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Breast Cancer / Carcinoma of the Breast

Breast cancer is a cancer that starts in the cells of the breast in women and men. Breast cancer is about 100 times as frequent among women as among men, but survival rates are equal in both sexes.


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Prevention of Breast cancer.

Preventive measures adopted against this serious killer will considerably reduce incidence of Breast Cancer. There are some factors inherent in any woman predisposing her to beast cancer. However these factors lead to actual Cancer by interaction with or in association with many more external factors . Our current knowledge helps us in identifying these external factors , which are definitely avoidable. By avoiding these, Breast Cancer can be prevented and incidence very much reduced. Now let us see what are these Inherent Factors and what are the other External Factors (also called Risk Factors).

Inherent Risk Factors:

These are currently not preventable, as one’s sex and genetic make up are pre determined from the time of conception itself. However the information about higher susceptibility can help a woman taking proactive steps against the disease.

A strong family history of B.C in the parent or her sibling or among one’s own siblings leads to a Genetic configuration suitable for occurrence of B.C.

A woman who had B.C on one side has increased risk of developing same disease in the opposite breast.

Early occurrence of menarche (when a girl starts to get menstrual cycles) and late onset of menopause exposing the female breast to a longer period of hormonal influence is another important factor. But early pregnancy and childbearing and breast feeding the baby have preventive/protective effect against B.C.

External Risk Factors:

Hormonal Medications: Hormone containing medications like Birth Control pills and HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) sometimes given to women after Hysterectomy or on reaching menopause do seem to have some influence in initiation and growth of B.C. If both groups of medications are taken they are more harmful. Anti oestrogen drug called Tamoxifen used in treatment of certain types of B.C. is believed to have some preventive action against B.C. But the drug has other side effects and to be taken under proper medical advice.

Diet & Exercise: Regular intake of high fat diet or actual obescity in women increases risk of B.C. But low fat diet will not reduce risk as a result of other factors. Several vitamins and other anti-oxidants in diet have preventive effect. Regular exercise, apart from its effect on obescity may decrease hormone levels in women and thus have some beneficial effect against B.C.

Exposure to Radiation: Any radiation in young age like a simple X-ray of Chest, but particularly repeated/prolonged exposure as in cases of X-ray treatment for Hodgkin’s disease (a type of Cancer) in childhood seems to be linked to B.C. Radiations also occur in CT Scans, other X-rays, Mammograms etc and have cumulative effect over a lifetime. It is a professional hazard for those dealing with ionizing radiation.

Environmental Pollution : Various chemical agents found in minute quantities in several items used by us in daily life like detergents, shampoo, paper, disinfectants, bleaching agents, sprays and spray paints, chemicals used in some plastics etc are carcinogenic in relation to breast cancer and other cancers too. Soot and chemicals released by factories, automobiles and deisel trucks and tobacco smoke , particularly second hand tobacco smoke are all harmful. Chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are the main culprits, which may produce DNA damage and increased risk of B.C.

Food contamination: Some pesticides used on fruits and vegetables and found in minute quantity in the items sold in the market have been linked to cancer. Hormones used on livestock to increase yield may also have carcinogenic effect on B.C.

Prevention of B.C.:

Be knowledgeable about breast cancer.

Know your family history in relation to B.C. and take suitable proactive steps. As a parent, get your girls to know all about genetics early in life.

Avoid obescity at all costs and to whatever extent possible.

Diet & exercise: Eat a variety of foods. Take plenty of fresh vegetables & fruits and grain products. Take diet low in fat, saturated fat & cholesterol and moderate in sugars and salt. Regular and lifelong commitment to physical activity and exercises as part of daily routine and maintain ideal bodyweight.

Take suitable actions to reduce exposure to various carcinogenic agents in our daily life. Try and use safe house hold products and safe guard against possible contaminants in food products, vegetables and fruits in daily use.

Drinking alcohol, not at all or in moderation.

No to smoking and also avoid passive smoking too.

Decide intelligently and in consultation with your doctor, about use of “ pills” and later HRT.

Learn and practice “Breast Self Examination” around 30’s and seek expert help.

Avoid indiscriminate use of X-rays and exposure to radiation including Mammogram itself.

Posted on : Saturday, July 12, 2008 6:55 AM
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