Breast Cancer – A Life Changing Diagnosis

A breast cancer diagnosis comes with a lot of emotional turmoil. There is increased public awareness about the prevalence of breast cancer, therefore more diagnoses are coming earlier which is good for one’s prognosis. One of the most The common reasons, a woman goes to the doctor or clinic for a breast check up, is the recent diagnosis or death of a friend or relative from breast cancer. Although many women are willing to do a mammogram, they find it a challenge to change their life-styles. People who live a fast paced life have difficulty finding time to focus in on diet and health. Even believers in healthy life-style find themselves indulging in junk food on a regular basis. It’s easier to grab take-out on the way to the soccer game than go home and prepare a home made meal. This is the scenario all over the world. Busy lifestyles coupled with the abundance of advertising of junk food is not an easy combination to swim against. It is important to be aware of the risks of an unhealthy diet (red meat, processed food, fried food, white flour and food containing simple carbohydrates), smoking, alcohol, and physical inactivity.

How to prevent Breast Cancer?

It is true that despite adopting a healthy life-style, you are not risk-free if you have a strong family history of breast cancer, but it can significantly reduce your chances of getting cancer. The risk of cancer arises due to mutation of specific genes. When the genes mutated, you are at risk of developing cancer. It needs multiple mutations to develop cancer. These mutations are caused by obesity, smoking, alcohol, and some hormonal drugs. Genetics are not under your control so you should work on factors which are and try not worry about those which are not under your control.

Good news is that now there are drugs known to us which can not only treat but also prevent breast cancer. These medications include Raloxifen, Tamoxifen, Exemestane and Ibuprofen. Drugs which are used for treatment of breast cancer, and for prevention of osteoporosis are showing good results for prevention of breast cancer as well. Now the question is who should use those drugs? For that, some genetic testing can be done to those females who have a history of several family members being diagnosed with cancer, or if it was diagnosed at an early age, or the breast cancer sufferer had shown mutant genes in genetic testing. You can also have genetic testing, if in your family, there is history of ovarian, colon, or stomach cancer. Certain minor surgeries can also reduce your breast cancer risk. Do not forget that even male members are at risk of breast cancer and family history on father’s side also increases your risk for breast cancer.

Early detection of Breast Cancer

So we talked about prevention of breast cancer. Let's talk about early detection of breast cancer. It is a known fact that if breast cancer is diagnosed early, cure rate is better. There are certain ways to achieve an early early diagnosis.

  • The simplest and cheapest way is a self breast examination. It should be done by all females once a month after menstruation. A self breast exam can and should be learned by everyone. There are certain cancer centers or clinics, where you can ask a health practitioner to show you the process. Most gynecologists will offer to guide you in the process as well. During the month of October, which is breast cancer awareness month, there tends to be a lot of good information out in the community so take advantage and visit a local forum or read up on all the information released.
  • Another step that can be taken is to go for a clinical examination by doctor. Mammograms and ultrasounds of the breasts are recommended for women who are at high risk for breast cancer starting at a younger age and in normal risk woman at the age of 45 years. It should be done once a year. Ultrasounds have no risk, as radiation is not involved, they are useful for younger age groups and those with more fibrous tissue. Mammogram is not a comfortable procedure, and does involve some radiation. This risk is negligible, but to reduce the risk, we do mammograms and MRI every other year. MRI is an expensive diagnostic modality but radiation free.

What if you are diagnosed with Breast Cancer?

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, remember we are now living in an era where there is very drastic improvement in cancer management. You must be familiar with the survivors of the breast cancer for more than 20 years. Life style is still very significant in getting a better cure rate and prevention of further spread. There are different modes of treatment, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, alone or in combination depending upon the stage of your cancer. After the treatment, certain drugs are to be taken to prevent the recurrence. Remember, there are different social groups of breast cancer survivors, and you should consider joining a group. There are also online forums you can join and be surrounded by people going through a similar time in life. When you hear their story, you will know that we can beat cancer. Be a fighter, be a winner!

Author Profile:

Dr. Haseena Hamdani, MBBS, DGO, PGD Endocrinology and Diabetes (USW)

Haseena Hamdani

I am a Gynaecologist, currently practicing in Gaborone, Botswana for the last 17 years. Prior to setting up the clinic in Botswana I worked as a Gynecologist and Obstetrician in both India and Zambia and associated with an Infertility center. I am also an online tutor for University of South Wales. I have nearly three decades of clinical experience. My research field of interest is Preventive Oncology. In my free time I enjoy playing sporcle games, swimming and brisk walking. It is my firm belief that healthy life-style choices can prevent any number of diseases. There are various myths, social pressure, media pressure and busy life-style elements, which hinder even those who are believers and followers of healthy life-style. Doing my part to spread scientific knowledge and awareness brings me immense pleasure.