New Delhi (India), 26 May: On Women’s Health Day, it serves as a moving reminder of the crucial role women play in our lives, families and communities. On this occasion, we shed light on a topic of paramount importance: breast cancer, one of the main causes of death from cancer among women worldwide. Early detection is key to improving prognosis and increasing survival rates, making it imperative that women are aware of early signs and symptoms.
Here, we’ve gathered information from several leading oncologists who share their expert advice on how to recognize the early indications of cancer in a woman.
doctor Amish Vora, MBBS, MD, DNB, DM – Medical Oncology, Co-Founder & Director – HOPE ONCOLOGY CLINIC, New Delhi
It says as we’ve all heard it: “In an emergency, oxygen masks will come down. FIRST, PUT AN OXYGEN MASK ON YOURSELF, THEN HELP OTHERS.” This applies a lot to women today. Between family, in-laws, children and careers, they tend to ignore their own health. On Women’s Health Day, Dr. Amish Vora urges all women in our society to be self-aware of any changes in their breasts (size, shape, discharge, lump) or premature vaginal bleeding.
When diagnosed at an early stage, treatment not only cures it, but also maintains it as a whole, without any organ sacrifice. Even today, in 2023, most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are in stage 3 or 4. Why? Just because they ignored the symptoms. Checkpoint: any discomfort or abdominal pain for more than 14 days (age greater than 40 years); Test to do: Obtain abdominal USG and CA 125 (a blood test). Last but not least, vaccinate your daughters against cervical cancer.
doctor Rajesh Bollam, MBBS (Gold Medal), DNB, DM (Medical Onco-TMH) MRCP Medical Oncology (UK) European Certified Medical Oncologist, Secunderabad
Breast cancer can present different signs and symptoms in each individual. It is important to remember that these signs and symptoms are not unique to breast cancer and can also be caused by other health conditions. If you notice any signs, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.
Lumps or thickening in the breast or underarm area is one of the most common signs of breast cancer. Changes in breast shape or size, breast pain, changes in skin texture such as redness, dimpling, wrinkling or an orange peel appearance. In addition, any unexplained rash around the nipple or on the breast should be evaluated. Early detection is key to improving breast cancer treatment outcomes. It’s crucial to get a professional medical evaluation to determine the underlying cause and find out if you have breast cancer or another potential health issue.
doctor Shivakumar Uppala, MBBS, MS, MCH (Surgical Oncology), FAIS, FMAS, Surgical Consultant, Oncologist and Medical Director – Trust in Hospital and North Bangalore Hospital, Bangalore
Pregnancy and childbirth are the happiest and most exciting times in a woman’s life, but cancer is the most feared disease in the world. Pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) is more aggressive than normal breast cancer and cannot be treated while the patient is pregnant. doctor Shiva says, “Usually, we advise abortion if PABC is discovered during the first trimester. If we wait until delivery, the cancer can advance from stage 1 to stage 4.” Treatment is delayed until delivery during the third trimester. During the second trimester, patients must decide between treatment with PABC after delivery or the risky option of abortion.
Surgical removal of the tumor mass can be done safely even if the woman is in the eighth or ninth month of pregnancy. Breastfeeding will have to be stopped temporarily during chemotherapy sessions because the drugs used in the treatment can pass into breast milk and affect the newborn. Post PABC treatment, the chances of chemotherapy affecting a woman’s egg count or fertility are extremely low.
doctor Manish Sadhwani, MS MCh (Surgical Oncology), Cancer Surgeon – Airavat Cancer Care, Ahmedabad
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in India and therefore needs our utmost attention on two main fronts: screening and early detection. Your screening habits of monthly breast self-exams and annual mammograms will detect cancer as early as possible. Self-surveillance for changes in the breast, such as any lump, nipple discharge, or skin change, is required hourly.
Such symptoms should not create fear in the patient’s mind; instead, she should be proactive and see a doctor to investigate them. Such early detection helps to effectively achieve a complete cure for the disease. Early-stage disease has options for advanced oncoplasty and breast-preserving surgeries.
doctor Pratik Patil, Consultant Oncologist, Jupiter Hospital, Pune
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in India, with a diagnosis rate of 1 in 30 women in urban India. Diagnosing it in its early stage makes it 100% curable. Although some women have no symptoms until they show up on a routine mammogram, all women over age 40 should have a diagnostic mammogram.
Some signs and symptoms of early breast cancer include: itchy or irritated breasts Change in breast color, increase in breast size or shape (over a short period of time), changes in touch (which may feel hard, tender or warm) ), Peeling or peeling of the skin on the nipple, Lump or thickening of the breast, Redness or erosion of the skin of the breast (like the peel of an orange). The right treatment at the right time by the right doctor is the only mantra for breast cancer survival.
dr. Shreeniwas Sheelawant Raut, DM, HOD, Physician and Hematonocologist, Stem Cell Transplant Doctor – Bharti Vidyapeeth and Hospital, Pune
After treating thousands of patients in a decade of practice, Dr. Shreeniwas Sheelawant Raut said “The most common early warning sign of breast cancer is a lump in the breast and/or armpit. This is often the first symptom. Your doctor can usually see a lump on a regular mammogram before you even notice it.” Another sign is swelling in the armpit or near the collarbone if the breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in that area. Some may look twisted or prickly. A flat or scarred area on your breast, breast changes such as a difference in breast size, fluid, temperature, nipple changes, or a marble-like area under the skin.
You need to do a biopsy and more imaging for characterization and staging. Ultimately, treatment will be surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy according to your hormone receptor and your 2 expression status.
doctor Rohit Ranade, MS, MCh (Gynecological Oncology), Narayana Health City, Bengaluru
Symptoms of gynecological cancer can be vague, but early detection is crucial. Only breast and cervical cancer can be identified through screening tests. Recognizing and discussing symptoms with a primary care physician increases the chances of early detection when treatment is most effective. Gynecological cancer encompasses uterine, ovarian, cervical, vaginal, vulvar and breast cancers, affecting mainly postmenopausal women, but can occur before menopause.
Key symptoms to look out for include abnormal uterine bleeding (e.g., heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding), vaginal discharge (unless foul-smelling or blood-tinged), weight loss, reduced appetite, fatigue, ongoing abdominal pain, bloating, and cramps, abdominal distension (possibly related to ovarian cancer), changes in bowel or urination habits (eg, constipation, blood in the stool, changes in frequency), and changes or lumps in the breasts. While these symptoms don’t always indicate cancer, persistent symptoms require medical evaluation. Being aware of these signs empowers women to take proactive steps towards their health.
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