What is breast cancer ?

Our body is made up of many types of cells. Normally, the cells grow and divide to produce more cells. This orderly process keeps the body health. Sometimes cells keep dividing when new cells are not needed. These cells form a mass of extra tissue called a growth or tumor. But not all tumours are life-threatening. They can either be benign or malignant.


Benign Tumours: The cells in benign tumours do not invade other tissues and do not spread to other parts of the body. Benign breast tumours are usually not a threat to life.


Malignant Tumours: Cells in these tumours can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can break away from a malignant tumours and enter the blood stream or lymphatic system. That is how breast cancer spreads and forms secondary tumours in other parts of the body. We cannot totally prevent breast cancer, but when diagnosed and treated early, chances of survival are better.

What are the signs and symptoms ?

Early breast cancers usually do not cause any pain. In fact, when breast cancer first develops there may be no signs or symptoms. But as the cancer grows, it can cause changes that women should watch out for:

1.  Lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.

2.  Change in the size or shape of the breast.

3.  Discharge or tenderness of the nipple or inversion(pulled back) of the nipple.

4.  Ridges or pitting of the breast (orange-peel effect).

5.  Changes in the look and feel of the areola or nipple. (eg : scaly, warm, red or swollen)

If you have any of the above symptoms, you should consult a doctor immediately.

Who's at risk ?

The exact causes of breast cancer are not known. Studies indicate that the risk of breast cancer increase with age. However, even younger women below the age of 35 are now detected with breast cancer.

Besides age, the presence of the following factors listed confers a higher risk of developing breast cancer in women:

1.  Personal history of cancer in one breast.

2.  Family history of breast cancer involving mother, maternal grandmother, maternal aunts or sisters.

3.  Early onset of menstruation (before age 12).

4.  Late menopause (after age 55)

5.  First childbirth after age 30.

6.  Breast feeding children for less than 6 months.

7.  Consumption of alcohol (more than 3 drinks per week) and food rich in animal fat.

8.  Obesity.

But studies have also shown that at least half the women who develop breast cancer have none of the risk factors listed above, other than the risk that comes with growing older. Also, most women with known risk factors may not get breast cancer.

Some Frequently Asked Questions?

What are my chances of getting it if no one in my family has it ?

The lifetime risk of breast cancer in Mumbai city alone is 1 in 30. These staggering figures are partly because of failure to detect it in the early stages.

What are my chances of getting it if someone in my family has some other cancer ?

Negligible. It appears linked only to ovarian cancers. So if someone has this type there's a higher chance.

Does the size of my breasts affect my chances ?

Size and shape don't matter.

Does it spread from the breasts ?

Yes, quite fast. If diagnosed, you are immediately screened to see whether it has spread. The most common risk areas are lungs, liver, bones and brain.

If cured, can it return ?

Theoretically, yes. But if detected in Stage I and cured it is as good as gone.

Can I pass it on to my children ?

Genetic predisposition is the most significant factor. That means it gets passed down.

If I have it can I have children after treatment ?

There are certain treatment options you can choose which will allow you to have children. But it could compromise your treatment. So not in all cases. Discuss it with your doctor.

Does cosmetic surgery make a difference ?

Neither breast augmentation nor reduction increases your chances.


In Most cases, breast cancer is detected only when the tumour is large and has spread to the lymph nodes. Women with cervical cancers also consult their doctors only when the tumor is large and has invaded surrounding tissues. The best way to prevent cancer from being fatal is early detection.

The earlier the disease is detected, the more likely it is that treatment will be effective. If the disease is detected in its earliest stages, it has a cure rate of more than 80 percent. However, as the tumors grows larger in size and/or spreads to the lymph nodes, these percentages drop dramatically to the 50 percent range. Fewer than 20% of patients who have developed distant metastasis survive for 2-3 years.


Women, of any age, who are at a high risk of developing breast cancer, should consult their doctor when to start and how often they should go in for a breast examination. Breast cancer screening has been shown to decrease the risk of dying form the disease.

Women can also take an active part in the early detection of breast cancer by having regularly scheduled screening mammograms and/or clinical breast exams (breast exams performed by health professionals) or self breast examination on a regular basis.

• Regular Breast Cancer Screening has been shown to decrease the risk of dying from the disease.

• It is advised from 25yrs of age to get familiar with your Breasts and do a Breast-Self examination (BSE) every month.

• From 35yrs get your Breast checked by a Doctor annually or every Two years.

• Once you cross 45yrs ask your doctor if u need to have Mammogram as it is advisable to get one every two years or so.


