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Breast cancer cases rising significantly in young Indian women: Doctors

Breast cancer incidents are increasing significantly among young women between 20-40 years old, doctors said here on Tuesday. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting women worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2020 more than 20 lakh women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 6 lakh lives were lost.

“Breast cancer tops the health charts as the most common kind of cancer found in women and in recent times its occurrences have only gone up. Recognizing the early warning signs of breast cancer is crucial for timely diagnosis and effective treatment. Be on the lookout for changes such as new lumps, alterations in breast texture, skin irregularities, nipple issues, and bloody nipple discharge,” said Dr. Saphalta Baghmar, Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, during a recent webinar on breast cancer awareness.

“It is important to remember that these symptoms can also be linked to non-cancerous conditions. So, when in doubt, seek professional guidance for early detection and peace of mind,” Dr. Baghmar said. In India, breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer in women. In 2020, more than two lakh women in India were estimated to have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 76,000 deaths were reported as per the estimates, according to the National Cancer Registry Programme report by the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research.

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As per the report, the number is expected to rise to more than 2.3 lakh cases in 2025. “In India, there has been a significant increase in breast cancer incidence, especially in young Indian women in their late 20s, and early 30s. In India, breast cancer has also taken the lead as the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, surpassing cervical and oral cavity cancers. Studies indicate that the global burden of breast cancer is expected to double by 2030. Women above the age of 20 are advised to have regular breast screening for early detection,” Dr. Rohan Khandelwal, Lead Consultant Oncology and head of the Breast Centre at CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, said.

Early detection is crucial for improved cure and survival rates. According to doctors, 60 percent of breast cancer cases are usually diagnosed at advanced stages, leading to a lower cure rate. Nevertheless, regular check-ups can increase the cure rate to 80-90 percent.

Dr. Lekshmy R, Associate Professor, Radiology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi, said that for teenagers and those in their 20s to 30s, ultrasound is the initial imaging choice, followed by mammography if needed. “Women aged 30-40 can opt for ultrasound with mammography. Contrast-enhanced Mammography (CEM) is an advanced technology for early detection, especially in high-risk groups, even detecting sub-centimeter cancers. This technology is a kind of problem solver and even helps in staging and post-chemotherapy response assessment.

“If anything is inconclusive in mammography, ultrasound, and in CEM, we have the option to go with breast MRI,’’ she added. The doctors also advised embracing a heart-healthy lifestyle, focusing on nourishing foods, and prioritizing daily physical activity over a sedentary lifestyle.

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