The world, throughout October, creates awareness and provides support for breast cancer. This period also seizes to promote early detection, treatment, and palliative care for breast cancer.
According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting women both in developed and developing countries (1). The world records about 1.38 million new cases yearly. And, of this number, about 458,000 people die.
In India, breast cancer incidence has been on a steady rise in the past 20 years. Up until 2012, cervical cancer used to be the most prevalent form of cancer among Indian women. Today that has changed. Breast cancer is now the most common cancer among Indian women for almost ten years (2).
Breast Cancer Statistics In India
As stated earlier, cervical cancer used to be the most common cancer among Indian women. Recently, breast cancer accounts for between 25% to 35% of all cancers in women. On the other hand, cervical cancer accounts for about 8% to 9% (3).
A 2018 report, according to Cytecare Cancer Hospitals, recorded 1,62,468 cases of breast cancer and 87,090 deaths. It also revealed that an Indian woman is diagnosed with cancer every four minutes (4). These numbers show the rising cases of breast cancer in India.
Breast Cancer Overview
The CDC explains that breast cancer is a disease that affects breast cells in a way that causes them to grow abnormally (5). The cells may divide faster than normal healthy cells and continue to gather, forming a lump or mass.
Breast cancer can begin to develop in the cells of milk-producing ducts or glandular tissues known as lobules. Although breast cancer is commonly diagnosed among women, it can also affect men.
There are two common types of breast cancer:
- Invasive Ductal Carcinoma – This type of cancer cells grows into other parts of the breast tissue from outside the ducts. It can spread into other parts of the body.
- Invasive Lobular Carcinoma – This type of cancer cells spread to breast tissues that are near the lobules. Also, it can spread to other parts of the body.
Other types of breast cancer, although not very common, are Paget’s disease and inflammatory breast cancer.
What Are The Risk Factors?
According to several studies, many factors can determine whether or not a woman can have breast cancer (6). When it comes to breast cancer, some risk factors are avoidable, and some are unavoidable.
Avoidable risk factors are as follows:
- Alcohol consumption
- Certain hormone replacement therapies
- Being overweight or obese after menopause
- Lack of physical activity
- Reproductive history, such as getting pregnant at an old age or never breastfeeding
Some of the unavoidable risk factors are as follows:
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Having dense breasts
- Old age
- Certain gene types due to mutation
Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Many signs can signal the presence of cancer in the breast. While some are general symptoms, some individuals can exhibit different symptoms. Below are some more common symptoms of breast cancer, according to the CDC (7):
- The presence of a new lump in the armpit or breast.
- Thickening or swelling of a part of the breast.
- Irritation around breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the breast or nipple area.
- Pain in the nipple area or pulling in of the nipple.
- Nipple discharge such as blood.
- Any change in the shape/size of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Some of these symptoms can manifest alongside other non-cancer symptom conditions.
Breast Cancer Prevention
Having mentioned the risk factors, it’s evident that some risks are unavoidable. However, certain lifestyle changes can help reduce the chances of developing breast cancer (8).
- Reduction in alcohol consumption and smoking
- Reduction in the dose and duration of hormone replacement therapy
- Regular exercise and weight control
Irrespective of how deadly breast cancer is, with timely physical inspection and medical checkups when symptoms are found, the effects of breast cancer can be significantly reduced if not eliminated completely.