With the increase in the number of breast cancer cases in India, the fear of cancer is on the rise. One cannot prevent breast cancer but can increase the survival rates by being informed and choosing the right treatment at the right time. Patients diagnosed with breast cancer need planned and systemic therapy, which is personalized based on their cancer condition.
Here are some alarming facts about breast cancer in India that will help patients understand breast cancer and the reason to opt for a personalized treatment:
• Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in India.
• Breast cancer is the most common cancer in most cities and the second most common in rural India.
• Breast cancer accounts for 25% to 32% of female cancers in all cities across India.
• In India, one woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 4 minutes.
• One woman dies of breast cancer, every 13 minutes in India.
• An estimated 70,218 women died of breast cancer in India, in the year 2012, the highest in the world for that year.
• Only 60% of women who are treated for breast cancer, survive for at least five years post-treatment in India as compared to 89% in the US.
• The high mortality rate is due to the lack of awareness and delay in screening and diagnosis.
• More than 50% of breast cancer patients in India are suffering from stage 3 and 4, where the chances of survival are extremely low.
• India sees a spurt in the cases of breast cancer in the age group of 30 to 50, and the same is likely to increase.
• Breastfeeding often interrupts periods, which leads to fewer menstrual cycles and less estrogen exposure, leading to about a 4.3 percent reduction in the overall risk of breast cancer for every 12 months of breastfeeding.
• According to the National Institute of Health, breast cancer survivors are at an increased risk of osteoporosis. Estrogen has a protective effect on bones, and reduced estrogen levels can trigger bone loss.
Breast cancer cannot be prevented but it can surely be treated within time. Here are some things that all of us can do:
• Be aware and spread about breast cancer diagnosis, symptoms, breast cancer recurrence tests, and the right treatment.
• Learn about self-tests and regularly examine your breasts on your own.
• Visit an oncologist if you feel any abnormalities in your breasts.
• Early detection is a blessing. It means breast cancer can be treated, and you have the chance to live a healthy life post-recovery.
• Stage 1 and 2 breast cancer patients are eligible to take breast cancer recurrence prediction test namely CanAssist Breast to find out their recurrence risk score.
• Depending on the score, the doctor and patient can personalize their treatment.
Talk to more people and spread the word about breast cancer, treatments and medical tests like CanAssist Breast that can help in personalizing breast cancer treatment by letting the patient know their breast cancer recurrence risk score.
To know more about CanAssist Breast, please click here or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
What will happen to her body when she is undergoing chemotherapy? What kind of pain will she have to go through? Is she mentally prepared for chemotherapy? Will chemotherapy affect her emotionally? The mind is occupied with ample thoughts and emotions when loved ones undergo chemotherapy, and, fear is the most distressing one.
1. Fear of losing hair:
Loss of hair is among the most common side effects of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy affects all the cells in the body including the healthy ones, especially the ones that grow rapidly. Here are a few more things you must know about hair loss and chemotherapy:
• Not everyone faces an equal amount of hair loss.
• The amount of hair loss, thinning, or falling of hair depends on the chemotherapy dosage and medication.
• Hair loss due to chemotherapy can be sudden or can be a slow process.
• Patients may either lose all the hair or just a part of it.
• It is possible to lose hair from all parts of the body; not just on the head.
2. Fear of chronic side effects:
A lot of people fear that chemotherapy leaves patients with chronic side effects, which might stay with them forever. This is not true for all patients and all kinds of cancers. Different patients experience varying lengths of side effects – some for weeks and months and some for years. The patient’s cancer care specialist might be able to share information about the long-term and short-term side effects and the tenure of side effects. Some side effects can also be treated with medication or therapy.
3. Fear of chemotherapy being physically painful:
Agreed, chemotherapy is painful. However, patients should know that certain pains caused by chemotherapy could be treated by the medication or by alternative therapies. As per cancer care experts, patients should remember that most often the anxiety of what is going to happen can psychologically heighten the perception of pain. The physical pain caused by chemotherapy doesn’t necessarily have to be as painful as considered to be.
