To the layman, breast cancer is often associated with an unexpected painless lump that can be big or even as small as a pea. They could be painful, too, with the lump growing into a tumor and if malignant, the cells can grow into the surrounding tissues and metastasize to distant areas of the body. The cells can affect any part of the body, making it cancerous and spread to other areas, too.
Myths about Breast Cancer
Many of us are familiar with the cautionary text forwards asking us to steer clear of underwire bras because it “could cause breast cancer”. Turns out, the Breast Cancer Awareness month focuses on busting myths, too!
“These questions keep coming to us when I usually give awareness talks: Does wearing a metallic brassiere cause breast cancer? Does wearing a black dress increase my susceptibility to breast cancer? Does the cancer spread following biopsy? If someone in my family or my neighbourhood has cancer, can it spread to me like a contagious disease? It’s all false. It’s neither a contagious condition nor does it spread following biopsy. But these are only some of the few myths,” explains Dr Anusha.
“There’s also a belief that breast cancer is a disease only associated with women. However, there’s also a need to spread more awareness on the fact that it can also affect men, and although this happens rarely in comparison, it should be taken just as seriously as it could be aggressive if left untreated,” she adds.
Contrary to what one may imagine, a patient post-surgery is not incapacitated. “The patient is made to walk on the very same day of surgery and they are made to do shoulder mobility exercises on the day after surgery. They are advised to do some small activities at home and no one goes on a complete bed rest. Usually it’s only a day of hospitalization,” says Dr Anusha.
Driving home the point that breast cancer is curable, it should be emphasized that getting a screening is very important. “It is not only people with symptoms who need to approach a breast clinic for examination or screening. Ideally, it is advisable for any lady to go for breast screening,” she concludes.
Facts To Know:
After the diagnosis
When a person is diagnosed, the procedures they undergo depend on what cancer they have. Diagnosis is made usually after a clinical examination followed by biopsy. Dr Anusha Balakrishnan of Kauvery Hospital (Chennai), a Breast Surgeon who has done her Fellowship in Breast Oncology from TATA Memorial Hospital (Mumbai), tries to make the facts simple on what happens post-diagnosis.
Soon after the biopsy, the patient is asked to go for a metastatic workup. “This is to check if the cancer has localized or spread to any other part of the body. Based on that, we see if the patient will have to undergo curative procedures or palliative care,” she says.
Counseling is one of the vital steps in the management of breast cancer. They are counseled in a wholesome way and made aware of what type of breast cancer they have and how their cancer will be managed. In order to prevent the patient from getting into a mode of denial or from defaulting from the proposed treatment, the patient is motivated at every stage of their treatment and the relatives are also asked to remain positive and supportive of the patient.