Breast cancer: The importance of early diagnosis and treatment – tips to keep the condition at bay

In this article, a Surgical Oncologist tells us what exactly breast cancer is, including the risk factors, the importance of early diagnosis and treatment for the condition.


  • Breast cancer can be formed in the lobules or the ducts that are a part of the breast tissue
  • If breast cancer is detected at an early stage, the patient has a better chance of complete recovery and in some cases, is also able to preserve their breasts – avoiding the otherwise painful option of mastectomy
  • A healthy lifestyle can help prevent or reduce the risk of breast cancer and other types of cancer

New Delhi: Breast cancer has been ranked number one cancer among Indian females with an age-adjusted rate as high as 25.8 per 100,000 women and mortality 12.7 per 100,000 women. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as many as 6,27,000 deaths occurred due to breast cancer in 2018, globally, while 2.09 million cases were reported. Surely, breast cancer has become a growing matter of concern. In this article, let us tell you what exactly breast cancer is, including the risk factors, the importance of early diagnosis and treatment for the condition.

What exactly is breast cancer?

Breast cancer can be formed in the lobules or the ducts of one’s breast. Lobules can be described as the glands which help produce milk. And the pathways that tend to bring milk from the glands to one’s nipple can be known as ducts. Likewise, breast cancer can also occur in the fatty tissue or the fibrous connective tissue present in the breast.

Symptoms and signs of breast cancer

The most common symptom is the presence of a painless growing lump in the breast. In case you notice symptoms like lumps in the breast, unusual changes in the appearance of your breast, dimpling or changes in the skin, recent nipple retraction or peeling, bloody nipple discharge, scaling and redness, then, it is the right time to seek medical attention, said Dr Sanket Shah, Onco Surgeon and Consultant, Global Hospital, Parel, Mumbai. It’s important to seek medical help without any delay as timely treatment can help cure breast cancer, added Dr Sanket Shah, who also explains the many risk factors associated with the condition and what measures can be taken to prevent or reduce the chances of getting it.

Risk factors for breast cancer

  • Women in the postmenopausal group (>45 years) are more likely to suffer from breast cancer but it can occur at a younger age also.
  • If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or have already had breast cancer in one breast, then you may also suffer from it in the other breast.
  • Moreover, you will also be shocked to know that factors like obesity, smoking, alcohol and hypertension can also raise your risk of breast cancer.
  • Likewise, nulliparity and not breastfeeding the child and early menarche and late menopause can also be the culprits. Taking hormonal pills (not to be mistaken with contraceptive pills) is also associated with breast cancer sometimes.

How to diagnose breast cancer early

As a woman, you should be aware of the irregularities when it comes to your breast. A self-breast examination should be done monthly about the 7th day after the menstruation when you are most likely to find any lumps. Yearly consultation and clinical breast examination by the doctor. Also, mammograms can be helpful. Mammography can help you to detect breast cancer at an early stage and, hence, increases the chance for a cure. If breast cancer is detected at an early stage, then the patients will be able to get cured of the condition and preserve their breasts. As per USPSTF recommendation, a woman should undergo mammograms every 2 years starting at 50 years and till 75 years. Thus, a mammogram is very much important for early diagnosis and breast cancer cure.

Treatment for breast cancer

The treatment of breast cancer may vary depending upon the stage, size of the tumour, and the location.

Surgeries include lumpectomy which is carried out to help the patient get rid of the tumour and surrounding tissues by keeping your breast intact. In a mastectomy, the doctor may remove your breast, and both the surgeries can be associated with reconstructive surgery for good cosmesis.

Moreover, a patient might have to undergo chemotherapy, radiation, targeted or hormonal therapy. Timely treatment can be helpful in improving the survival and quality of the patient’s life.

How to keep breast cancer at bay


  • Screening: If there is a history of breast cancer in the family, it’s important to start screening 10 years prior to the earliest documented age of having breast cancer. These may include – monthly self-breast examination and yearly clinical breast examination with 2 yearly mammograms. Make an early consultation with a clinician in case of experiencing any symptoms.
  • Stay physically fit: You MUST see to it that you exercise on a daily basis for at least 30 minutes. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle and get rid of obesity.
  • Opt for a well-balanced diet: Give up on junk, sugary and oily food. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, you can also include whole grains, legumes and pulses, and nuts in your diet.  Bid adieu to alcohol and smoking.

With a few lifestyle changes, one can prevent or reduce the risk of breast cancer and other types of cancer.

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