Ignoring the Silent Threat: Don't Let Breast Lumps Sneak Up on You!

By Dr. Meenu Walia in Cancer Care / Oncology , Breast Cancer

Oct 17 , 2023 | 3 min read

In a recent visit to my OPD, a patient strolled in with an unexpected twist to her breast pain story. She casually mentioned, "I had a breast lump; it didn't hurt, so I didn't bother..." Little did she know that her ignorant approach to her health could have had serious consequences.

Upon examination, we discovered a sizable lump, about an inch in diameter, nestled within her breast. Astonishingly, when questioned about its existence, she admitted noticing it five long months ago. The reason she hadn't sought help earlier? It was painless and didn't cause her any discomfort.

Sadly, this scenario is far from unique; it's a common occurrence among women. Many factors contribute to this alarming trend:

  • Lack of awareness.
  • A "Family First" mindset.
  • Reluctance to visit a doctor.

Check out - Top 10 Myths About Breast Cancer

Most Indian women disregard the well-being of their breasts until a close encounter with breast cancer, either through someone they know or a tragic loss. Globally, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer, with a diagnosis occurring every 19 seconds. In India, the statistics are stark: 1 in 28 women will develop breast cancer, and for every two who face it, one may not survive.

These numbers underscore the rising incidence of breast cancer in India, driven by a complex interplay of genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors. While some cases are linked to hereditary factors, it's important to note that the inherited gene itself, rather than cancer, poses a risk.

Surprisingly, a mere 5% to 10% of all cancers directly result from inherited gene mutations. Among these, BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are the most prevalent, accounting for up to 10% of all breast cancer cases.

Check out - Best Lifestyle Practices to Keep Your Breasts Healthy

So, what's the proactive approach to take? Screening!

Experience has shown that a whopping 90% of breast lumps are discovered by women themselves. However, only a medical professional can accurately determine if a lump is benign or malignant. The key is to follow screening guidelines and promptly report any irregularities diligently.

Malignant tumours often manifest as solitary, firm lumps, usually painless but occasionally causing discomfort. Yet, there are other telltale signs to watch out for, such as nipple secretions, changes in nipple appearance, nipple tenderness, and skin dimpling or puckering.

Early detection is the game-changer, offering a chance to diagnose and treat the disease at a more manageable stage. Breast cancers detected during screening exams are often in their infancy, confined to the breast.

Here are the general screening guidelines for women:

  • Age 20 and above: Conduct regular breast self-examinations every month.
  • Age 30 and above: Undergo periodic clinical breast examinations every three years.
  • Age 40 and above: Schedule annual mammograms.

Apart from screening, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is paramount in reducing the risk of breast cancer. Regular physical activity maintains healthy weight, lowering estrogen levels and decreasing the likelihood of cancerous cell growth. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides essential nutrients and antioxidants that bolster the body's defence mechanisms against cancer. Limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding smoking further diminishes the risk. Moreover, a healthy lifestyle promotes overall well-being, reducing stress levels and boosting the immune system. Stress management methods like meditation and yoga are crucial for breast cancer prevention. By embracing a healthy lifestyle, individuals empower themselves in the fight against breast cancer, fostering a future of greater well-being and longevity.

Remember, prevention is always superior to a cure. The earlier the condition is detected, the higher the likelihood of a successful breast cancer treatment. With a 5-year relative survival rate close to 100% for localized breast cancer, vigilance is key. If you notice any changes in your breasts, don't hesitate - consult a breast cancer specialist. Your health is worth it!