4. Side effects of chemotherapy:
Some of the common side effects of chemotherapy are nausea, hair loss, constipation, anemia, weight loss, fertility problems, kidney problems, and so on. Having said this, patients need to know that:
• Every patient has different levels of side effects. Some patients might experience higher side effects than other patients.
• Certain side effects can be prevented with the help of extra care and medication.
• Some side effects have long term impact whereas some lasts for a shorter tenure.
Medical research and innovation have made it possible for some women to avoid chemotherapy. In India, 95% of cancer patients choose to undergo chemotherapy, whereas a large percentage of them can avoid it. Studies show that chemotherapy can be avoided in 70% early stage HER2 positive breast cancer patients.
Prognostic tests like CanAssist Breast helps the patients to know their breast cancer recurrence risk score and possibly avoid chemotherapy. It makes personalized treatment possible while keeping the costs down in low-risk cases.
Chemotherapy is a tough fight, but constantly telling yourself that you CAN make through it, is the best way to deal with the fear of chemotherapy. Remember, “This Too Shall Pass”!
Cancer specialists often face families and friends who are always worried about their loved ones suffering from cancer. Most of the worries revolve around finalizing the best hospital, opting right treatment, the duration of the treatment, and the cost involved to treat the disease. Though new medications and tests have gained impetus in the medical industry, patients and families are skeptic about the new treatments.
Cancer specialists who recommended breast cancer recurrence test such as CanAssist Breast to patients have faced several such inhibitions from them. Here are a few more challenges that cancer specialists face while educating the patients about
breast cancer recurrence tests:
Most of the cancer recurrence tests are expensive and comes as a huge burden to the patients. It adds to the existing diagnosis, medication, surgery, and other treatment-related bills.
However, patients should look at it as an expense that could save them from heavier medical expenses, especially from chemotherapy and radiation. Patients whose breast cancer recurrence score is low can skip chemotherapy, thereby can save lakhs of rupees. Also, the cancer care specialists will have better knowledge about the tumor and can accordingly personalize the treatment, thereby; avoiding overtreatment and undertreatment.
Trust-worthiness of machine-based tests :
In India, companies are using AI and machine learning-based tests for better cancer diagnosis and treatment by making it accurate, accessible, and affordable. Among the most significant advantages of using AI and machine learning is that these technologies can read a large amount of data with accuracy and within less time.
CanAssist Breast digitizes historical medical records of patients, feeds into an AI-algorithm which then analyzes the reports to create actionable insights for doctors. The test reads and analyzes tissue abnormality and identifies tumors that can develop into cancer – a benefit of technology that human expertise cannot possibly match.
Future predictability :
Some breast cancers are driven by natural hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. Clinicians refer to these cancers as hormone receptor-positive if they are estrogen receptor-positive (ER positive) and/or progesterone receptor-positive (PR positive). Hormone therapy for breast cancer is only used to treat cancers that are ER or PR positive.
Despite conventional hormone therapy, approximately 20–30% of patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer will suffer recurrences and the development of metastatic disease.
Considerable progress has been made in this area, and newer therapeutic targets have been developed against several hormonal resistance mechanisms. Experts at OncoStem perform the test by analyzing the expression of five protein biomarkers using OncoStem’s proprietary machine-learning algorithm. The test reprt is dispatched within ten business days. The doctor and patient can further discuss the test reports and personalize the treatment.
Want to know more about our breast cancer recurrence test? Get in touch with us!
I am Meenakshi. I live in the buzzing city of Pune (India). I am 39 years right now and completely healthy. Let me take you back in time, the year 2016; My 36th birthday celebration was still on, both at home and hospital. I work as a part-time therapist in a non-profit hospital. All my patients gathered to celebrate my birthday, and this really touched me. At home, my husband and my 3-year-old boy had baked a not-so-good-looking, but love-filled cake. I was thrilled, and it was the best way I could turn 36.
