Breast cancer patients in Mumbai will soon have access to new techniques for better treatment.
In a three-day conference at the Tata Memorial Hospital, a panel of 40 experts will update guidelines on how to apply these techniques, which are successful aboard, to Indian patients in a cost effective manner.
Traditionally, patients had to undergo partial removal of the breast along with complete removal of glands from the armpits.
This would lead to swelling of arms in the long run.
“The new technology — sentinel lymph nod — is used to check if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes before surgery. If the result is negative for the first lymph node, then surgery is not required for any of the lymph nodes,” said Dr Sudeep Gupta, convener of the breast cancer-working group, who will speak at the 8th Tata Memorial Hospital Women’s Cancer Initiative Conference.
“Thus, it attempts to reduce the amount of lymph node surgeries,” Dr Gupta added.
While the new technique has been validated in studies done abroad, the panel will consider whether it is appropriate for Indian patients.
Tata Memorial Hospital has pioneered a similar technique for Indians called axillary sampling, which excludes the use of high-end machines and is simpler and more feasible.
Another technique — accelerated radiation — helps reduce the duration of radiation
therapy from five to three weeks.
“It will be very convenient for patients,” added Gupta.
In chemotherapy, new drugs such as Taxanes, Trastuzumab and Lapatinib have improved the treatment outcomes and survival rates in breast cancer patients.
“Anybody who is not in the fourth stage of chemotherapy can be potentially cured with these drugs,” said Gupta.
The incidence of breast cancer is rising gradually in urban India because of the changing lifestyle of urban Indian women such as having children after the age of 30, obesity, reduced time period of breast feeding and active and passive consumption of tobacco.
However, thanks to increased awareness, patients approach doctors at an earlier stage of the cancer.
“The average tumour size of patients approaching us has, in the last 25 years, reduced from 6 cm to 2.5 cm,” added Gupta.