Beyond Awareness: A Collaborative Approach by Oncologists in the Breast Cancer Battle

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Best Oncologist share their advice on Breast Cancer Awareness Month

New Delhi (India), October 30: As we step into Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s paramount to recognize its significance. Beyond a mere observance, this month stands as a powerful reminder of the global effort to raise awareness about breast cancer – a disease affecting millions. Oncologists play a pivotal role in this journey, offering not just medical expertise but also a compassionate guide through the complexities of breast cancer.

Here, these expert oncologists have shared insights, collectively illuminating the path beyond mere awareness. Together, let us amplify our voices and illuminate the path of awareness, reaching more hearts and minds in our collective mission against breast cancer.

Dr. Amol Kotalwar, MD, DM, MRCP (UK) SCE, ECMO, PDCR, Thoracic Oncology (USA), Consultant Medical & Hemato-Oncologist, Kotalwar Cancer Clinic, Solapur & Latur, Maharashtra

This National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is more than just a yearly event; it’s a call to action and a reminder of the importance of early detection, support, and treatment. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, as well as in India, and it also affects men, though less frequently. In India alone, over 180,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2020, and sadly, over 90,000 individuals lost their lives. Breast cancer is not a singular entity; it encompasses various types, each with distinct characteristics and treatment approaches. Understanding these differences is essential for accurate diagnosis and personalized care.

Moreover, staying informed about recent advancements in breast cancer research, such as targeted therapies and immunotherapy, is crucial. Such breakthroughs offer new hope and treatment options to those affected by this disease. Early detection of breast cancer is part of a broader perspective on public health. By promoting awareness and encouraging regular screenings, we can reduce the burden on healthcare systems by identifying and addressing health issues in their early stages, thus avoiding more extensive and costly treatments later on.

Dr. Anup Aboti, M.B.B.S., Med. Oncology Consultant, FUDA Cancer Hospital, Guangzhou, China Director – REKOSH Healthcare, Mumbai

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer that threatens women’s physical and mental health, with rapidly increasing numbers of cases being diagnosed every year. Pressures from fast-paced lifestyles often lead women to neglect their breast health, resulting in various diseases, including breast cancer. Increased awareness and medical advancements have significantly improved early detection rates.

Fortunately, with increasing breast cancer awareness among women and advances in medical diagnosis and treatment techniques, the early detection rate of breast cancer has significantly improved in clinical practice. For early-stage patients, options like breast-conserving surgery or minimally invasive cryosurgery offer effective results while preserving the breasts’ appearance and function. This is especially vital for young patients, minimizing the post-treatment impact on their lives. Advanced or metastatic breast cancer patients have access to improved treatments like targeted therapy, endocrine and hormonal therapy, immunotherapy, localized intra-arterial chemotherapy, and minimally invasive procedures, ensuring the most positive outcomes. As for the vast number of healthy women, understanding and preventing breast cancer should be the top lesson to learn.

Dr. Anushree Vartak, MS Gen Surg, DrNB Surgical Oncology, ISOS Fellowship in Oncoplasty, Consultant Surgical Oncologist & Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon, Delhi

Breast cancer is a challenge that all of us have to face in our lifetime, whether as ourselves, as family members, friends, or doctors. Oncologists have the responsibility to broadcast breast cancer awareness year-round. The Pink October movement has made people more receptive and willing to participate in screening, awareness, or support events. India has unique challenges with respect to breast cancer. Every 4 minutes, an Indian woman gets diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to social stigma, scarcity of resources, myths, and a lack of awareness surrounding breast cancer diagnosis, women often present in advanced stages. The average age of breast cancer in India is 45 years. So we need to start being breast-aware right in our 20s.

Being breast aware is our first defence against breast cancer, along with making changes in our lifestyle to decrease the cancer risk and participating in age- and risk-appropriate screening programs for early detection.

Dr. Bharat Ashok Vaswani, MD (General Medicine), DM (Medical Oncology), MRCP-UK (Medical Oncology) ECMO, PDCR, Senior Medical Oncologist & Hematologist- Yashoda Hospital, Secunderabad

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in India. In fact, one-tenth (10.8 percent) of all deaths among cancer patients in India are due to breast cancer. Hence, there is an urgent need for treatment advancement to improve survival. The best way to improve survival is through early diagnosis and prompt treatment. Apart from the use of effective chemotherapy, recent years have seen the availability of targeted therapies, including anti-HER-2 neu therapy and immunotherapy. The use of genomic testing in early breast cancer helps to decide which patients can avoid chemotherapy. Even in metastatic (stage 4) cancer, these targeted agents have improved survival dramatically. The other advantage of these drugs is lesser toxicity and better patient compliance.

Nowadays, a greater number of breast cancer patients are able to use these drugs due to their reduced cost. Healthy lifestyles, screening, and concerted efforts by healthcare providers, including primary healthcare personnel, will help reduce the morbidity and, most importantly, mortality of this deadly disease.

