November 28, 2016
Bengaluru: Breast cancer is non-existent for the majority of the population till someone close is diagnosed with it. Educated, aware individuals ignore the routine check-up.Healthcare is low on priority even in the big cities.
Most of my friends who are all in their 30s are all blissfully unaware of the consequences. They would rather take out time for ‘more important things’ such as catching up with friends, or a movie perhaps, but not keep up with the screening date. So naturally, this results in most people presenting only when symptomatic and, on an average, most ‘symptomatic’ cancers are stage 2B and beyond. So breast cancer patients do not tend to survive for a longer time unlike our Western counterpartswhere 75% of breast cancer is diagnosed in stage 1 and 2. In most advanced countries, women go for regular screenings, and they are educated to do a self-examination of their breasts and report in case of any abnormality.
In a country where one-fourth (or even approaching one-third) of all female cancer cases are breast cancers and breast cancer also being the most common cancer in most cities in India and second most common in the rural areas, it is important that we understand the gravity of the situation.
“We are still not that aware. Unfortunately, Bangalore is the capital of breast cancer with nearly 36.8% per 100000 people. Breast cancer is not very evident in the early stages. And therefore it is important to understand what examining your breasts mean. Examining your breasts should start in the early 20s. Awareness campaigns should happen aggressively in our country to educate people. Fortis La Femme is organising a bike rally to reach a wider section of people this year,” says Dr Aruna Muralidhar, Senior Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis La Femme.
Statistics show that there is an increase in the number of cases amongst the young. Presently, 4% are in 20 to 30 age group, 16% are in 30 to 40, 28% are in 40 to 50 age group. So, almost 48% of patients are below 50. An increasing number of patients are in the 25 to 40 age group and this definitely is worrisome. “Statistics do point out an age gap that is more susceptible, but girls as young as 19 years are also getting it,” says Ila Basu, gynaecologist.
So, is it an urban disease? “The pointers are a little tilted towards urban, but rural women are also suffering from it,”confirms Dr Aruna. Studies are also showing a relation between lifestyle and breast cancer. “Yes,all cancers have a direct relationship with lifestyle. And so does breast cancer. Eating healthy and exercising do play a big role in keeping them at bay. Scottish women are more prone to breast cancer and Japanese are less prone to it, studies have shown. The reason is still not known, but they suspect diet to be the main reason. What you eat is therefore important,” concludes Dr Aruna.