risk of breast cancer, I recommend mammograms beginning age 35 or 40 every two years. For women without breast symptoms who are at higher risk of breast cancer, I recommend yearly mammograms beginning at age 35. Beginning at age 50, the rate of breast cancer goes up, so yearly mammograms are advised.
Limit alcohol intake. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer.
Get to and maintain a healthy weight - if your bmi is out of the healthy range, find a program and tools to help you get to a healthy weight, which is important for maintaining health in general, including breast health. Obesity, particularly after menopause, can greatly increase your risk of breast cancer. Aim for gradual weight loss by choosing minimally processed foods and eating smaller portions.
Don't smoke - accumulating evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in pre -menopausal women.
Exercise regularly - physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer.
Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy - if you're taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options. You might be able to manage your symptoms with non-hormonal therapies and medications.
Choose the right supplements - filling in nutrition gaps with supplements can help you support breast health. Look for options that contain vitamin d and omega-3 fatty acids, as they have both been associated with maintaining breast health.
Breast-feed your babies for as long as possible - women who breast-feed their babies for at least a year in total have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer later.
Uterine cancer of cancer of the uterus is a fairly common type of cancer. In fact, this is the fourth most common type of cancer to affect women. This type of cancer is usually diagnosed in its early stages and hence can be easily treated. However, did you know that this type of cancer can be prevented? This is primarily because most cases of uterine cancer are caused by an increased amount of estrogen as compared to progestin. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Birth control pills: The regular use of birth control pills for at least a year is believed to reduce the risk of uterine cancer by at least 50%. The longer these contraceptives are used for, the more effective they are. The protection provided by them lasts for 15 years after their use has been discontinued.
- Reduce weight: Being overweight not only increases the risk of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure but can also increase a woman’s risk of suffering from uterine cancer. This is because fat cells produce estrogen that further dis-balances the estrogen to progestin ratio. Reducing weight can thus help lower the estrogen levels in the body and prevent cancer. To lose weight, one must keep a strict control over portion sizes, eat nutritious food and exercise regularly.
- Use an IUD: Some methods of contraception not only prevent unwanted pregnancy but also reduce the risk of uterine cancer. Many IUDs or Intrauterine Devices contain progestin. This helps balance the estrogen and progestin levels in the body. Additionally, it also reduces the risk of hyperplasia. This is a condition marked by the abnormal thickening of the lining of the uterus. In many cases, this condition is a precursor to uterine cancer.
- Question Your Family: Genetics can also influence the risk of developing uterine cancer. For example, people carrying the gene responsible for Lynch Syndrome or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer have a much higher risk of uterine cancer as compared to others. Thus, if you know of family members who have suffered or are suffering from uterine or colon cancer, it is a good idea to undergo genetic testing.
- Broccoli - A super food: Some foods can also help strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of uterine cancer. Broccoli is one such vegetable. This is known as a super food that can prevent cancer. The best way to eat broccoli is by steaming it. This has the higher amounts of glucosinolate as compared to fried or boiled broccoli. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an Oncologist.
The symptoms caused due to herniated disc can be very severe and can also cause a bit of disability. The disc of the spine is like a cushion and separates the set of bones on the backside. The discs are shock absorbers of the spine and are mainly composed of 2 parts, a soft jelly centre called the nucleus and a tough outer covering called the annulus.
Effects of Herniated Disk
A herniated or cracked disc is a severe condition and it seems to happen most commonly in the lower back. It happens when a fraction of the soft centre gets pushed through the destabilized area due to degeneration, trauma or by putting pressure on the spinal cord.
Nerves are located precisely at the back of every disc and are responsible for controlling everything in our body. While a disc gets herniated, the external covering of the disc tears and creates a bulge. The soft jelly gets shifted from the centre of the disk to the region where the damage has occurred on the disc. Most commonly, the bulge occurs in areas where the nerve is located and it causes strain on the affected nerve. It has been observed that individuals do not feel any painful sensations even if their disc gets damaged.
When is Surgery Recommended for Herniated Disc?
Surgery for herniated disc is recommended only after options like steroid injections, pain relievers, exercise and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs do not work. If the pain persists even after these options, then it becomes important to go for surgery. There are certain risks involved in this surgery like infection, bleeding or nerve damage.
There are chances that the disc may get ruptured again if it is not removed. If you are a patient suffering from degenerative disc disease, then there are chances that problem occurs in other discs. It is very important that a patient maintains healthy weight to prevent any further complications.
