GUWAHATI, Oct 25 - Anupriya (name changed), a college girl barely 17 years of age, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Unfortunately, the diagnosis came out in stage IV, making prognosis highly poor for the young girl. Even as efforts are on to save her or prolong her life through chemotherapy, this case highlights the fact that breast cancer is not exclusive to women who have crossed middle age, as is widely believed.
�Clinical evidence suggests that breast cancer occurrence has increased in relatively younger women today. Unlike a decade back, when most women patients diagnosed with breast cancer were above 50, today more women under 50 years of age are being diagnosed with the disease. Even relatively younger women today are reporting instances of breast cancer, putting special emphasis on the need for greater awareness, self-examination and screening,� said Dr Umesh Das, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Dispur Hospital, Guwahati.
It may be mentioned that breast cancer has already overtaken cervical cancer as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women in India. It is the second most common cancer in the world, and by far the most common cancer among women with an estimated 1.67 million new cancer cases diagnosed in 2012 (25 percent of all cancers).
According to estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly 1,44,937 women in India were detected with breast cancer in 2012 and 70,218 of them died, making it one death for every two new diagnoses.
�Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of the women are diagnosed with breast cancer at stage III or IV in India, drastically affecting survival rate and restricting treatment options. It is pertinent to note that half of the mortality due to breast cancer in India can be reduced by ensuring screening and timely detection. Cancer is curable if detected early; that is why early screening is important. While the numbers of incidence for breast cancer remain higher in more developed countries, rates of mortality are higher in less developed regions like India � the primary reason being late diagnosis,� added Dr Das.
On the causes of the illness, Dr Das said lifestyle change is also one of the factors. �Evidence suggests that urbanisation and adoption of western lifestyles and living practices result in rising incidence of breast cancer. Apart from genetic predisposition and genetic mutation, other factors that augment a woman�s risk of breast cancer include delay in pregnancy, reduced breast feeding practices, lack of physical activity, obesity as well as increasing prevalence of smoking and drinking among women.�
Dr Das mentioned that in a country like India where regular screening is yet to become a norm, regular self-breast examination is very useful for early detection of breast cancer.
�A regular self-examination will make a woman conscious of any minute change taking place in her body and help it report on time. If a subject finds any abnormality in the breasts she should immediately report to physician, which will help in early intervention.�
For women with average risk, monthly breast self-examination (BSE) along with three yearly clinical breast examination (CBE) after 25 years and annual CBE with mammography yearly after the age of 40 years is recommended. Women with increased risk determined with risk prediction model require early and more vigilant screening with six monthly CBE beginning at 30.