Be aware, be prepared!

With being the most common type of cancer in women, breast cancer accounts for 14% of cancers in Indian women. It is reported that with every four minutes, an Indian woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Women often find a lump in the breast or armpits as the first sign of breast cancer, but other symptoms like changes in breast skin or breast pain are also potential early signs. Breast cancer can have different symptoms for different people. Most don't notice any signs at all. The most common symptom is a lump in your breast or armpit. Others include skin changes, pain, a nipple that pulls inward, and unusual discharge from your nipple.
Breast cancer is on the rise, both in rural and urban India. A 2018 report of Breast Cancer statistics recorded 1,62,468 new registered cases and 87,090 reported deaths. Cancer survival becomes more difficult in higher stages of its growth, and more than 50% of Indian women suffer from stage 3 and 4 of breast cancer. Post cancer survival for women with breast cancer was reported 60% for Indian women, as compared to 80% in the US.
The very reason for a low breast cancer survival rate of women in India accounts from its lack of awareness and poor early screening and diagnosis rates. Delays in detection and treatment are the main reasons it becomes a more complex and life-threatening situation here. Cancer is an especially dreaded diagnosis for the poor. The gender disparity in access to healthcare is also well-documented. Women under-use health services because of lack of affordability, lack of transport, having less money and less time than men, and also most fundamentally because the world is not set up to attend to their well-being.
Families and institutions, even women themselves, underplay their physical suffering. Diseases that specifically affect women are under-researched, and women are less commonly screened for common conditions like heart disease, or even mental illness. With the latest study reports, India’s highest cancer rate is listed in the state of Kerala. Other states with high cancer rates in India include Mizoram, Haryana, Delhi and Karnataka. Mizoram accounted for the highest cancer death rates in the country, followed by Kerala and Haryana.
As the most common cancer type in Indian women, women in their early thirties till fifties are at considerable risk to develop breast cancer, and the incidence risk increases till its peak by the time they reach 50-64 years of age. There’s no escaping the fine print – Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the country, having overtaken cervical cancer. In cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, breast cancer accounts for 25% to 32% of all female cancers, more than 1/4th of all female cancers.  Prevention is a step away from a cure. Be aware, be prepared.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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