• Lump, mass or hardness in breast/surrounding area up to underarm

• Change in size, shape, colour of breast/nipple

• Change in skin texture of breast/nipple which can include peeling or wrinkling

• Discharge from nipple

• Unexplained pain in breast

• Burning/itching on breast/nipple

Importance Of Creating Awareness About Early Detection For Breast Cancer Facts and Figures.

With the control of infectious diseases like diarrhea, malaria, and TB, Cancer is becoming an important cause of concern in India. While the increase in the number of cancer cases is across all patient groups and ages, cancers in women and children attract special attention. Although only 5% of cancer patients in the country are children, given the huge population of India and the young demographics, there is expected to be over 100,000 new cancer cases in children less than 18 years of age in the near future. Similarly among women over 40% of cancers are specific to female’s gender affecting primarily the breast (approximately 75,000 new cases per year), cervix (approximately 100,000 new cases per year) and the ovary. The number of women developing breast/ ovarian cancer is steadily increasing especially in the urban areas, & will reach epidemic proportions in the near future.

On the brighter side the majority of these cancers are either preventable amenable to early detection, potentially curable at reasonable costs, or a potential field for high impact research. Children and Women in our country are usually deprived of good medical attention. Social issues in addition necessitate the need for dedicated treatment facilities. Most importantly the management of these cancers is very different from other caners in general requiring a specialized and unique infrastructure. The concept therefore of having a dedicated facility to treat cancers of women and children is attractive & much needed with potential to impact significantly on the outcomes and quality of treatment of these patients.

51% of global breast cancer cases in developing nations

Breast cancer cases are surging across the globe. Analysis shows the number of new breast cancer cases diagnosed worldwide has increased from about 6.4 lakhs in 1980 to 16 lakhs in 2012. But, the rise in deaths from breast cancer globally has been slower, increasing from about 2.5 lakhs in 1980 to 4.25 lakhs in 2012,possibly due to early detection and advances in treatment in developed countries. The study, published in the British medical journal The Lancet on Thursday, says that 51% of these cases occurred in developing countries like India. The disease still killed two lakh women around the world in 2010 and 46,000 of them were of reproductive age in developing countries. A recent Indian Council of Medical Research report found that cancer cases in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore between 1982 and 2005 had doubled.

• There is a steady rise in the cases of Breast Cancer with as many as 1,00,000 new cases being detected every year.

• The lifetime risk of Breast Cancer in urban India alone is 1 in 30 and 1 in every 65 in rural India, these staggering figures are partly due to failure to detect it in the early stages.

• Early detection is vital and can improve cure rates in about 80% of the cases

• Of all the new cases of cancer being diagnosed in India, about 40% afflict women, the most common cancers being breast and cervical cancer.

• In the last decade breast cancer has overtaken cervical cancer as the most common cancer among women in Bangalore, Mumbai & Delhi. These figures are partly due to the failure to detect it in the early stages.

• Delhi has the highest number of breast cancer cases in the country.

• Breast Cancer cases diagnosed in India in the year 2008 was an estimated approx 90,000 with over 48,000 deaths. If current trends continue, these figures are expected to reach 1,02,000 and 55,000 respectively by the year 2012

• If detected in the early stages the cure rate of breast cancer is greater than 80%

• According to the National Cancer Registry, breast cancer has replaced cervical cancer as the number one cancer in Indian metropolitan cities.

• The number of new breast cancer patients annually at The Tata Memorial Hospital has risen from 1800 to 3200 in the past 10 years.

• According to the WHO cancer is all set to outpace heart ailments as the biggest killer in the next two years.It says that cancer diagnosis has been steadily rising and will soon touch the 12 million mark this year. It also suggested that by 2030 new cancer cases could rise to 27 million with up to 17 million deaths.

• Indian Women get breast cancer a decade earlier than women in the west.

• The rate of incidence of cancer in the west is five times more than that in India or any other developing country but the rate of survival is much higher in the west.

• Breast cancer is on the rise largely due to changing lifestyle & dietary patterns among urban India. People are shunning traditional food in favour of fast food. Moreover women have fewer babies and lactate for a shorter period of time than say their mothers or grandmothers.

“Breast Cancer in most cases is curable if detected in its early stages.

One of the biggest fears that keep women from going in for breast check ups is the fear of losing a breast. However the treatments available in India today has reached a level of sophistication where you don’t have to lose a breast to breast cancer.

This is why it becomes imperative to create awareness about regular check- ups, as a cancer caught in its early stages can be easily cured.

Spreading the message of early detection is vital and can improve cure rates in atleast about 80% of the cases. In India, women are not conscious enough about health check-up's & as women are virtually the pillars of strength for their families, their health effects not just themselves but everyone around them.

And that is why events like the Elle Carnival for a Cause are important as they help create awareness about the need for early detection”



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