Being Breast Aware – Empowering Women with the Right Information

Women’s Day is celebrated to commemorate the socioeconomic, cultural and political achievements of women across the globe. Through the years, on Women’s Day the focus has been around gender equality for a sustainable tomorrow. This year, the theme is to #breakthebias and we are going to look at the challenges women face with addressing their breast health issues.


The most common is fear and anxiety that any change in the breast could be a cancer. This fear and anxiety at times is extreme and negatively affects one’s quality of life. YES! Breast cancer incidence is on the rise, but ladies there is no need for panic. Only twenty percent of all lumps that are seen and evaluated translate to cancerous changes in the breast, whereas the remaining eighty percent are usually benign non-cancerous changes within the breast. The one point to remember is that self-breast examination and routine mammogram screening doesn’t mean we are always looking for a cancerous change, but also for any change that requires regular medical treatment or follow-up, just as you would need to do if diagnosed with a chronic medical condition such as diabetes.

One way to overcome the anxiety associated with going in for a mammogram, a clinical breast exam or even just addressing a concern regarding your breasts, is by improved communication from your health care provider, educating about breast health prior to screening and being breast aware. Awareness is the first step to prevention, early detection and time-appropriate disease management.

We still see many women who are afraid to address their problems with their breast health largely as they may be embarrassed or they fear that it may lead to losing the breast. There is still a lot of stigma associated with speaking up and speaking out aloud about one’s breast, be it an issue with the size or symmetry, a lump or changes in the nipple. Holding back these thoughts or concerns about your breast often lead to body image issues and delay in diagnosis. In India, we still see women presenting to the clinic at advanced stages, whether it is cancer or an infection in the breast. This trend needs to be reversed as the longer you wait to address, the more extensive the treatment or corrective procedure.

The second fear is being told you have a lump and that it could be cancer. The word “cancer” to most means fatality or loss in quality and longevity of life. That is no longer true for those detected with early breast cancer. More importantly, with advances in diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, most women can undergo treatment for breast cancer without having to lose their breast. Losing a breast is the most traumatic part that women face and the depression that goes with losing a breast is noted only once treatment is completed as they try to move on as usual with life. The only way to avoid this is by early detection and a systematic treatment approach with a multidisciplinary team.

We are in the era of new age cancer care and with vast access to information, the onus is on us. Though in India we do not have a national screening program, screen routinely when opportunity presents. Update and educate so you are aware of the diagnostic and treatment modalities. Take part in risk reducing habits by altering your mindset and way of living. Find and form local Breast Support groups, not only for those undergoing cancer treatment but to discuss and share experiences and grievances caused by breast health issues.

This Women’s Day, let us take an oath to join hands together in the fight against the stigma associated with #breast-health.


Dr. Kirti Katherine Kabeer
Consultant Breast Specialist and Oncoplastic Surgery
Kauvery Hospital, Chennai