WHAT IS THE SOLUTION TO THE GROWING BREAST CANCER PROBLEM IN INDIA?
I am often asked why does breast cancer happen? And the only honest answer I come up with is ‘I don’t know. There are risk factors but there is no absolute association of breast cancer with these risk factors! Not a very confidence inspiring answer but that is the reality. The truth is that in a developed country like USA,1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime while in India,1 in 25-30 women in the urban population and 1 in 65-70 women in the rural areas will be diagnosed with the same. That may seem reassuring but in absolute numbers we are way ahead of America.
The western world has a well-oiled mammographic screening program to detect breast cancers early. We do not have one and probably the incidence as of now, does not justify such an exercise. The real worry, however, is that in India and other developing countries, more lives are lost to breast cancer compared to the west. So what is it that they are doing right which we are not? Some things are quite obvious, that they have better access to uniform healthcare and they are quite mindful and aware of the problem of breast cancer. Our cup of woes is overflowing- the larger population has no access to primary healthcare let alone tertiary care.
With every passing day, the problem of breast cancer is growing and it is imperative that we do what we can to turn the tide. It is rather unfortunate that about 50-60%of breast cancers in our country are detected in advanced stages. It is therefore not surprising that more than 50% of patients diagnosed with breast cancer would succumb to the disease. For a country like ours, the only useful tool to tackle breast cancer would be –EARLY DETECTION! It is a known fact that the only method to improve outcomes in breast cancer is by catching the disease early. For us, becoming familiar with our own breasts and making others around us breast aware is the need of the hour.
Breast Self Examination
Breast self examination (BSE) is an extremely simple procedure to carry out. You don’t need to set aside a special time to execute it. You can do so while you are taking a bath. Examination is so much simpler when your hand slips over the breast and you can detect any abnormal area in the breast quite easily. Breast self examination should be performed once a month, a week after your periods or if you are postmenopausal, on a fixed day every month which could coincide with your birthday or anniversary. Some breasts may be extremely lumpy and bumpy. You may perceive this as abnormal when you start examining yourself but a trip to a breast surgeon can allay your fears. The lumpy breast is your normal. What a regular breast self examination achieves is quite remarkable: it familiarizes you with the usual undulations in the breast in the same way as you are completely aware of all the speed breakers, curves and kerbs we encounter on our way from work to home even on a dim lit road.
Early Detection is the Key
EARLY DETECTION IS REALLY THE KEY! Any new finding in the breast needs to be seen, investigated and seen to its natural conclusion. PERIOD!!To remain healthy and disease free is what we all want, but to detect a problem and procrastinate can have serious consequences.
A woman, without doubt, is a multitasker- balancing her home and her work with dexterity unique to her. It is impossible to overemphasize the role a woman plays in the lives of the many who depend on her for their day-to-day needs. In the process, she often pushes back her needs. Her health almost always takes a backseat as she always has better things to do – FOR OTHERS!
Let us all pledge to become breast aware and inspire at least 10 other women to do the same. We certainly owe this much to ourselves and to all our loved ones………
Learn the technique of Breast Self-Examination @- https://youtu.be/49Usr5ASo8g
Dr Geeta Kadayaprath MS FRCS
Senior Director, Breast Surgical Oncology and Oncoplastic Surgery
Max Institute of Cancer Care
Max Hospital, Patparganj and Vaishali
Image Source: Canva & Freepik