Dr Peush Bajpai says 1.5 lakh new female patients are detected with breast cancer every year. The scenario is that approximately 70% of patients are diagnosed in its advanced stage. This increases the cost of treatment because later the presentation more is the requirement of modalities of treatment (surgery, radiotherapy, chemo-hormonal therapy/targeted therapy).
There are certain myths, which we would like to discuss.
#Myth: Breast cancer usually happens in a person having a history of the disease
Fact: The most common cause of cancer is advancing age. In addition to this, a prolonged exposure to the hormonal swings during the menstrual cycle, factors like nulliparity and no breastfeeding are also few causes of breast cancer. The contraceptive pills do not decrease the risk of breast cancer but contribute in a prevention of ovarian cancer. The BRCA (breast cancer gene) mutation is responsible for causing breast as well as ovarian cancer and also prostate cancer in males. It is required to discuss the complete family history with physicians to decide on a treatment plan.
#Myth: If detected with BRCA gene positive in a healthy female, does one require undergoing Breast Removal Surgery (mastectomy)?
Fact: It depends whether the mutation detected is clinically significant or not. In a clinically significant mutation, the chances of acquiring Breast and Ovarian Cancer are greater than 50%. Adopting a healthy lifestyle like consuming a diet rich in antioxidants, regular exercising, avoiding active and passive smoking can reduce the risk. Apart from this, the person can annually undergo an annual MRI and start oral hormonal therapy.
#Myth: All breast lumps are cancerous
Fact: Breast lumps can be detected by doing a self-breast examination regularly. You can check for lumps or swell in the breast using the palm of your other hand. However, most of the lumps are non-cancerous in nature. A painless lump after 4th decade should be reported to the family physician or Gynaecologist.
#Myth: Mammogram can prevent Breast Cancer/ Mammograms are harmful because of radiation
Fact: Mammograms have been used as a screening test to detect cancer at an early stage. Doctors recommend getting a digital mammogram done after 40 years to improve the outcome. This will increase awareness about the disease and provide possible chances of recovery.
#Myth: Biopsy is a cause of spreading/spillage of cancer cells
Fact: It is true that Biopsy is of utmost importance before any treatment, therefore it is essential to establish a comprehensive diagnosis. However, experts totally disagree with the myth.
#Myth: Which is a better procedure- Breast Cancer Surgery or Breast Conservation Surgery?
Fact: Breast Conservation surgery is the way to go if it can be done and the overall outcomes are quite equivalent with Mastectomy.
#Myth: Chemotherapy results in permanent Alopecia?
Fact: Chemotherapy does cause Alopecia but once the whole treatment schedule is over, you can experience hair growth. Some patients report a better texture and quality of hair after therapy completion.
#Myth: Chemotherapy is essential in all Breast Cancer patients
Fact: It depends on the variant of Breast Cancer. If the patient has a strong Estrogen receptor and Progesterone receptor, then the patient can be treated with oral hormonal therapy. There are a few genetic tests that can predict in the same group of patients, whether the patient can derive benefit from hormonal therapy or chemotherapy, which your Oncologist will discuss with you.