Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the Indian urban woman. It has overtaken cervical cancer in metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. One in twenty-six women in India will develop breast cancer while its incidence in Europe, the USA and other places in the West is one in eight women. Diagnosis of breast cancer is a devastating experience. One’s initial reaction on getting the news is disbelief; one may feel frightened for her life, angry and crushed.
First of all, a diagnosis of breast cancer is not a death sentence. With the many advances in breast cancer treatment, the majority (90%) of early breast cancers can be cured and those that are diagnosed late can be palliated so that the woman can live a life of good quality for many years.
The best approach for a patient with breast cancer to take is to resolve that she will do whatever it takes to be successful in her battle against the disease. The feeling on learning that one has breast cancer can not be explained. One may feel like crying or getting angry or shouting. One should just go ahead and express whatever emotions one is feeling.
Talking to someone who has gone through the experience, another survivor, or to a support group and getting individual counseling to come to grips with one’s feelings so that thinking straight and getting on with the treatment can help enormously.
Breast cancer is not an emergency even when the tumor is as large as one cm; it may have been growing for months or years. Cancerous growth starts from a single cell which doubles every few days (usually 30 days to 90 days). It can take several months for it to grow to one cm. One can take several days to get information, from a team of doctors before starting the treatment. Breast cancer, like any other cancer, is multidisciplinary team work. The multidisciplinary team consists of a pathologist, a radiologist, a surgical, medical and radiation oncologist, a plastic surgeon and social workers. There is no harm in getting a second opinion if one is not satisfied with the explanation her initial surgeon gives.