The World health organization has documented breast cancer as one of the most frequent cancers among women throughout the world, infecting 2.1 million women each year, and ultimately associated with a substantial number of deaths occurring globally. 40,000 women lose their lives each year in a battle against breast cancer.
In the recent epochs, there has been a rapid surge in Breast Cancer cases in Asian countries, including Pakistan. 1 in every 9 women in Pakistan is being diagnosed with breast cancer, it is the highest number acclaimed among Asian countries. Delayed referral and diagnosis are one of the prevailing factors for rise in death tolls.
Signs & Symptoms
The cancer is usually expressed on a scale of 5 stages. The stage of cancer indicates the size of the tumor of abnormal cells and whether or not those cells are contained to the place of origin. There are 5 stages: stage 0 (zero), which is noninvasive ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), and stages I through IV (1 through 4), which depict invasive breast cancer.
Signs and symptoms include:
- New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Detection & Diagnosis
In a country like Pakistan where talking and discussing about this sensitive and delicate issue is still considered a taboo, it is crucial to educate the marginalized and underprivileged group for an early detection and diagnosis.
Early Detection: According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%. Early detection includes doing monthly breast self-exams, scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.
Steps taken for detection of breast cancer include:
- BSE – Breast Self-Examination
- Clinical Breast Examination
- Mammography Screening
- Ultrasound, MRI
- Biopsy and Lab tests
Even though Stage 0 breast cancer is considered “non-invasive,” it does require immediate treatment, typically surgery or radiation, or a combination of the two. Chemotherapy is usually not part of the treatment regimen for earlier stages of cancer.
Stage 1 is highly treatable, however, it does require immediate treatment, typically surgery and often radiation, or a combination of both. Additionally, you may consider hormone therapy, depending on the type of cancer cells found and the additional risk factors.