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7 early signs of breast cancer

Dr Ragini Agrawal, director of W-Hospital by Pratiksha, specialty hospital for women in Gurgaon, tells us why a breast cancer awareness programme on the lines of the Government’s polio eradication programme, is the need of the hour. (October is observed as the Breast Cancer Awareness month the world over.)

‘There can be life after breast cancer. The prerequisite is early detection.’ — Ann Jillian

Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in Indian women, accounting for 25-30 % of all cancers in women across the country. Every year almost 80.000 women die of breast cancer in India, the highest in whole world. Cancer causes a huge emotional and economic burden on society. A recent study of breast cancer risk in India revealed that one in 28 women develops breast cancer during her lifetime. This is higher in urban areas (one in 22) compared to rural areas, where the risk is lower at one in 60 women.

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Younger women at risk in India
Breast cancer is found in younger women around the 30-40 age group, while it is commonly seen in 50+ women in the West. In India, in the last two decades there has been a shift towards younger women — almost 48% patients are below the age of 50. This is definitely a very disturbing trend. And almost 60% patient do not survive due to diagnosis in stage 3 or 4. The disease in younger women is aggressive and usually not sensitive to chemotherapy. Breast cancer awareness campaign should be taken as national programme like polio, so that it can be detected in the early stage, in the asymptomatic phase when it is still in Stage 1 and post treatment survival rate is good.

Almost 6 to 8% of breast cancers will be hereditary, and will be passed down the family. Your genes determine your risk for developing certain cancers due to a change in the genetic material (called as a germ-line mutation) , or DNA and predisposition to developing cancer. If any member of your family suffers from a type of cancer or another, it is an indication that there may be inherited predisposition to cancer, and you will be in the high risk category for cancer diagnosis. The key to early detection is breast awareness programme. Education, examination and screening tool like mammography and breast ultrasound. Along with these screening tests lifestyle modification also plays a role.

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7 early signs of breast cancer

Photograph: Dr Ragini Agrawal

7 things to watch out for
–> Any lump in breast. Although all lumps are not cancerous, it should be evaluated.
–> Any change in breast size
–> If the nipple is indrawn
–> Puckering of skin
–> Blood discharge from the nipple

–> Change in skin colour
–> Swelling in the armpit

More on: Breast cancer,Breast cancer awareness,Breast cancer awareness month

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