Breast cancer is the second cause of death due to cancer in women after lung cancer. On a positive note, the rate of deaths caused by breast cancer has rapidly decreased in the past few years owing to increased awareness and improved methods of screening coupled with advanced treatments.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that manifests itself when cells in a breast tissue mutate and keep multiplying. These deviant cells combine to develop into a tumor. This tumor can be benign or malignant. The tumor is said to be malignant when these deviant cells attack other areas of the breast or when they metastasize (or spread) to other parts of the body either through the bloodstream or through the lymphatic system (a system of vessels and nodes that plays an important role in helping the body fight infections). Breast cancer generally begins at the milk-producing glands of the breast (lobules) or tube-shaped ducts that transmit milk from the lobules to the nipple. In rare cases, cancer affects the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast.
An important step in ensuring early detection of breast cancer in women is awareness about Breast self-Examination (BSE). All women above the age of 18 must conduct this test at least once a week to aid in early detection of breast cancer. Ladies should examine themselves with dry fingers away from the shower. There are useful resources online that provide detailed instructions to help women conduct these tests in the comfort of their homes. It is also important to educate ladies about the importance of sharing their findings with their gynecologists. As the popular adage goes, "Prevention is better than cure."
With respect to treatment, oncologists may suggest chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery to treat breast cancer depending upon the stage and individual preferences of patients. There are two types of surgeries that may be performed on patients with breast cancer:
Modified Radical Mastectomy (MRM): In this type of surgery, the entire breast is removed the cancer is at an advanced stage. Although most women might not be open to this kind of procedure, the good news is that patients who have undergone mastectomy can now have their breasts rebuilt with saline or silicone implants. Breasts can also be reconstructed using tissue from other parts of the body (also called autologous tissue). Surgeons might also use a mix of autologous tissue and cosmetic implants to restore the affected breast.
Breast Conservation Surgery (BCS): BCS or lumpectomy is a type of surgery wherein the surgeon removes only the affected area of the breast instead of removing the entire breast. Studies have revealed that the outcome of BCS with or without chemotherapy is as good as radical surgery like MRM.
Several organizations are doing their bit to spread awareness about breast cancer and its prevention. October has been declared "World Breast Cancer Awareness Month." Dr. Dinesh M.G., one of the leading oncologists is actively involved in the fight against breast cancer and has organized several seminars in rural and urban areas to spread awareness about this deadly disease.