The main factor that increases the risk of herniated disc is excess body weight, which causes a lot of stress on the lower back. A few people become heir to a tendency of developing this condition. Even individuals with physically demanding jobs are prone to this condition.
Activities like bending sideways, pushing, twisting, repetitive lifting can increase the risk of a herniated disk. At times, emergency surgery is also required to avoid paralysis in a patient. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an orthopedist.
Main 22 ki women hun or main memography karwana chahti hun. Memography karwane ka right time konsa hai? Period se pehle ya period ke baad ya phir period ke time?
Hello doctor. I am I 32 years female and I have slip disc problem from last two years .I have 2 years baby vd normal delivery. I am not able to sleep properly because when I sleep suddenly I awake 2-3 times at night nd I try to sleep again but I sleep after 30 to 40 min. Now I am gaining fat and weight also. I take proper meal and I don't take more junk food also. Please tell me what to do? My all checkup report are normal & thyroid also.
Is homeopathic medicine helpful for disc extrusion (L5-S1) neurosurgeon is saying surgery is must otherwise you may loose control over foot movement and urine, please HELP.
I have been suffering from disk problem since 7 months. I have consulted a doctor. I took x-Ray as per his advice. He said disk has been narrowed. He prescribed some painkillers and vitamin tablets. Could anyone please prescribe some medicine for me. I am really unable to sit without any support.
Sir I am 62 l have got disc prolapse of my spine spine. Backpain- radiated toy right leg causing severe pain please give remedy.
We have more than 200 bones in our body and each of them is susceptible to bone cancer. However, long bones in the arms and legs are most susceptible to this condition. Bone cancer can be primary or secondary. Primary bone cancer involves uncontrolled and abnormal cell division within the bones while secondary bone cancer refers to cancer that originated somewhere else in the body and later spread to the bones. While children and adults are equally at risk for primary bone cancer, adults and elderly people are more susceptible to secondary bone cancer. If diagnosed early enough, bone cancer can be treated and even cured with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.
Hence it is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of bone cancer. Here’s what you should look out for.
- Pain in Bones: Pain is one the primary symptoms of bone cancer. As the tumour grows larger, this pain can become more intense. In its early stages, the pain may be experienced as a dull ache inside the bone or the affected part of the body. It may also increase or decrease according to your activity level or may be experienced only at night. However, not all bone pains signify ‘cancer’ as this is also a symptom associated with osteoporosis.
- Swelling: In some cases, the abnormal growth of bone cells can result in the formation of a lump of mass that may be felt through the skin. In other cases, the affected area may also show signs of swelling.
- Breaking of the Bone: Cancer can weaken the bones and make them more brittle. This may make the bones more susceptible to fractures. A bone breaking in an area that has been painful or sore for a long period of time may be a sign of cancer. This is known as a pathologic fracture.
- Reduced Flexibility: If the tumour is located near a joint, it may affect the range of movements possible and make simple actions uncomfortable. For example, a tumour around the knee may make walking and climbing stairs a painful exercise.
Other symptoms to look out for are sudden and drastic weight loss, tiredness, excessive sweating at night, fever and difficulty breathing in case cancer has spread to other organs. Since many of these symptoms are common to other medical disorders, you should conduct a doctor immediately if you notice any of them. A physical examination and a couple of tests along with a biopsy will be required to confirm a diagnosis of bone cancer. Consult an Expert & get answers to your questions!
Also known as slipped disc, herniated disc or sciatica. The discs are the shock absorbers of your spine. When they are injured the inner soft part of the disc can protrude out through a tear in the outer lining of the disc. This disc material can press on the nerves in the spinal column, injuring them through direct pressure and causing inflammation.
The most common age to develop a disc prolapse is between the ages of 30-50 years., twice as many men as women are affected. Prolpased discs occur mainly in the low back (lumbar) spine. Less than I in 20 cases of back pain are due to a disc prolapse, most are due to mechanical back pain. (see section back pain).
A slipped disc is characterised by sudden, severe back pain that is often made worse by movement and which can usually be eased by lying down flat.
Nerve root pain (sciatica) can also occur because a nerve is trapped or irritated by a prolapsed disc. Although the problem is in the back, patients experience pain along the course of the nerve, for example, down a leg to the calf or foot.
