October is the month of Breast Cancer Awareness. Tamima Islam of Colors catches up with Dr. Raju T Chacko, Senior Consultant of Medical Oncology at Apollo Hospitals, Dhaka, to get to know a bit more about breast cancer.
Cancer has become a threat to human health and life in today’s world where breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women, says the World Cancer Research Fund. Awareness is a vital step in the process of combatting this disease.
The first misconception, according to Dr. Raju T Chacko, is knowing breast cancer as a ‘women-only disease’. “Though it is rare in men, it is important to be aware that breast cancer affects both men and women and we should all be equally aware of it,” he states.
Symptoms of breast cancer include lumps, discharge, one breast getting larger than the other, and orange-peel-like appearance of the skin. If such symptoms are ever experienced, you are advised to consult a doctor as soon as possible.
With the most common symptom being a lump, Dr. Raju underlines the importance of engaging in ‘breast self-examinations’ once every month. As prescribed by the physician himself, one can do this by feeling for lumps on the breasts and under the armpits, preferably with soapy hands while in the shower.
“For best results, this should be done 10 days after one’s menstrual cycle ends,” he shares. “By doing this regularly, women become more breast-aware and can sometimes find small liaisons that can’t even be picked up by the mammogram.”
Although we cannot fully control the occurrence of breast cancer, we sure can reduce the chances of getting it. Dr. Raju emphasizes living a healthy lifestyle, free of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy eating habits that lead to obesity.
“Nowadays we exercise less and eat out more,” he explains. “Obesity, smoking and drinking alcohol uncontrollably are some of the things that influence the chances of getting cancer. More than that, consuming excess red meat is also a contributing factor.”
However, if a close relative has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer, you might be at a higher risk and immediate screening is advised, just to stay on the safe side.
“Screening, which is a way of checking whether there are any tumors present, is usually started at the age of 40 in the Indian sub-continent, while the age tends to be higher in other parts of the world,” Dr. Raju observes. “The earlier you diagnose breast cancer, the easier it is to fight it.” Although much awareness has been raised and facilities have been made available, some women still tend to refrain from seeing a doctor out of fear – fear of facing a long and tough journey ahead. Dr. Raju says Apollo Hospitals Dhaka is equipped with some of the best and well-trained doctors, with an entire unit dedicated to cancer patients and contains top-notch quality machinery so that you can face the issue positively and be assured to get the best results.