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Breastfeeding Mothers Also At Risk Of Breast Cancer, Why Ignoring Signs Can Be Dangerous

Most women in India ignore the signs of breast cancer, which can be dangerous for them. It can even be worse for breastfeeding mothers.

Written by Arushi Bidhuri |Updated : April 10, 2022 3:51 PM IST

Did you know breast cancer is the number one cancer among Indian women? Reports suggest that breast cancer accounts for more than 27 per cent of all cancers among women and yet it is underdiagnosed. The number of rising breast cancer cases has become a cause of concern in the country as reported cases of breast cancer increase at a rapid rate.

For instance, a 32-year-old teacher Manali was diagnosed with breast cancer after being asked to ignore the lump in her breast by some doctors and family. She was asked to assume it be a breastfeeding related issue. However, Manali was not suspicious and consulted Dr Ganajana Kanitkar, Consultant Oncosurgeon at Surya Women & Child Super Speciality Hospital- Wakad Pune. With proper investigation and timely consultation, Manali's lump was detected to be breast cancer. She was immediately advised of proper medication and a breast-conserving surgery was conducted. Manali underwent four cycles of chemotherapy and got cured of her cancer.

Breast Cancer Cases Increasing In India

Manali is one of the few people in India who are concerned about their health and well-being. Hundreds of thousands of women, particularly new mothers, ignore their health and do not take any symptoms seriously. But there is an increase in the trend of new breast cancer patients of age 20-30 years.

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Dr Reshma Puranik, Consultant Medical Oncologist at Surya Women & Child Super Speciality Hospital, Wakad, Pune says, 'A large percentage of women in India neglect their health and procrastinate their healthcare needs. Patients like Manali are very few and hence, it becomes imperative for the medical fraternity to create awareness about this and educate patients and their families about the effects of breast cancer. If the problem is detected at the right time, doctors can take the right steps and help patients recover.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer identified during pregnancy or the lactation period is referred to as Pregnancy Associated Breast Cancer (PABC) or Gestational Breast Cancer. If cancer is discovered during this time, it is more likely to be aggressive. As a result, women must receive proper care and therapy to cure cancer. Breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women go through a lot of changes, notably in their breasts. Cancer is more difficult to diagnose as a result of this, which is why breastfeeding mothers should be aware of the symptoms of breast cancer.

Dr Kanitkar, who has been practising for more than two decades shares, 'Unfortunately, today breast cancer is a growing concern for young women. Women under the age of 30, especially new mothers must be aware and educated about its symptoms, dos and don'ts. They should not ignore any signs and should immediately act if there is any change or discomfort. We have observed that pregnancy-related breast cancer is as rampant as 20% under the age of 30years. But this is also curable if diagnosed at the right juncture'

Signs Of Breast Cancer

It is crucial to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer to be able to get a proper diagnosis. While the signs of the disease may vary from one person to another, some of the common symptoms of breast cancer according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include:

  • A new lump in the breast or underarm is a sign that something is wrong
  • Swelling or thickening of a part of the breast
  • Dimpling or irritation of the breast skin
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area
  • Soreness in the nipple area
  • Other than breast milk, nipple discharge might include blood
  • Any alteration in the breast's size or colour
  • Pain in the breast

Keep in mind that these signs could be indicative of some other health problem as well. It is best you consult a doctor to know for sure.

Awareness And Treatment

If a lactating woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, she must cease breastfeeding promptly if chemotherapy is planned and move on to adequate treatment as soon as possible. This treatment is usually determined by the stage of the tumour and the length of the pregnancy. The majority of breast cancers caused by pregnancy are treated with a mix of local and systemic therapy. This treatment may wary when the patient is not pregnant.

The most important part of breast cancer detection is awareness. No lump or discomfort in the area of the breast should be ignored. Women of all ages can benefit from this. Breast cancer is more common in nursing women and women in their menopause, although it can strike anyone at any age.

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