With a prolapsed disc, the sciatic nerve is most commonly affected. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that is made up from several smaller nerves that come out from the spinal cord in the lower back and travels down each leg. The irritation or pressure on the nerve may also cause pins and needles, numbness or weakness in part of a buttock, leg or foot.
In rare cases, cauda equina syndrome can occur. This is a disorder where the nerves at the very bottom of the spinal cord are trapped. It can cause low back pain as well as problems with bowel and bladder function and weakness in one or both legs. These symptoms need urgent medical treatment to prevent permanent damage to the nerves that supply the bladder and bowel.
A large number of people can have a prolapsed disc without any symptoms if it doesn’t trap or irritate the nerve.
A doctor will normally be able to diagnose a prolapsed disc from the symptoms and by examining the patient.
In most cases, no tests are needed, as the symptoms often settle within a few weeks.
Tests such as x-rays or scans may be advised if symptoms persist. In particular, an MRI scan can show the site and size of a prolapsed disc. This information is needed if surgery is being considered
Any kind of bleeding from the uterus, which is not normal, can be termed as abnormal uterine bleeding. This refers to bleeding between periods or before periods, bleeding after having sex, spotting, abnormally heavy bleeding or bleeding after attaining menopause. If you are suffering from any of these issues, you need to consult with the doctor.
It is very important to diagnose abnormal uterine bleeding. There are several examinations and tests that have to be carried out, depending on age. For irregular spotting, a pregnancy test can be undertaken in case you think you could be pregnant. If your uterine bleeding is very heavy, a test has to be performed to check blood count. This is done to observe whether you have anemia. An ultrasound test of the pelvic region will also be advised by your doctor to know the cause of the bleeding. Several hormonal tests and thyroid function tests are required as well.
Other diagnostic tests include:
- Sonohysterography: When fluid is placed within the uterus and ultrasound images of the uterus are taken. An image of the pelvic organs is obtained.
- Hysteroscopy: It can be carried out when a device is inserted via the vagina and enables the doctor to examine the uterus internally.
- Magnetic resonance imaging: This is also used to get images of the organs.
- Endometrial biopsy: It involves insertion of a catheter to take out a tissue which is microscopically observed.
There are different types of treatment for abnormal uterine bleeding depending upon factors such as the cause of bleeding and the age of the patient.
- Medications: Several medicines are used to treat abnormal uterine bleeding. Sometimes hormonal medicines are used. Birth control pills are also used to improve the regularity of periods. Hormonal infections, vaginal creams and an IUD device releasing hormone can be used. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also used to control bleeding. Several antibiotics may also be prescribed.
- Surgery: In some cases of abnormal uterine bleeding, a woman has to undergo a surgery for the removal of growth such as polyps and fibroids, which results in bleeding. While some fibroids can be removed via hysteroscopy, others require different techniques for treatment.
- Endometrial ablation: It can be undertaken to control bleeding. This mode of treatment aims at reducing the bleeding permanently. In case all treatment methods fail, hysterectomy has to be carried out. This is a serious surgery and after it is performed, a woman does not have periods anymore and will not be able to conceive a child.
Abnormal uterine bleeding is a serious health condition, which may lead to severe complications. Immediate diagnosis and appropriate treatment methods should be undertaken in case of any abnormal uterine bleeding.
Peripheral arterial disease or commonly known as PAD is a common cardiovascular disease. Despite having the power to cause painful symptoms and severe health risks, it is overlooked by many. This particular arterial disease may lead to life-threatening consequences if left untreated for long. Read on to know more about the condition.
What is PAD?
PAD refers to the situation where in the peripheral arteries to the arms, head, stomach, and legs become narrow. Often referred to as the peripheral vascular disease, here, the arteries start to grow narrower due to the slow but constant buildup of fatty deposits on the artery walls. Though it can affect all the arteries in a person’s body, except those that supply blood to the heart, in the majority of cases, it affects the arteries in the leg.
What are the threats it poses?
PAD is indeed a life-threatening disease, as the blockages, it creates in the peripheral arteries prevent normal blood circulation to the different organs, legs, and brain. And when the blood flow is restricted, or the vital organs of the body fail to receive necessary blood flow, then the legs, brain and all the vital organs suffer severe damage. And when PAD continues to harm the blood flow for a long time, then it leads to tissue infection or tissue death, which is known as gangrene.
