New Delhi (India), May 26: On Women’s Health Day, it serves as a poignant reminder of the crucial role women play in our lives, families, and communities. On this occasion, we shed light on an issue of paramount importance: breast cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among women worldwide. Early detection is pivotal in improving prognosis and increasing survival rates, making it imperative for women to be aware of the early signs and symptoms.
Here, we have gathered insights from multiple renowned oncologists who share their expert advice on recognizing the initial indications of cancer in a woman.
Dr. Amish Vora, MBBS, MD, DNB, DM – Medical Oncology, Co-founder & Director – HOPE ONCOLOGY CLINIC, New Delhi
Says as we all have heard, “In case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop down. FIRST, PUT AN OXYGEN MASK ON YOURSELF, THEN HELP OTHERS.” This very much applies to women of 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 change in their breasts (size, shape, discharge, lump) or untimely bleeding per vaginum.
When diagnosed in an early stage, treatment not only cures you but keeps you as a whole without any organ sacrifice. Even today, in 2023, the majority of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are in stage 3 or 4. Why? Just because they have ignored the symptoms. Checkpoint: any abdominal discomfort or pain for more than 14 days (age more than 40 years); test to be done: please get USG abdomen and CA 125 (a blood test). Last but not least, vaccinate your daughters against cervical cancer.
Dr. Rajesh Bollam, MBBS (Gold Medalist), DNB, DM (Medical Onco-TMH) MRCP Medical Oncology (UK) European Certified Medical Oncologist, Secunderabad
Breast cancer can show different signs and symptoms in each individual. It’s important to remember that these signs and symptoms are not exclusive to breast cancer and may also be caused by other health conditions. If you notice any signs, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.
Lumpiness 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 the skin texture, such as redness, dimpling, puckering, or the appearance of an orange peel texture. Additionally, any unexplained rashes around the nipple or on the breast should be evaluated. Early detection is key to improving treatment outcomes for breast cancer. 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.
Dr. Shivakumar Uppala, MBBS, MS, MCH (Surgical Oncology), FAIS, FMAS, Consultant Surgical, Oncologist & 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 regular breast cancer and cannot be treated while the patient is pregnant. Dr. Shiva says, “Normally, we advise abortion if the PABC is discovered during the first trimester. If we wait until delivery, cancer can advance from stage 1 to stage 4”. Treatment is postponed until delivery during the third trimester. During the second trimester, patients must decide between PABC treatment after delivery or the risky option of abortion.
Removing the tumour mass surgically can be done safely, even if the woman is in her eighth or ninth month of pregnancy. Breastfeeding will have to be temporarily discontinued during chemotherapy sessions because the drugs used in the treatment can enter the breast milk and affect the newborn baby. Post-PABC treatment, the chances of chemotherapy affecting a woman’s egg count or fertility are extremely low.
Dr. Manish Sadhwani, MS MCh (Surgical Oncology), Cancer Surgeon – Airavat Cancer Care, Ahmedabad
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among females in India and hence needs our utmost attention on two major fronts: screening and early detection. Your screening habits of a monthly self-breast examination and yearly mammography will detect cancer at the earliest possible time. Vigilance by oneself for changes in one’s breast, like any lump, nipple discharge, or skin change, is needed every hour.
Such symptoms should not create fear in the patient’s mind; rather, she should be proactive and consult a doctor to get them investigated. Such early detection helps effectively achieve a complete cure for the disease. The early-stage disease has options for advanced oncoplasty and breast-preserving surgeries.
Dr. Pratik Patil, Consultant Oncologist, Jupiter Hospital, Pune
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in India, with a diagnosis rate of 1 in every 30 females in urban India. Diagnosing it at its earliest stage makes it 100% curable. Although a few females have no symptoms until they appear on a routine mammogram, every female after the age of 40 should get a diagnostic mammogram done.
A few signs and symptoms of early breast cancer include: Irritated or itchy 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 flaking of the nipple skin, A breast lump or thickening, Redness or pitting of the breast skin (like the skin of an orange). The right treatment at the right time by the right doctor is the only mantra for survival from breast cancer.
Dr. Shreeniwas Sheelawant Raut, DM, HOD, Medical and Hematoncologist, Stem Cell Transplant Physician – Bharti Vidyapeeth and Hospital, Pune
After treating thousands of patients in a decade of practice, Dr. Shreeniwas Sheelawant Raut said that “the most common early warning sign of breast cancer is a lump in your breast and/or underarm. This is often the first symptom. Your doctor can usually see a lump on a regular mammogram even before you notice it. Another sign is swelling in your armpit or near your collarbone if breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in that area. Some may feel kinked or prickly. A flat or scarred area on your breast, Breast changes such as a difference in your breast size, fluid, temperature, changes to your nipple, or A marble-like area under your skin.
You need to do a biopsy and further imaging for characterization and staging. Ultimately, treatment will be surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted therapy according to her hormonal receptor and her 2-expression status.
Dr. Rohit Ranade, MS, MCh (Gynecological Oncology), Narayana Health City, Bengaluru
Gynaecological cancer symptoms 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 doctor increases the chances of early detection when treatment is most effective. Gynaecological cancer encompasses uterine, ovarian, cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and breast cancers, mostly affecting postmenopausal women but can occur before menopause.
Key symptoms to watch for include abnormal uterine bleeding (e.g., heavy, prolonged, intermenstrual spotting), vaginal discharge (unless foul-smelling or blood-tinged), weight loss, reduced appetite, fatigue, ongoing abdominal pain, bloating, and cramps, abdominal distension (possibly ovarian cancer-related), changes in bowel or bladder habits (e.g., constipation, blood in stools, frequency changes), and breast changes or lumps. While these symptoms don’t always indicate cancer, persistent symptoms warrant medical evaluation. Being aware of these signs empowers women to take proactive steps for their health.
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