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86-year-old woman with breast cancer recovers completely for the second time in her life

PTI Jun 22, 2022

The woman was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in her life after 27 years. Though this may seem alarming that cancer can come back after several years, early detection and time-appropriate management have given her a normal life.

Early detection is the key to the cure of cancer. The octogenarian had her first incidence of breast cancer 27 years ago. 1 in every 8 women is prone to breast cancer. Hospital in Chennai, a leading multispeciality healthcare chain in Tamil Nadu, in June 21 announced the successful treatment of an 86-year-old woman with breast cancer 27 years after remission.

Speaking on the condition, Dr Kirti Katherine Kabeer, consultant - breast specialist and oncoplastic surgeon at the hospital said, This lady had breast cancer which was diagnosed in her late 50s. At that time she underwent chemotherapy followed by surgery-mastectomy-where her left breast was removed.

She was then put on cancer-protective medications for some time. Recently, she approached our team mentioning she was able to detect some nodules in the same region of the breast that had earlier been removed. An ultrasound was performed on her which showed the presence of 5-6 ill-defined nodules on her left chest wall, the largest measuring 13 mm.

Ultrasound-guided biopsy done from the nodule confirmed cancer recurrence. We then ran a PET-CT Scan through her whole body which helped us to visualise & confirm the nodules. The disease was limited to the chest wall area and had not spread to the other parts of the body.

The nodules on her left chest wall were removed through a revision surgery, where we removed the cancerous growth, old scar and some margins around the affected area. After a thorough discussion in the multidisciplinary tumour board, we decided not to put her through chemotherapy considering the early stage of detection, low-grade features of cancer and her age.

She was once again advised for cancer protective medications which block certain hormones in the body that can influence the growth of certain types of cancer." The patient was relieved of her symptoms and radiation therapy was delivered to the chest wall in addition to the medications.

"The radiation therapy was continued for 5 weeks through Image-Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT) technique, as we had to keep in mind her advanced age, fragility and the tolerance levels of her heart and the left lung which would be exposed to the field of radiation during the therapy."

"The take-home message from this story is that an elderly woman was able to detect subtle abnormalities in her body at the correct time. Not once, but twice, self-breast examination, early detection and time-appropriate management have provided a good quality of life."

Women should be encouraged to perform self-breast examinations periodically, firstly to know what is normal for them and then to report any lump or change at a very early stage. Women can also utilise the cancer screening facilities in the nearby hospitals so that cancerous growths and pre-cancer changes as small as 1mm can be detected and treated early.

Today there are different approaches to treating breast cancers such as preserving the breasts, cosmetic surgery and advanced radiation therapy," added Dr A N Vaidhyswaran, director and senior consultant radiation oncologist, at the hospital.

Speaking on the success of the treatment, Dr Aravindan Selvaraj, Co-founder & Executive Director of the hospital, said, The key message here is early detection, which can be done by self-examination. Lumps, nodules, and other abnormalities should not be ignored; they can be easily identified by oneself.

Early detection and treatment are crucial and shall help to avoid complex surgical procedures like breast or organ removal. One in eight women is prone to develop breast cancer.

Women can easily identify tumours of 1 cm or less, which can then be confirmed by an oncologist. In this particular instance, it was this elderly woman's wise decision to consult the medical expert in time that facilitated early detection and appropriate treatment.

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