The next morning, while in the shower, I felt a lump in my breast. I assumed I was imagining it and was worrying for no reason. I ignored it for a few days and continued with my daily commitments.
After a long day at work, I was getting ready to go to bed when I felt the lump again. Now, it was almost a week, and I could feel the lump every day. I decided to ask Dr. Sushma, the GP in the OPD at my hospital. Dr. Sushma hesitated a bit after checking me. This got me extremely anxious and worried. She said, “I am not too sure, I think you should get a scan done’’, I looked at her with a curious eye and asked, “You mean, it might be cancer?” She quickly gathered herself and shrugged, “I am not sure, I think it’s better to get a test done before concluding anything.”
I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. And, the only thing my oncologist told me, “Don’t be worried. You should be happy you got it checked so early. Early detection is really a plus. The cancer is at a stage when it can be treated, and you can be back to your regular normal life.”
I think this is what stuck to me the most. It’s a normal ailment that can be cured and I am going to work towards making that happen. This attitude of mine along with family support made me strong and we were ready to overcome everything that came our way.
A few weeks later, came the turning point of my life. The tumor was surgically removed. Dr. Priya, my oncologist suggested to take up CanAssist Breast test to find out the breast cancer recurrence risk before going ahead with the treatment.
CanAssist Breast provided additional information about my tumor. The test results helped us to identify the likelihood of cancer returning to a distant site after surgery. Luckily, I was under the low-risk recurrence zone and I was spared from chemotherapy and its side-effects. This timely action of mine not only saved the cost of treatment but also helped me in leading a quality life.
Today, being a breast cancer survivor, I thank OncoStem and Dr. Manjiri for helping me take the most important and timely decision of my life. The decision to take CanAssistBreast test helped me in personalizing my treatment and leading a normal life.
1. Precision treatments for breast cancer
Precision medicine or personalized therapies for breast cancer are those that are tailored to a specific patient to give the most effective treatment. It considers the genetic makeup or other markers in the cancer cells, blood, and tumor tissues and non-genetic factors such as lifestyle. From diagnosis, treatment to prevention and care, this approach includes the collection and analysis of blood or tumor tissue.
The advantages of precision medicine:
- Avoid unnecessary treatment
- The treatments involved in cancer such as radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and surgery could have side effects. With precision medicine, these side effects can be avoided.
- It makes it easier to identify and involve specific medical experts depending on the need of the patient as opposed to a general medical expert or oncologist.
Precision treatments are also based on the groups that different patients belong to, such as HER2-positive, lymph node-positive, post or pre-menopausal, and other such groups.
2. AI and data analytics for breast cancer treatment
To tackle the numerous problems related to breast cancer such as late diagnosis, over-treatment, unaffordable treatments, and inaccessibility of treatment options, multiple companies have been researching and developing different solutions. Employing different technologies ranging from artificial intelligence and machine learning, the development of tech-based innovation for breast cancer has rapidly advanced in recent years.
For example, mammography is no longer the screening test that works for all. Tests such as digital breast tomosynthesis, whole-breast ultrasound, and AI-powered are more accessible, personalized, and affordable screening methods. Highly capable 3D mammography machines are simplifying early detection and breast cancer recurrence prediction tests and are helping patients to bypass chemotherapy altogether.
3. Tests that predict breast cancer recurrence
Breast cancer isn’t the same for each patient. There are different kinds of breast cancers, and they respond differently to different treatments. For example, oncologists are now planning treatments for patients based on their specific breast cancer conditions. These treatment decisions are based on whether they are HER2-positive, lymph node-positive, post or pre-menopausal, and other such factors.
