No need to remove entire breast to cure cancer any more, say doctors

Angelina Jolie's decision of coming forward to make women aware about breast cancer and advancements in 'breast conserving surgery' has given emotional strength to women suffering from breast cancer in the region as well.

The problem of breast cancer is critical in the region. According to the statistics of PGIMER, about 20 to 25 women out of every 1,00,000 (one lakh) will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

The exact cause for breast cancer is not yet known. "There is no one-to-one cause and effect. We still don't know the exact reasons. However, broadly we have divided the risk factors into hereditary (5% of all risk factors) and non-hereditary (95%) factors like, early menarche/ late menopause, late first pregnancy and obesity," says Dr Gurpreet Singh, professor of Surgery, PGIMER.

The most common cause spoken of since Angeline Jolie's surgery is hereditary, as she said that she tested positive for a gene, BRCA 1.

"Anyone who is BRCA 1 positive, has an 80% lifetime risk of developing cancer. So, one of the best effective ways of preventive this cancer is to remove both the breasts," Singh said.

"The traditional treatment (for hundreds of years) of breast cancer is the removal of the entire affected breast, which is called 'mastectomy'. However, for the last 30-35 years, there is another operation 'breast conserving surgery', and in this only the tumour is removed but the remaining part of the breast is preserved. Both treatments give equal results," Singh further said.

Singh added, "With breast conserving surgery, we retain the breasts, but how good-looking they are after operation remains an issue. Does it match the opposite side or is it just like a lump of tissue lying there? So 'oncoplastic surgical techniques' are applied to the breasts to get better looking breasts."

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