Medi snips | Sunday Observer

Medi snips

18 October, 2020

One-third of breast cancer patients detected too late - NCCP

Around seven hundred breast cancer patients die annually in Sri Lanka due to breast cancer while on an average nine to ten new breast cancer patients are identified daily with two patients dying daily in the country, Consultant Community Physician National Cancer Control Programme ( NCCP) Dr Nayana De Alwis told the Sunday Observer . “This clearly shows that the trend of breast cancer is gradually increasing over the years in Sri Lanka,” she said. While the positive aspect of it is that more and more breast cancer patients are detected at early stages compared to the past due to better knowledge and awareness raising, around one third of breast cancer patients are still detected at late stages when the disease cannot be cured, she said.

Globally, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women often occurring in the prime of their lives. Around 2.1 million new breast cancer patients were identified globally in 2018 while 627,000 patients died due to breast cancer during the same year. Hence, breast cancer awareness month is observed across the world every October to create awareness, promote early detection, timely treatment and support for palliative care. A variety of events worldwide are organised in October using the theme colour of breast cancer which is pink. This includes pink illumination of land mark buildings during the month, she said.

Explaining what breast cancer is, Dr De Alwis said breast cancer is the collective term for all cancers that originate in the breast tissue. Cells normally multiply in a regular and orderly fashion but sometimes if cells are having abnormalities they begin to grow and divide in an irregular and uncontrollable manner. These abnormal cells can form a lump. As the cancer grows, cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body. Asked how it was caused she said, “Breast cancer is thought to be caused by a combination of factors including gene abnormalities, lifestyle choices and surrounding environments. There are many things that can increase or decrease the risk of developing breast cancer.

She said the risks of getting breast cancer go up as women get older. Around 70% of women with breast cancer in Sri Lanka are more than 50 years of age at the time of diagnosis. In a small number of cases, breast cancer runs in the family. Most women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. Breast cancer is a treatable cancer with potential cure with effective treatments, she said.

Early detection the key

While the exact cause of breast cancer remains unclear, early detection is the cornerstone of breast cancer control, she said.

Highlighting some golden rules to follow in reducing breast cancer risks she gave us the following guidelines:

• Think twice: Every time you eat, drink or use products make healthy choices

• Get a healthy weight: Keeping to a healthy weight will reduce your risk of getting breast cancer

• Get regular exercise: Regular exercise reduces the risk of breast cancers and a few other cancers

• Avoid taking extra hormones: It is best to avoid long term exposure to extra hormones in the form of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy

• Limit alcohol use: The risk of breast cancer increases parallel to the amount of alcohol consumed

• Stop smoking: Smoking can cause several cancers including breast cancer

• Avoid unnecessary radiation

• Eat fruits and vegetables: Consume fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and spices more frequently in your meals

• Know your family history: If there is a family history of breast cancer among first degree relatives, you need close watching.