Additional health issues it causes
PAD also creates various other health concerns, such as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a chronic disease of fatty materials’ build up. In the case of atherosclerosis, the entire blood circulatory system gets damaged, including the arteries leading to the heart. The risk of blood clot build ups and vascular inflammation are also common additional threats posed by the fatty deposits.
Depending on the part of the body that is affected, the PAD symptoms vary from one to another. However, painful cramping in the muscles of one’s legs is the most common symptom of this condition. The pain, originating in the legs often goes up to the muscles in the thighs or hips too. Except this, weakness or numbness in the legs, ulcers or open sores on the feet or legs, skin color changing into bluish or pale are some of the other symptoms of PAD.
The peripheral arterial disease can be diagnosed easily, painlessly and straightforwardly under proper medical attention. Both prescribed medications and a lifestyle change are considered to be the best treatment for controlling PAD. Including a healthy diet and adopting a healthy lifestyle have often been successful in preventing PAD in its early stage.
The moment any signs or symptoms of PAD is noticed one should not be late in seeking immediate medical attention.
In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
It is very common for women to have heavy and painful periods or have a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen. Although, it may not sound very alarming these could be the symptoms of uterine fibroids. These are the most common types of benign tumours found in women. The fibroids are basically some tissues and muscle cells that grow within the uterus, outside the uterus, or along the wall of the uterus. The fibroids are usually benign and asymptomatic and do not require any treatment unless they cause problems.
Know the causes
Though the exact cause of fibroid formation is not known, it is believed that the female hormones estrogen and progesterone have a role to play in their formation. Fibroids are formed only when a woman is producing these hormones and they are not seen in women in non-reproductive age i.e. before starting of menses or after stoppage of menses (menopause). If fibroids are persisting even after menopause or especially if increasing in size then it is an alarming sign. Such a fibroid needs to be taken care of immediately.
What are the symptoms?
Fibroids often remain quiet for long periods of time. They cause nonspecific symptoms in the pelvis and abdomen including:
- Fullness in the abdomen
- Low back pain
- Irregular menstruation
- Cramping with menstruation
- Painful sex
- Increased urgency to urinate
- Anemia, leading to tiredness and weakness
- Infertility Diagnosing the fibroids
When these symptoms are recurrent, it is good to confirm the diagnosis. This can happen with a pelvic exam followed by ultrasound scanning to confirm the size and location of the fibroids. A blood test also may be done to confirm anemia, which is common due to heavy periods.
Management of fibroids can range from doing nothing to periodic monitoring to surgical removal.
- If pain and heavy bleeding are the only symptoms, then pain killers like ibuprofen should suffice for symptomatic relief. Anemia, if severe, may require iron supplementation.
- Embolization is an option which shrinks the fibroid, at the same time preserving the uterus. The blood flow to the fibroid is cut off, thereby preventing its further growth. It takes about 1 to 3 hours and requires some bed rest after the procedure. There could be some pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding, which will gradually subside. The fibroids may grow back, but the benefits of keeping the uterus are definitely there. This is suitable in case of single fibroid with specific blood supply.
- The next surgical option is myomectomy, where the portion of the uterus which contains the fibroid alone is removed. This is done in women who still wish to get pregnant and in women who would like to retain the uterus. This can also be achieved laparoscopically( key hole surgery). In such cases, fibroids are cut into small pieces and then removed from the body. This procedure should be done by a doctor specialised in advanced gynecological endoscopy as all this cutting should be done in a bag to avoid any spillage of cells inside the abdominal cavity. This procedure is known as Laparoscopic Myomectomy with In-bag Moecellation.
- In women who have crossed their pregnancy phase, hysterectomy or complete removal of the uterus is advised. In these women, the bleeding and pain may not have subsided even after years of treatment with hormones. The growing fibroids could be pressing on the adjacent organs, causing pressure. This is the only definitive treatment and should be done in women have completed their family and don’t desire to be pregnant.
- Myomectomy and hysterectomy may be done laparoscopically or with an open method depending on the overall health, the size and location of the fibroids in the uterus.
In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
Cancer is the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells in a particular body part. With continued growth, pieces of this tissue travel through the blood to different body parts and continue to grow in the new area. This is known as metastases. Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and affects about 1 in 8 women in the USA. Read on to know more details of breast cancer – breast anatomy, causes, symptoms, risk factors, detection, prevention, and of course treatment.
