Breast Cancer

Feb 01, 2023

Dr Ansar P P 
Assistant Professor and Head Department of Surgical Oncology 
Sree Gokulam Medical College and Research Foundation, Venjaramood 
Senior Consultant Surgical Oncologist GG Hospital, Trivandrum.

Breast cancer is a disease caused by uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in the breast and most commonly it presents as a painless lump or swelling. Breast cancer cells are oestrogen dependent for growth and multiplication. Oestrogen is a female hormone responsible for growth of breast , gonads and female genetalia. Reasons for excess oestrogen activity are early menarche( onset of menstruation before 12 years of age), late first child birth ( after 33 years) , nulliparity ( no children), non breast feeding or inadequate breast feeding, late menopause
( menstruation stops after 55 years of age) and obesity( excess body weight).
Most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump in the breast. Bloody nipple discharge, thickened, reddish and oedematous skin( orange peel like), swelling in the armpit are other less common symptoms. In advanced stages patients may present with loss of appetite, weight loss, chronic cough , breathlessness and back pain.
Majority of breast cancer are sporadic, but approximately 10 % is due to hereditary causes. That means it is transmitted from parents to children by inherited mutations in the cancer causing genes such as BRCA 1 and 2. Such families with hereditary breast cancer can be suspected if there is a member in the family who had cancer at a very young age ( less than 35 years), multiple family members who are blood relatives having same cancer, multiple generations in a family is affected by same cancer. Such families can be screened for causative mutations and preventive treatments can be initiated in unaffected family members. Genetic testing can be done in blood sample.
Most of the breast cancer patients can be treated and cured if detected early, so one should meet a doctor preferably surgical oncologist if any symptoms of breast cancer is suspected or strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy , hormone therapy and targeted therapy are the common treatment methods available. Nowadays oncoplastic surgery helps patients to save their breast and achieve a reasonable quality of life. Breast cancer is a curable disease if detected early. Awareness about cancer symptoms will help women to seek treatment early and get cured through proper treatment approach.
Breast cancer can be prevented to some extent by early first child birth ( preferably below 30 years) , breast feeding for minimum of 2 years, maintaining adequate body weight and taking healthy diet and doing regular exercise.