EXCLUSIVE: Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2021: Regular mammograms can help save many lives, opine Experts

Updated on Oct 15, 2021 12:07 AM IST  |  29.5K
Early detection is key
Experts opine that regular mammograms can help save many lives

It was only after Sidharth Shukla’s untimely demise that people, especially doctors, started emphasising on the importance of regular body check-ups. Before that, all we were angsting about was to build a super powerful immune system, just like that of a creature from some sci-fi movie. However, it goes without saying that when one thing takes the driver’s seat, the other, automatically is thrown at the back one.

So has happened with other diseases during COVID-19. Routine check-ups had gone for a toss, and hospitals seemed as horrific as graveyards. This was the second wave for you.

However, among all the fear what went amiss was care for cancer patients, and their treatment, of course. It has been decades since doctors have been constantly reminding people about the importance of regular screenings to prevent or treat cancer at the earliest.

But what needs a special mention is the fact that not many of us believe in making a visit to the hospital, because it is meant for the sick, to get themselves checked.

breast cancer awareness

According to experts, a majority of women above 40 fail to go for regular mammograms which can help in the early detection of breast cancer. A mammogram can often find breast changes that could be turned into cancer years before physical symptoms develop. Timely screening is a vital tool in the efficient management of breast cancer. Hence, women of every age group should opt for mammography.

Dr. Girija Wagh, Gynecologist, Apollo Spectra Hospital Pune says that there are many women with breast cancer who suffer in silence due to the lack of awareness. Early detection of cancer can give a positive outcome.

“Early detection of breast cancer is linked to a wide range of available treatment options, increased survival, and improved quality of life. Screening mammography is an important early detection method for reducing the number of deaths with breast cancer. A mammogram is like an X-ray of the breast and helps in detecting breast cancer up to two years before the tumour can be felt by you or your doctor. It shows the abnormal areas in the breast,” says Wagh.

early detection of breast cancer

She adds that a mammogram also allows spotting ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), abnormal cells in the lining of a breast duct that may develop into invasive cancer. Those women with a family history of breast cancer, dense breast tissues, BRCA1 AND BRCA2 gene mutation, obesity, having alcohol or smoking need to go for timely mammograms after 40, on a yearly basis.

“Pune has the highest number of cancers of the breast and seems to be related to urban lifestyle, lack of proper diet, physical activity, obesity, and environmental disruptors, especially parabens. Hence, improving general lifestyle is essential,” advises Wagh.

early detection is the cure

Dr. Keerthi Kotla, Consultant Pathologist, Apollo Diagnostic agrees with Wagh and says that screening is vital to catch breast cancer and treat it. Timely mammography gives you an understanding of breast health, reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer, and allows early detection of cancer where treatment is possible without chemotherapy.

“Screening declines observed in the Early Detection Program coincided with the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in 2020. Factors that might have contributed to the declines during this time include screening site closures and the temporary suspension of breast cancer screening services due to COVID-19. The requirement or recommendation to stay at home and the fear of contracting COVID-19 also likely deterred individuals from seeking health care services, including cancer screening,” opines Kotla.

The total number of cancer screening tests received by women, Kotla says, declined by 87 percent for breast cancer during April 2020 as compared with the previous 5-year averages for that month. “Prolonged delays in screening related to the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to delayed diagnoses, poor health consequences, and an increase in cancer disparities among women already experiencing health inequities, ” concluded Kotla.

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