Anatomy: The main function of the breast is lactation through its milk-producing tissue that are connected to the nipple by narrow ducts. In addition, there is surrounding connective tissue, fibrous material, fat, nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic channels which complete the structure. This is essential to know as most breast cancers develop as small calcifications (hardened particles) in the ducts or as small lumps in the breast tissue which then continues to grow into cancer. The spread can happen through lymphatic or blood flow to other organs.
Warning signs/symptoms: The following are some symptoms that need to be watched out for if you have a predisposition to breast cancer.
- A lump in either of the breasts or armpits
- Change in size, shape, or contour of either breast
- Redness of your breast or nipple
- Discharge of clear or bloody fluid
- Thickening of breast tissue or skin that lasts through a period
- Altered look or feel of the skin on the breast or the nipple (dimpled, inflamed, scaly, or puckered)
- One area on the breast that looks very different from the other areas
- Hardened area under the breast skin
Either one or a combination of these should be an indication to get a detailed checkup done. Early diagnosis results in controlling the disease with minimal treatment and reduced complications.
Causes and risk factors: The exact cause for breast cancer is yet to be pinned down. However, risk factors are clearly identified, and women with risk factors need to watch out for warning signs.
- Family history: Of all the risk factors, the family history is the most important. Breast cancer runs in families, and if there is a first-degree relative with the breast cancer, the chances of developing it are almost double. Two genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the carriers of the disease, and this testing can be done in women to identify if they are at risk.
- Family history of other cancers: Even if there is no breast cancer, if there are other cancers that run in the family, watch out.
- Age: Women over 50 are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Race: Caucasian and Jewish women are at higher risk of breast cancer than African-American women.
- Hormones: Greater exposure to the female hormone estrogen increases the chances of developing breast cancer. Women who use birth control pills for contraception and hormone replacement after menopause are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Gynecologic milestones: Women who have abnormal menstrual milestones need to watch out. These include those who attain menarche before 12 years of age, get pregnant after 30, attain menopause after 55, and have menstrual cycles shorter than 26 days or longer than 29 days.
- Obesity and alcohol abuse are also likely to increase a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer.
Stages: Starting from stage 0, higher stages indicate advanced disease.
- Stage 0: The growth which has begun in the milk-producing tissue or the ducts has remained there (in situ) and not spread to any other area, including the rest of the breast.
- Stage I: The tissue slowly becomes invasive and has begun to affect the surrounding healthy tissue. It could have spread to the fatty breast tissue and some breast tissue may be found in the nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage II: The cancer at this stage grows considerably or spreads to other parts. There are chances that cancer may grow and also spread.
- Stage III: It may have spread to the bones or other organs but small amounts are present in up to 9 to 10 of the lymph nodes in the armpits and collar bones which makes it is difficult to fight.
- Stage IV: The cancer is widespread to far-flung areas like the liver, lungs, bones, and even the brain.
Screening: This is one of the most effective ways to identify the disease in its early stages. This will help in controlling cancer from spreading with minimal treatment.
- Self-examination: A thorough self-examination to look for changes in terms of shape, size, colour, contour, and firmness should be learned by all women. Watch for any discharge, sores, rashes, or swelling in the breasts, surrounding skin, and nipple. Examine them while standing and when lying down.
- In most women, annual screening mammograms are advised after the age of 40. However, in women who have a strong family history or genetic makeup, it is advisable to have screening mammograms starting at age 20 every 3 years and then annually from the age of 40.
- Women in high-risk categories should have screening mammograms every year and typically start at an earlier age.
- Ultrasound screening can also be given in addition to mammograms.
- Breast MRI is another way to screen for breast cancer if the risk is greater.
Breast Cancer Prevention: Now that there is so much awareness about causes and risk factors, there are definitely ways to prevent or delay the onset of the disease.
- Exercise and a healthy diet with reduced amount of alcohol are definitely effective in minimising the chances of developing cancer.
- Tamoxifen is used in women who are at high risk for breast cancer.
- Evista (raloxifene) which is used to treat osteoporosis after menopause. It is also widely used in preventing breast cancer.
- In high-risk women, breasts are surgically removed to prevent the development of cancer (preventive mastectomy).
Treatment: As with all cancers, treatment would depend on the stage at which it is identified and include a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. As noted earlier, if you are at risk, look out for warning signs as early diagnosis is the key to maximum recovery.