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Essentials in the prevention of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, about 2 Lakh women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and 40 thousand women die due to the disease. This statistical number can be decreased markedly by spreading the awareness of disease and preventing it by early diagnosis and treatment.

Breast cancer is a disease of the elderly (>50 Yrs). Early menace and late menopause by exposure to oestrogen increases the risk while conceiving a child at an early age and breast feeding decreases the risk by 50%. Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy increases the risk by 1.5 times by increasing the exposure to oestrogen while progesterone decreases the risk of cancer. Exposure to radiation such as that from chest x-rays, especially in women before 20 years of age and radiation therapy for chest tumours may further increase the risk of breast cancer. A previous history of benign breast cancer carries an increase risk, so a regular follow up is mandatory. Any change of breast density on mammography need to be followed regularly. Women with family history of cancer and who have inherited changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have a higher risk of breast cancer.

Modifiable Life style Risk factors

  1. Exercise: Keep yourself physically fit. Obesity increases the risk.

  2. To avoid smoking and alcohol intake which is associated with increased risk of breast cancer.

  3. Diet is an important factor impacting the breast cancer: Planning a healthy diet which includes green leafy vegetables and fruits like Broccoli, carrot, spinach, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, parsley, apples, kiwi, plums, peaches, tomatoes and pomegranates can help reduce the risk. Drinking coffee and salmon has beneficial effects in preventing breast cancer.

Screening must be performed based on guidelines depending upon the age:

If between 20-39 years: Do a self breast examination and get a clinical breast examination every 3 years.

If age > 40 years: Get a clinical breast examintion every year and mammograph done every 2 years.

Any swelling or change in the swelling after diagnosis to be informed to the clinician immediately.