Dr. Gunjesh Kumar Singh, MBBS, MD, DM Medical Oncologist (Tata Memorial Hospital Mumbai), ESMO Certified Medical Oncologist, Consultant & HOD – Bhagwaan Mahavir Medica Super Speciality Hospital, Ranchi

A medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer plays a critical role in the comprehensive care of patients diagnosed with this disease. They are experts in the treatment of breast cancer, focusing on the administration of chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and immunotherapies. They work closely with a multidisciplinary team, including surgeons, radiologists, and pathologists, to develop personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient’s specific type and stage of breast cancer.

Medical oncologists monitor patients throughout their treatment, adjusting therapies as needed to optimize effectiveness and minimize side effects. They also provide invaluable support and guidance to patients and their families, helping them navigate the complex treatment landscape, make informed decisions, and cope with the emotional and physical challenges of breast cancer. Overall, oncologists play a pivotal role in enhancing patient outcomes and improving the quality of life for those affected by breast cancer.

Dr. Ravindra Mahajan, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Inlaks and Budhrani Hospital, Pune

Breast cancer is a pervasive and complex disease that affects millions of people globally. It primarily targets the breast tissues, with women being the most commonly afflicted, although men can also develop it. The causes of breast cancer are multifaceted, often involving a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase the risk significantly. Early detection is paramount to improving breast cancer outcomes. Regular self-examinations, clinical breast exams, and mammograms are essential tools for catching the disease at its earliest, most treatable stages. Breast cancer treatment varies depending on the type, stage, and individual factors. It may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapies, and hormone therapy.

Additionally, advances in research have led to more personalized treatment options and improved survival rates. Such efforts aim to promote early detection, fund research for better treatments, and provide emotional and practical support to those affected. Together, we can continue to raise awareness and work towards a future where breast cancer no longer poses a significant threat to our loved ones.

Dr. Rajesh Bollam, MBBS (Gold Medalist), DNB, DM (Medical Onco- TMH) MRCP Medical Oncology (UK) European Certified Medical Oncologist, Secunderabad

In Breast Cancer Awareness Month, held annually in October, oncologists extend their role beyond raising awareness. They actively engage in educating the public through events, workshops, and webinars, providing vital information on risk factors, early detection, treatment options, and survivorship. Emphasizing the importance of regular screenings, including mammograms and clinical breast exams, oncologists encourage women to schedule screenings for improved survival rates. Patient support is a key focus, with oncologists highlighting comprehensive care through support groups, counselling services, and resources for patients and their families. Moreover, oncologists play a pivotal role in symptom recognition, educating women about the signs of breast cancer and urging prompt reporting of any changes in breast health.

In the preventive domain, oncologists offer guidance on lifestyle factors to reduce the risk of breast cancer, advocating for a healthy diet, regular physical activity, limited alcohol consumption, and avoidance of tobacco use. In this comprehensive role, oncologists contribute significantly to the ongoing fight against breast cancer by not only raising awareness but also actively educating, supporting, and caring for patients.

Dr. Sachin Kadam, MBBS, MS, FISO, FMAS, FALS, Consultant Surgical Oncologist – Currae Cancer & Multi-Speciality Hospital, Mumbai

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Indian females, and the incidence is increasing in the younger age group. October is breast cancer awareness month, and this year’s theme is “No one should face breast cancer alone.” The contributory risk factors for breast cancer are as follows: Regular smoking of tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk.

Lack of regular exercise and a sedentary lifestyle can potentiate cancer risk. Women who have their first child after the age of 30 or have fewer pregnancies have a higher risk of breast cancer. Obesity increases the risk of cancer. Women who do not breastfeed or breastfeed for shorter durations have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. A diet high in processed foods and saturated fats and low in fruits and vegetables can potentiate the risk of breast cancer. Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (oestrogen-progestin combination) or consumption of oral contraceptives for an extended period may increase the risk. Exposure to pollutants, pesticides, and chemicals in plastic may increase breast cancer risk.

Dr. Shubha Sinha, MBBS, MS (GEN SURGERY), FAIS, PDCR, Fellowship in Breast Cancer, ESSO certified Oncoplastic Surgeon, Consultant Breast & Oncoplastics Surgeon  – Apollo Cancer Centre, Ahmedabad 

Breast cancer has become the most common cancer in the world. The burden of breast disease is rising across the globe. It has emerged as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. It can occur in men also (1%). Early detection & diagnosis is crucial for improved survival rates.  There has been much advancement in breast cancer research and treatment, enabling a tailor-made treatment plan for patients. Improved understanding of the biological heterogeneity of Breast cancer has allowed the development of a more effective and individualized approach to treatment. 

Breast-conserving surgery (BCS) is the preferred choice, with studies showing its equivalence to modified radical mastectomy in survival and recurrence rates when coupled with adjuvant radiation. Oncoplastic surgery allows wide excisions in the BCS without altering the natural breast shape. Formerly, routine axillary lymph node removal during surgery caused chronic pain, numbness, and lymphoedema in 1 in 5 patients. Targeted dissection or sentinel node biopsy minimizes these side effects. The LYMPHA technique reduces arm lymphoedema from 15% to 2%.

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