One in every 28 women is likely to get affected by breast cancer, according to research by the Indian Cancer Society.
The tragic part about breast cancer is that even your last chemotherapy session doesn’t really mark the end of your tryst with breast cancer. There are psychological as well as physical implications that come as a part of it. While the former can be healed with therapy, the stigma of having to remove one’s breasts is more painful to accept. It is best to check for any signs of breast cancer at home by yourself every few weeks.
Here are a few signs of breast cancer that women should not take lightly:
● Change in the size or shape of the breast
● Pain in the breast area
● Thickening, swelling or irritation in the breast
● Discharge of blood from the nipple
● Colour change in the breast area
● Swelling in the armpit or near the collarbone
Lumps in the breast can be caused by medical conditions other than Cancer, like a cyst. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that make the breast tender, sore or uneven. Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is important, only then would you be able to realize if any change occurs in your body.
When should you see a doctor?
If you notice any changes in your breast, there is no need to go into panic mode. Changes in the breast occur over one’s lifetime, but it would be wise to check with a doctor to know the cause behind it so you can rest your fears.
More than the fear of being diagnosed with breast cancer, the stigma attached to being open about one’s intimate body part is the biggest impediment in women reaching out to medical professionals.
Another fear among women is that a breast cancer diagnosis would always lead to a mastectomy, the surgical removal of breast tissues. The fear and panic that they might have to surgically remove their breasts if cancerous cells are found stops women from even checking for an abnormality. Breast cancer is often detected in the late stages because women do not proactively self-check due to the above reasons.
Blood tests, mammograms, breast MRIs, clinical exam, breast ultrasound, biopsy etc., are some of the tests used to check if there is breast cancer. It isn’t mandatory that one has to undertake all these tests. Based on the circumstances and symptoms, the medical professional will mandate the tests.
Organizations that help breast cancer victims:
India’s breast cancer survival rate is only 60%, while it is 89% in the US. The lack of awareness and stigma associated with the illness is the reason for these unjustifiable deaths. If detected early, many women will live a longer life and will not have to put themselves through aggressive treatment.
Organizations like Youwecan, a not-for-profit initiative by former cricketer Yuvraj Singh, is one of the organisations that empower people who are fighting cancer through awareness, early detection, and support. Bangalore-based startup Niramai even provides doorstep breast health screening and report in 24 hours. Karunashraya- a project of the Indian Cancer Society (Karnataka Chapter) - provides care to patients with advanced-stage cancer.
Disclaimer: We are not trained medical professionals, and we do not have authority to pass medical information. We would advise you to visit a medical professional who will be able to give you proper care, instead of indulging in self-medication.
(Edited by Athira Nair)