The Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences conducted a one-day teaching program for doctors and medical students focussing on latest developments in the diagnosis, treatment and management of breast cancer on January 9, 2016. The program provided comprehensive guidelines to oncologists, general surgeons and medical students to enable them to better treat and manage their patients.
The experts said that while many patients in India are fairly well-versed with the possible causes of breast cancer, they remain unaware about the cutting-edge procedures now available to medical science for its early diagnosis and effective management.
Dr. Janaki P. Dharmarajan, Associate Professor, Department of Radiology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, said: “A new scanning procedure called Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) provides high-definition images of the breast, helping locate even the most complex and hidden lesions or growths in the breast tissue. This is extremely helpful in the early detection of cancer. It is an extremely beneficial tool for detection in women with substantially dense breasts. Late detection is the most important cause of low survival rates in patients.”
The traditional method of conducting biopsy to detect breast cancer involves removing all the nodes of the breast. This often leaves the woman’s arm with nerve injuries and shoulder dysfunction. A procedure called Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (SLNB) now only needs the removal of a single targeted lymph node for testing, giving substantial relief to patients. The rest of the lymph nodes are removed only the biopsy is positive. This helps preserve the quality of life of the patient and keeps them from undergoing extensive surgery.
“While most surgeons and cancer centres in the West have adopted SLNB as a standard, the practice is yet to gain foothold in India”, said Dr. D. K. Vijayakumar, HOD, Department of Surgical Oncology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences. “A possible reason for this is the lack of nuclear medicine units across India, as well as the difficulty in procuring the blue dye used for this procedure.”
Dr. Wesley M. Jose, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Medical Oncology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, said: “Due to the novel treatment options available now, even women with final-stage breast cancer need not lose hope. There are newer drugs such as TDM1 and Pertuzumab that have shown benefit in patients with final-stage and recurrent breast cancer. The drugs considerably improve the survival of patients. These drugs are combined with conventional chemotherapy medication, removing the cancer as well as its root cause.”
India has 17 percent of the world's population suffering from breast cancer, which is considered a lifestyle disease. It is the most common cancer in women today. Its incidence has been consistently increasing in India. In general, breast cancer has been reported to occur a decade earlier in Indian patients compared to their western counterparts. In Kerala, the three districts namely Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur are particularly noted for the high incidence of breast cancer.