OCTOBER: Pink Ribbon Month

OCTOBER: Pink Ribbon Month

Monitoring yourself for abnormal changes and having regular mammograms you’re more likely to detect it early

Many of my patients have conflicting opinion about breast cancer. While one side they consider, breasts are symbols of beauty and femininity, but on the flip side ignore something serious which needs early attention. Many women don’t come forward to have regular screenings to ensure early detection so they can receive the right treatment. Stories like these are increasingly common – a dilemma wrapped inside a paradox, “Should I go to the doctor, or keep this to myself, get traditional treatment or seek other non-medical options?”, arising out of poor education about current status breast cancer management and good prognosis, many women still avoid doctors. Nobody knows how many patients put off medical visits oblivious to dangers of postponing consultation, living with it until the case worsens. The bottom line for many patients is fear: fear of discussing something intimate; fear of an uncomfortable test; fear of bad news of breast cancer may transform a woman’s breast into the vehicle of her death or disfigurement.Today,I tell them by ignoring, denying, or railing against the problem will not resolve it. Paradoxically, at a time when consumers are bombarded with more health information than ever before — much of it urging early detection and preventive care.

Awareness is the first step in battle against breast cancer. Women need to be more concerned about occurrence of breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean everyone who goes for screening harbors cancer. By screening cancer can be found as early as possible – while they are small and before they have spread. In general, the earlier a cancer is found and treated, the better the chances are for living for many years. Even if someone is detected don’t lose hope the advances medicine has made in treating the disease and prolonging life mean that it can be cured. Contrary to conventional wisdom, every cancer patient does not need chemotherapy, nor do all women need suffer from total breast removal / mastectomies at all, as all options of breast conservation and/or  immediate reconstruction are available to patient. While researching and treating this disease for more than thirty- years, a period in which the public awareness, management of breast cancer has changed   enormously, to see  two young girls from the city with advanced cancer breast still haunts me with, five Whys? Either patients seek consultation too late, or some physicians do miss early cases that is why in developing countries the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer do not survive long because their cancer is detected too late. Many of my colleagues will surely come forward with stories about patients. Having seen a champion who continues to live with the disease is very important for women with cancer.” Angelina Jolie effect’ is real: ‘the Hollywood actress’s decision to undergo a prophylactic bilateral removal of breasts and reconstructive surgery has improved the public’s understanding of the breast cancer management. 

 

THE FAQ:

IS THE BREAST CANCER IS CURABLE? 

Today,I am in position to declare If the tumor is smaller than the approximate size of a peanut (2 centimetres or smaller) similar to stage 0, breast cancer at this stage is very treatable and survivable. When breast cancer is detected early, and is in localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100%. The good news is that the vast majority of patients can now be treated under a supervision of multidisciplinary tumor board with cutting-edge, tailored treatment approaches and promising new medications and your choices for treatment depending  on the type and stage of your breast disease.

 

AM I AT RISK?

Be breast aware from age 20. While the risk of getting breast cancer is much lower for younger women, their breast cancer is sometimes more aggressive. The incidence of breast cancer increases as a women ages. In fact, around 75% of all breast cancer occurs in women over the age of 50, and only 8% of breast cancer cases occur in women under the age of 40. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to be breast aware from the age of 20. Start self-examining you and also your dear ones. This means knowing how your breasts normally look and feel and checking for any unusual changes at least once a month. The best time to check your breasts is about 10 days after your monthly period finishes, once any pain or lumpiness has settled down. There are often no symptom/s of breast cancer, but sometimes women may discover a painless lump in the breast,changes in breast size or shape; swelling in the armpit; nipple changes or discharge especially blood should alarm any woman to seek Medical opinion. All breast lumps are not cancerous, particularly those rubbery small mobile ones detected in teen age girls during their monthly periods so advice  here is don’t be afraid in volunteering any  information to your family members  or to your family doctor.

 

FIGHTING BREAST CANCER. 

Awareness of the importance of early diagnosis in increasing the chances of survival is paramount in fighting cancer breast. The month of October is the breast cancer awareness – pink ribbon month, utilized for awareness of the disease and promotion for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment. In a hope of cure, awareness campaigns can be a force and source for change and detection is just the first step. Early detection does not necessarily depend on expensive diagnostic equipment at places that don’t have widely available mammography technology for mass screening, routine clinical examination performed by well-trained community health workers, nurses and physicians even trained volunteers can help diagnose more cases earlier. In this direction, we had an opportunity to conduct an awareness program in collaboration with an NGO, at South campus Kashmir university, such outreach programmes if  organized more frequently  in remote areas are helpful to bring awareness on cancer.

Breast cancer today is not what it was two decades ago as survival rates from breast cancer are increasing. I know many of my patients who are surviving post-surgery, and/or  chemotherapy for  more than ten years. It is critical to assess whether people understand and remember the credible information they receive about breast cancer, a sizeable number of  women are still in  denial mode. Let me assure all those women who are afraid of seeking medical advice for the fear of being detected as breast cancer, for them, I can safely say today, that early breast cancer does not mean losing your life immediately, or losing your breast entirely. Promising life awaits you and options on breast preserving surgery are available  please  don’t delay your visit on these concerns.

 

Dr. Fiaz Fazili is Senior Surgeon