BREAST CANCER PART-1
Question: Why are you starting oncology educational series with breast cancer?
Answer: Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in India. Over 80,000 women get a diagnosis of breast cancer every year i.e. over 200 women per day are diagnosed with a new breast cancer. Even more concerning is the fact that with adoption of western lifestyle, incidence in India is rising, including in rural areas. This appears similar to the marked rise in incidence of heart disease and diabetes in India, more so in Gujarat.
Que: But is there any major change in what we can do about breast cancer?
Ans: Oh! Yes, of course. Today it is one of the most curable malignancies. The fear has now been replaced by a sense of cautious Optimism. The change in attitude towards a new diagnosis of breast cancer in the west is comparable to our attitude now towards a new diagnosis of heart attack. We do not sit and fear it, rather discuss treatment options with experts and take a decision. We used to fear it just about a decade ago.
Que: You seem very optimistic about Breast Cancer. What do you think are the reasons behind this change in attitude?
Ans: It is a combination of both major scientific advances and what I call “social will”. Social will is the society’s desire to change outcome, to improve well being. It gears up everyone including the common man, doctors and other health care providers, patients and relatives, academia, media, industry, NGOs, politicians, and all the stake holders. This Social Will makes everyone work towards the common goal. This is what led to major reductions in mortality from infectious diseases e.g. use of sanitation/clean water/mosquito control coupled with availability of antibiotics/antimalarials/AntiTB drugs/vaccines. Drugs alone are clearly not sufficient.
What is most exciting to me as an oncologist however are the scientific advances which have improved all aspects of Breast Cancer Care, and are fast changing: Knowledge of Risk Factors and biology leading to better Prevention, Early Diagnosis, Prognostication, Tailor made therapy for individual patients, newer methods of Surgery/Radiation and Drugs leading to better CURE rates/less side effects/better functional outcomes, and others. Some of the advances have actually reduced the cost of treatment by reducing hospitalizations, and complications. With use of IT, there are tools that help us and the patients to choose right treatment and understand impact of treatment.
Next time we will talk about Risk Factors for breast cancer and what can we do to Prevent breast cancer.
Dr. Chirag A. Shah; M.D. Oncology/Hematology (USA),
Diplomate American Board of Oncology and Hematology.
Shyam Hem-Onc Clinic. 402 Galaxy, Near Shivranjani, Opp Jhansi ki Rani BRTS, Ahmedabad. 079 26754001 www.shyamhemoncclinic.com