Hello ladies! Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to talk about breast cancer screening with all of you.

Breast cancer is the leading killer of women across the globe. As the incidence of this deadly disease rises in India, its important to be aware of what you can do to prevent yourselves from getting it.

First, what are the risk factors?

Well, there are some risk factors you cannot do anything about-

  • Age- old age predisposes to breast cancer
  • Family History of breast cancer in your mother or sisters
  • Genetic History- the presence of BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes
  • Personal History- Any past history of breast disease predisposes you to breast cancer

Now, here are the ones you can change-

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Alcohol consumption and smoking
  • A diet full of oily food

So what does breast cancer look like? In a majority of patients, breast cancer remains asymptomatic until it as progressed to very late stages.

Some symptoms include-

  • Pain in the breast
  • Lumps in the breast
  • Changes in the nipple area
  • Discharge from the nipple

If you have any of these symptoms, consult your gynaecologist at the earliest. You may already be too late.

How can you protect yourself from breast cancer?

While the exact cause of breast cancer is unknown, screening remains your best friend to diagnose and treat breast cancer early.

  1. Breast self-examination- You can perform this anywhere, when you are lying in bed, in front of a mirror or even in the shower. It takes less than 5 minutes and may help you identify lumps in the breast that are not obviously visible.
  2. Mammogram- An X-ray of the breast, a regular mammogram is the best way to ensure early detection of breast cancer. Especially for women above 35 years, mammograms are recommended every year or every two years based on individual characteristics. So consult your gynaecologist today to know whether you need one or not and how often.
  3. If suspect lesions are found on manual breast palpation/mammogram, the next test will be a breast biopsy to take a piece of breast tissue and examine under the microscope for cellular changes.

Further diagnostic tests may include an MRI or a PET scan to identify the extent of spread.

Treatment modalities vary depending on the type of cancer and more than one type of treatment may be necessary.

All said and done, you do yourself and your family a great disservice if you do not undergo routine screening for breast cancer. Mammogram is a virtually painless process but helps detect breast cancer as much as three years before it would be manually palpable.

So schedule your appointments with your gynaecologist and get tested today! Just remember, a one-off mammogram is useless. Routine mammograms to compare breast changes are necessary to diagnose breast cancer effectively. How frequently you need one is something your doctor will be able to help you with.

So stay safe and spread the message ladies- Breast cancer can be detected early when it can be treated without causing much morbidity.

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