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    Early breast cancer detection can improve survival rate to over 90%

    Published on November 2, 2020

    New Delhi: Over90% of breast cancer patients can survive the disease if it is detected in early stage with advanced treatment protocols and prognostic tests improving longevity and quality of life. Unfortunately, almost 65% of patients in India are still diagnosed in advanced stages, resulting in a large burden of preventable deaths.

     Oncologists are underlining the need to increase early stage diagnosis and make prognostic tests such as CanAssist Breast available to a larger number of patients. Doctors also express concern over COVID 19 pandemic delaying presentation and further hampering timely detection and treatment.

    Dr. Sameer Kaul, Sr Surgical Oncologist. Apollo Cancer Institute Delhi points outthaturban areas bear a high burden of breast cancer with one in every eight women in Delhi facing a lifetime risk of developing the disease.

    “With highly advanced treatment modalities at our disposal and effective prognostic tests, we are in a situation where we can save over 90% of breast cancer patients or at least prolong their lives if patients present in early stages of the disease. For example, by using prognostic tests such as CanAssist Breast in early disease stage, we can even help a number of patients avoid chemotherapy and mastectomy and reduce the ill effects of over-treatment. Unfortunately, almost 65% of breast cancers are diagnosed in this country in stage 3 and stage 4. Unless we improve our earl detection record, we will continue to have a large number of preventable breast cancer deaths,” said Dr Sameer Kaul, who is also Founder President of BCPBF – The Cancer Foundation and MD, Onkaulogy Kombine.

    Early detection of breast cancer has many benefits. Patients diagnosed with stage 1 or 2 breast cancers can undergo breast conserving surgery (BCS) rather than mastectomy, enabling them to save their breast. Another major benefit is the possibility of avoiding aggressive treatment and chemotherapy.

    “Early stage breast cancer patients are recommended the use of prognostic tests to direct the use of chemotherapy. In women who have early breast cancer and less than 3 nodes or no nodes in the axilla region, prognostic tests such as CanAssist Breast can help predict whether giving systemic chemotherapy will benefit them or not. Thus, several patients with low risk of disease relapse can avoid chemotherapy, thereby saving its cost as well as side effects. However, due to delayed diagnosis most patients fail to benefit from these prognostic tests,” added Dr Kaul.

    With COVID 19 further delaying disease presentation in a large number of women and interrupting treatment in others, Dr Kaul is concerned that the pandemic may result in a higher breast cancer deaths over the next few years.

    “The chaos and fear created by the pandemic has led to delays in diagnosis, delays in doing investigations as well as delayed disease presentation in a large number of patients. Many patients have also experienced interruption in treatment. For patients living in rural areas it has been particularly difficult to be able to reach an Oncologist on time. High risk women have also avoided breast cancer screenings due to the fear of catching the virus in healthcare settings. All this is likely to further hamper survival rates. We urge women to not delay reporting any abnormal signs or symptoms due to the pandemic,” added Dr Kaul.

    Breast cancer is not only growing at a rapid pace but has also overtaken all other cancers to emerge as the most common cancer among women. With rapidly increasing disease incidence particularly among women under 50 years of age, it is important for women to step up surveillance and screenings.

    Women who are at higher risk of breast cancer because of genetic or other reasons must undergo regular screenings so that breast cancer can be picked up very early. Undergoing genetic testing and preventive mastectomy is another critical intervention for women with higher genetic risk.

    Urban lifestyles including excessive smoking and drinking, obesity, delayed childbirth as well as reduced breast feeding are factors that have led to an increasing surge of breast cancer in recent years. 

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