Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers. Around one in nine women develop breast cancer at some stage in their life. Most develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can also develop in men, although this is rare. Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.
But With advancement in technology, breast cancer is no longer an incurable disease. With the latest technology available at top cancer hospitals in India, breast cancer can now be detected at very early stages and can be completely treated. The approach used for cancer treatment in India is multidisciplinary, which involves Surgical Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Medical Oncology and rehabilitation after cancer surgery. The top cancer specialists in India use the latest international protocols for the treatment of cancer which includes the following depending upon the patient’s condition and requirements.
What are Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
In early stages, breast cancer usually has no symptoms. As the tumor progresses, you may note the following signs:
- Swelling in the armpit
- Pain or tenderness in the breast
- A lump in the breast, is often the first apparent symptom of breast cancer, breast lumps are usually painless, although some may cause a prickly sensation. Lumps are usually visible on a mammogram long before they can be seen or felt.
- A noticeable flattening or indentation on the breast which may indicate a tumor that cannot be seen or felt
- Any change in the contour, texture or temperature of the breast, reddish, pitted surface like the skin of an orange (called peu de orange) is symptomatic of advanced breast cancer.
- A change in the nipple, such as an indrawn or dimpled look, itching or burning sensation, or ulceration, scaling of the nipple is symptomatic of Paget’s disease, a localized cancer.
- Unusual discharge from the nipple that may be clear, bloody or of another color, usually caused by benign conditions but possibly due to cancer.
Usually, a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals will be involved in the treatment of breast cancer. Consisting of oncologists, specialist cancer surgeon, reconstructive surgeons, specialist nurse, radiographer, radiologist & pathologist, the team may sometimes also include physical therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist & dietitian.
Factors they will take into account while deciding the type of treatment will include –
- Type of breast cancer.
- Grade & stage of breast cancer, including size of tumor & extent of spread.
- Cancer cells sensitivity to hormones.
- Age of the patient.
- Overall health of patient.
- Patient’s personal preferences
Diagnostic Tests & Procedures for Breast Cancer
- Breast Exam – Both breasts of the patient will be examined by the physician. He will look for lumps & other abnormalities like nipple discharge, inverted nipples and/or change in shape of the breasts. Patient will also be asked to sit/stand with arms in different positions like above head & by the sides.
- X-ray – Mammogram – This is commonly used for screening breast cancer. In cases where anything unusual is noticed, doctors may order a diagnostic mammogram. Difference of opinion persists among doctors as to the right age for have routine screening. Some say 40 years as base while others insist on 50 years. Quite a few also believe that only high-risk groups should undergo routine screening.
- 2D Combined with 3D Mammogram – This combination effectively reduces incidences of false positives. Researchers found that where 66% of adult females were detected in 2D & 3D screenings, only 33% tested positive in 2D combined with 3D mammograms.
- Breast Ultrasound – This type of scan will enable doctors determine if a lump or abnormality is solid mass or fluid filled cyst.
- Biopsy – Sample of tissue from a lump or abnormality is the best guide to presence of cancer in the breasts. This small piece of tissue which is surgically removed is sent to the lab for analysis. If cells are found to be cancerous under the microscope, the lab will also additionally determine the grade of cancer. However, for accurate diagnosis, biopsy samples from multiple tumor sites need to be taken.
Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – This is done with the help of dye which is injected into the patient. This scan will also help doctors determine the extent of cancer. MRI also provides a useful indication of breast tumor’s response to pre-surgical chemotherapy through clinical examination.
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