Precision treatments are also based on the groups that different patients belong to, such as HER2-positive, lymph node-positive, post or pre-menopausal, and other such groups. Today, all women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer do not need chemotherapy. A few years ago, almost 95% of patients would definitely undergo chemotherapy as a measure to keep cancer away post-surgery.
OncoStem’s CanAssist Breast is a prognostic test that classifies the patients as ‘low-risk’ or ‘high-risk’ based on the patient’s breast cancer recurrence risk over five years.
Here’s how the test works:
- Once the tumor is removed by surgery, it is essential to determine if the patient has cancer recurrence chances.
- Upon taking the CanAssist Breast test, the diagnosis is considered in deciding the treatment plan for the patient. If the patient is categorized as low-risk, she can avoid chemotherapy.
- Apart from the test results, the oncologists consider other factors such as age, history, lifestyle, tumor size, and grade to plan the treatment.
Experts have noted peculiar observations in breast cancer occurrences in India. There is an increased incidence in younger age groups in rural and urban areas. With the number of breast cancer occurrences consistently on the rise, awareness about breast cancer recurrence risk is a must.
Up until a few years back, a large number of women in the rural areas suffered due to non-diagnostics and lack of facilities for cancer diagnosis and care in these regions. However, owing to the fact that the AI and tech-based screenings and treatments do not involve complex logistics or the need of physical examination, the availability of tests and medicines is penetrating deeper in rural and underserved regions, too.
These are some novel and innovative approaches in tests and treatments over the last few years:
Telemedicine: An unmanned telemedicine clinic where patients come face-to-face with medical experts from across the country. The process is carried out online that allows doctors and patients to see each other virtually.
Data analytics in medicine: A number of tests only require a small sample tissue from the cancer tumor to read, study, and access the cancer condition of the patients. These samples can be easily and safely couriered from any part of the country in just a few days enabling patients from unserved regions to access medical help.
India has the lowest doctor-patient ratio in the world. In such a scenario, these machine-based tests are helping reach a larger number of patients.
5. More affordable tests and treatments
For years, people have associated the word ‘cancer’ with being an expensive disease. Even though characterized as ‘low-cost’ by global standards, it still remains unaffordable for the majority of the population.
With new, advanced, improved, and innovative breast cancer treatments, the problem is being tackled by several cancer treatment institutes and startups. With continued research and development, startups are striving to make the tests even cheaper and affordable for a large segment of the population.
The need for the hour is to spread awareness about these options among patients and their loved ones.
Stay informed and spread the word!
Are you amongst the millions who associate breast cancer with fatality; a disease that is almost impossible to cure and one that definitely involves chemotherapy? Most people believe that cancer treatments and medicines have little benefit. However, a look into new findings and discoveries in the field of oncology is enough to change this common perception about breast cancer.
For years, doctors and oncologists have chosen chemotherapy and radiation as a post-surgical breast cancer treatment. The knowledge, willingness, and proactive approach of the oncologists’ and their involvement with the patient’s treatment play a vital role in breast cancer treatment.
The oncologist and the patient
The oncologist is not only responsible for the diagnosis but is also responsible for providing clarity and knowledge to the patient about their cancer. Most importantly, the oncologist is responsible for deciding and charting out the best treatment course for the patient. Discussions surrounding prognosis often require oncologists to be sensitive, honest, and encouraging.
The treatment to a particular breast cancer patient and the response to treatment is unique to each patient, and the oncologist must share relevant information with the patient. Apart from this, the oncologists are responsible for post-treatment follow-up to assess the effectiveness of the treatment.
Oncologists have to consider many factors when determining a patient’s treatment and one thing that is often difficult to decide is whether a patient should be given chemotherapy or not. Several factors are considered:
- The size of the breast cancer tumor
- The stage of breast cancer
- Whether cancer is only in the breast or has spread to other parts of the body
- The hormone-receptor status of the cancer
- Whether the cancer is triple-negative (estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2-negative)
- The rate of cell growth
- If the cancer is likely to come back (recurrence)
- Factors such as the age, menopausal status, and general health of the patient.
