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Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2020: Know The Importance Of Breast Self-Exam And Early Diagnosis

Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2020: The month of October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Read here to know more about breast cancer and how why breast-self exam is important.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2020: Know The Importance Of Breast Self-Exam And Early Diagnosis

Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2020: Timely diagnosis may increase survival rates


  1. Breast cancer affects a large population of women today
  2. A lump is breast is one of the most common sign of breast cancer
  3. Women should conduct self-breast exam regularly

It's the fear of having breast cancer which makes every woman more aware and alert about screening. Most of the breast lumps (90%) are benign, only a few will turn malignant. But, to identify whether the lump is benign or malignant, all women need to do is, go through breast self-examination and screening mammography if suggested with an expert opinion. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in females nearly exceeding cervical cancer. India's National Health Profile 2011 predicts that by 2020; breast cancer will overtake cervical cancer as the most common type of cancer among women in India. Breast cancer is the commonest cancer in urban areas in India and accounts for about 25% to 33% of all cancers in women. However in Mumbai, it accounts for 28.7% of all cancers.

The life time risk of having breast cancer in women is 1 in 8 in the US, while in India its 1 in 30 in rural and 1 in 60 urban regions. This is due life style changes and other factors.

At present, many do not opt for diagnosis or treatment because women are shy, they don't complain when they find a lump in their breast. This is the reason they mostly get diagnosed very late or in the advanced stage. Combine this with the fact, that over 50% breast cancer patients in India present in stages 3 and 4, which affects the survival rates of the patient.

Now a day, the management of breast cancer requires multimodality treatment option such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal therapy which in fact involve a huge cost to the patients. Most of the time, it's the cost which is the key factor for delay in treatment.

To overcome the crisis of cost and late presentation, the best modality is prevention of breast cancer through breast cancer awareness programme for all age groups and breast self examination (BSE) and expert consultation with screening modality. BSE can start at the age of 20 after the 5th day of menses completion every month. As the general population screening, recommendation would be mammography after the age of 50 once in 2 years. For a high risk woman, apart from self examination, it is recommended to seek expert help annually with mammogram or MRI. WHO says there is significant evidence to show that mammography screening among women age 50-70 years group reduces mortality by 15% to 25%. Only awareness can reinforce the message that early detection of breast cancer can actually fully cure it.

(Dr. Sandeep Bipte, Consultant Surgical Oncology, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre)

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