Breast Cancer is the most common type of cancer throughout the world. In India, 14% of women suffer from it. Reports even say that in every four-minute, an Indian woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.
To know more about breast cancer, Fit Northeast approached Dr Sunil Baruah, who is the first Endocrine and Breast Surgeon in the entire Northeast.
Fit Northeast: When people hear the word cancer, then the first thing which hits their minds is "DEATH". What do you have to say about that?
Dr Baruah: No, its not the same for all cancers. There are some cancers that are very good and there are some cancers that are very bad.
I would rather categorize breast cancer in the category of good cancer. The evolution of treatments, development of finer chemotherapies, immune-therapies, hormonal therapies. It can be said that the deadliness of this disease is coming down and in developed countries; it's almost a manageable chronic disease. The entire thing depends on how quickly we can catch hold of this disease and start our treatment.
Fit Northeast: At what can may one have breast cancer and how can we educate the girls so that they can take care of it?
Dr Baruah: Generally below the age of 30, it is very rare. It may happen with a few people with might have a very strong family history of cancer; especially ovarian cancer. People having such a history should be more aware. People above 35/40 should be aware if they notice any kind of lump in their breast, any bloody discharge from their nipple, redness of breast skin, lumps under the armpits. As we grow older, the chances of breast cancer increase.
Fit Northeast: How can a breast examination is done to detect the lump in the breast?
Dr Baruah: while doing the breast self-examination, one should use the flat of their hand to palate all the four quadrants along with the central quadrant of the breast (over the nipple). Check if there is any discharge. There are several lymph nodes near and under the axilla (located under the armpit) which should be palpated and checked regularly.
Fit Northeast: What is the perfect age that a girl can start self-examination and what should be the frequency of the test?
Dr Baruah: If the person is someone with is no family history (or someone who has a usual risk), then they can start checking from 35-40. The frequency may be six monthly.
Fit Northeast: Breast cancer detected at which stage makes it easier for getting the proper treatment?
Breast Cancer is the most common type of cancer throughout the world. In India, 14% of women suffer from it.Dr Baruah: If we can catch hold of the disease at the first stage itself, the treatment becomes easy. 99% of the people will survive at least 5 years if detected and treated accordingly from the first stage. There is another type of breast cancer called the TRIPLE NEGATIVE BREAST CANCER. Even if we can detect in the first stage, the person can live a longer life. With the passage of time, we are getting better immunotherapy, hormonal therapy which is making treatments easier.
In the stage 2 and 3, the survival rates go down and in stage 4, cancer starts spreading to the other parts of the body like the bone, the skin, the lungs, (and maybe ) even to the brain and liver.
After the disease starts spreading the survival rate drops and it becomes very difficult to save one.
Fit Northeast: What is the line of treatment in breast cancer?
Dr Baruah: if the case is detected in stages 1 and 2, the first treatment would be surgery. Then depending on some health parameters, it may not be necessary to go for chemotherapies. In stage 3, chemotherapy may be given to shrink the tumour so that it can be easily operated on and brought out.
In stage 4, generally, the first line of treatment is chemotherapy. In such cases, surgery is done to prevent local complications. Other than the surgery there are other modes of treatment. One is immunotherapy and one is hormonal therapy.
Fit Northeast: Doctor, apart from chemotherapy, you have mentioned some other therapies as well. Do those therapies also have ill or side effects on the human body?
Dr Baruah: The other therapies are much better tolerated than chemo. But it should be noted that every therapy might show some symptoms later on. Like there may be menopausal symptoms after hormonal therapy or there may be weakening of bones but that can be easily managed by medicines.
Fit Northeast: Is there a chance that a treated case of breast cancer might recur in the future?
Dr Baruah: Yes, the higher the stage, the higher the chances of recurring. There are many factors on which it depends like the age, luck. Elder patients generally do well but the problem arises with the young patients. The younger the patient is, the more aggressive the tumour is.
Fit Northeast: Any message for the viewers?
Dr Baruah: Any kind of issue or problem with the breast, be it redness, be it inflammation or any kind of discharge should not be neglected. The doctor might suggest an FNAC, mammogram to detect the main problem. There should not be any delay done and patients should not be embarrassed.