According to an assessment by WHO, cancer cases in India will multiply over five times by 2025.
Most patients associate cancer with chemotherapy and one of their first set of questions include queries about chemotherapy: How many sessions of chemotherapy will be required, what are the side-effects, what are the costs involved, will chemotherapy benefit, and what exactly happens during chemotherapy? Among other common questions are: will cancer come back after the surgery? How aggressive is cancer and how fast is it spreading?
A large number of patients and their families aren’t aware of the alternative treatments for breast cancer that are available in the country today. Hence, it is the oncologist’s responsibility to introduce the patients to new treatment options so that the patients consider all the available options.
Oncologists and cancer clinics have to be updated with the latest research and findings in the field of medical research to be able to provide the best treatment to their patients.
Breast cancer trends and cure
In India, breast cancer cases are on the rise. There has been an increase in the number of discoveries, alternative cancer care options, and innovative personalized treatment options for breast cancer patients in India.
In the last five decades, breast cancer treatment has become the model for the development and success of tailored medical treatment.
Therapeutic approaches for breast cancer have changed over the past few decades, and the use of systemic therapy for early and advanced disease tailored to the individual patient holds the promise of delivering treatment to those in need and who could benefit the most. While we’re nowhere near where we should be or could be—in either preventing or treating cancer—science has led to evident progress in treating breast cancers of different kinds.
Advances in hormone therapy for hormone receptor-positive cancer
Some breast cancers are driven by natural hormones, estrogen and progesterone. These are referred to as hormone receptor-positive if they are estrogen receptor-positive (ER positive) and/or progesterone receptor-positive (PR positive). Hormone therapy for breast cancer is only used to treat cancers that are ER or PR positive.
Despite conventional hormone therapy, approximately 20–30% of patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer suffer recurrences and the development of metastatic disease as they experience a biochemical mechanism of resistance. Considerable progress has been made in this area, and newer therapeutic targets have been developed against a number of hormonal resistance mechanisms.
Are all patients with early breast cancer benefiting from chemotherapy? A number of experts and oncologists asked this question. Some delved deeper into it. With this question in mind, global investigators motivated by the development of new prognostic and predictive tests such as OncoStem’s CanAssist Breast. The test focuses on personalizing breast cancer treatment to avoid overtreatment and undertreatment.
Clinical research is currently evaluating new therapeutic approaches and is identifying specific biological subsets that could determine a patient’s ability to respond to a particular treatment.
Scientific, machine-learning precision – CanAssist Breast
Artificial intelligence and machine learning is an emerging approach to breast cancer. CanAssist Breast is the first such test developed in India, specifically for Indian patients. It determines the tumor’s fingerprint and assesses its aggressiveness. Assessing the tumor biology in detail, the test considers key biomarkers. Based on this combined analysis performed by proteomics based technology, the information is then assessed by a statistical algorithm that provides a score – whether the patient is at low or high risk for breast cancer recurrence.
The importance of medical research
The advent of new drugs targeting specific actionable targets has led to considerable progress in the treatment of breast cancer over the past few years. Yet, some challenges such as resistance to systemic therapy, the high cost of treatments, and limited availability in many parts of the country still remain.
Experts continue to find ways to improve the available technology to provide proper guidance for those living with breast cancer and for those at high risk of developing it.
The author of this blog, Dr.Jayanti Thumsi, has been a practicing breast oncologist for 16 years, has performed 3500 breast surgeries, and 2500 other surgeries. She is an expert in Breast conservation and Breast Reconstruction surgeries. With a keen interest in spreading breast cancer awareness among women, she has conducted 258 awareness programs and has educated 158000 women. She is also the founder trustee of the CREST Foundation working to decrease the burden of breast cancer. Her book, Lump to Laughter, highlights the emotional journey of women going through breast cancer treatment.