-Dr. Aarthi S. Jayraj, Consultant Gynec-Oncologist at Womens Center by Motherhood
October is here and the pink-ribbons are popping up around the world denoting the importance of breast cancer awareness. You may wonder whether the breast cancer burden is really that huge.
“Almost 1 in 28 women is likely to develop breast cancer in their lifetime,” says Dr. Aarthi S. Jayraj, Consultant Gynec-Oncologist at Womens Center by Motherhood, Coimbatore. After completing her training at the prestigious AIIMS- New Delhi, Dr. Aarthi has joined Womens Center under the guidance of Dr. Mirudhubashini Govindarajan, who is a renowned women’s healthcare consultant in Coimbatore.
While we believed that Breast Cancer generally occurs to women in their 40s, Dr. Aarthi says that in the recent years, oncologists are seeing women in their early 30s get affected by this serious problem
Speaking to The Covai Mail, she shared much useful information related to breast cancer in connection with this World Breast Cancer Awareness Month initiative.
Is this just an urban disease?
No, breast cancer is not purely an urban disease. Back in the past, you would not find many people in rural areas to be obese, but times have changed, and along with it their lifestyle also. The body mass index of the rural population has been rising at a faster rate in the recent times, and this also contributes to the breast cancer burden found in villages. Being overweight is a definite risk factor for developing breast cancer.
Is there no way to prevent this?
Breast cancer arising due to genetic factors is not preventable but if they are diagnosed very early, we can treat and cure it. But only 10% of breast cancer arises due to genetic issues. 90% of it occurs due to environmental factors. So, to be on the positive side, if we cut down the risk factors at a very young age, we have a good chance of preventing breast cancer.
The risk prevention strategies are all about following healthy habits, like maintaining ideal weight, being physically active, following a nutritious and healthy diet, cutting down on smoking and alcohol.
In India, only a small proportion of women have the habit of taking alcohol and smoking cigarette. This can also create breast cancer risks. So, it is better to avoid them.
What are the ways to easily detect breast cancer?
Women should know their breasts well- how they look, their shape, size and how firm or soft they feel. It is important to examine your breasts every month, after the end of your each menstrual periods. In case you have attained menopause, fix a day for every month for examining your breasts. If they find their breasts to look or feel any different at all, they must consult their doctor. Also, if there is any discharge of fluid or blood from the nipples, they must get it checked. If there is any lump in the breasts, it must not be treated lightly. Even when everything looks apparently normal, some women may harbour a small tumour that is not felt. Hence we urge women to go for a simple mammogram test from the age of 40 years or earlier if you have a family member suffering from breast cancer. It is like a specialized x-ray which can be very useful in detecting breast cancer and is done every 1-2 yearly.
What has Women Center by motherhood done to help women fight this disease?
Womens Center by Motherhood is observing World Breast Cancer Awareness Month with full vigour, and throughout this month of ‘Pinktober’, we are committed to make as many women aware of this potentially preventable illness, as possible. A woman can walk into Womens Center by Motherhood today and get a free clinical breast examination, mammogram, and education regarding preventing and detecting breast cancer early. Any extra tests needed will be done at a discounted rate. All these examinations and tests will be performed by female doctors, paramedical workers and technicians, as we realize that the major deterrent to availing these services is embarrassment and cultural barriers.
Is there any other serious cancers women need to be aware of?
Women are vulnerable to the threat posed by cervical cancer, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer besides breast cancer.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women, and it is a major cause of cancer mortality in women. For every 5 women detected with cervical cancer in the world, one is an Indian. It is caused by infection with the Human papilloma virus (HPV). But the good news is this cancer can be prevented, if vaccinated at a very young age. As a result, in May 2018, the World Health Organization had called out to all the countries of the world to commit to prevent this cancer! If we act by vaccinating our kids, their future can be cervical cancer free. Like polio and smallpox, cervical cancer may become one of those eradicated diseases in a few decades.
However, the vaccine works well on young girls but the same cannot be said on older women, especially those who are married. So the best time to get vaccinated is prior to the 15th birthday of the girl child. For married women, a simple test called Pap smear test can quickly reveal if they are at risk or have already developed cervical cancer.
Is Womens Center equipped to treat these cancers?
Our hospital has launched a dedicated Gynaecologic Oncology team wherein we treat all these cancers surgically and offer chemotherapy and supportive care to those patients who need it. We have the expertise and infrastructure to treat these cancers affecting women, but our goal is to prevent these cancers by creating awareness and offering screening services.
What should be our focus?
Breast cancer detected at early stage can be managed readily with simple surgeries and possibly save the breast too. When found in later stages, the cancer could have potentially spread out of the breast, and the affected women may require extensive and complex surgeries along with chemotherapy and radiation.
I urge each one of you to not just read and forget. Talk about breasts! Talk about cancer awareness! A simple conversation may save someone’s life – a sister, a mother, a wife! These cancers affecting women are not going to just affect someone miles away, it could affect our neighbor, our friend, an illiterate maid working in our homes, or the women in our family.
So, create a positive impact in someone’s life by sharing what you know. The threat is real and the time to act is now. Spread the word.