Breast cancer: Lack of early detection killing thousands of women every year

Doctors of various healthcare institutions in Hyderabad say lack of early detection of the disease is the main reason causing death of women when they reach advanced stages of cancer.
Representational picture
Representational pictureFile

Hyderabad, Oct 18: Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in India affecting one in 28 women and it is also the leading cause of cancer related deaths among women.

Doctors of various healthcare institutions in Hyderabad say lack of early detection of the disease is the main reason causing death of women when they reach advanced stages of cancer. They have advised women to stay cautious of their health to ensure they do not neglect any cancerous symptoms.

October is commemorated as 'Breast Cancer Awareness Month', and healthcare practitioners have appealed to the government to take necessary steps to spread awareness about this deadly disease even across rural areas.

"Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Where mammography facilities are not available, breast self examination can be taught to the women so that cancers of at least 2-3 cms in size can be diagnosed," said Dr. M. Jwala Srikala Consultant Radiologist, KIMS Hospital.

According to her, even illiterate women also can test themselves at home by pressing their breasts gently with the middle three fingers and sense if any lumps are there. "They should immediately consult a doctor if they find any lump in the breast. Early detection leads to giving qualitative life to the patients," she said.

Dr. M Ravi Kumar Reddy, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, Amor Hospitals, pointed out that one in every four cancer patients are victims of breast cancer disease, and in terms of mortality, nearly 35 per cent of women die from this disease in India.

"While the Asian average of these deaths is 34 per cent, the global average stands at 30 per cent, categorising this disease among the deadliest. This high mortality is due to late diagnosis of the ailment. Hence it is important that necessary steps are taken to spread awareness about this ailment, which will help save thousands of lives each year. While awareness and screening are the first steps, there is a need to take treatment closer to people to prolong survival and improve quality of life."

Dr. Suvarna Rai, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, SLG Hospitals, suggested that health departments, healthcare providers, educational institutions, associations working in this space, all must come together to devise a strategy which will help enhance awareness on breast cancer disease.

"It is important that young women are made aware of this deadly disease and they are taught means to detect it early. Unless such steps are taken on an urgent basis, breast cancer will spread in the country and we might lose more precious lives," he said.

Dr Santoshini Gowrishetty, Consultant Gynaecologist, Aware Gleneagles Global Hospital noted that breast cancer prevalence is fast growing in metro cities or in the urban settings, and this is due to lifestyle changes witnessed in the cities.

"Working women, due to their acquired habits or due to the stress, are falling prey to this deadly disease. The treatment of breast cancer is a complex procedure and requires a multidisciplinary approach. Tests to be conducted on breast cancer patients to administer advanced treatment protocols can only be done in a super specialty environment."

Dr Venu Gopal, General Surgeon and Managing Director, Century Hospital is of the view that women should take complete care of themselves in preventing any type of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

"Drinking alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Being overweight or obese after menopause also increases breast cancer risk. Women who have not had children or had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk overall. Having many pregnancies and becoming pregnant at a young age reduces breast cancer risk," he explained.

Surgery is an integral part of the treatment when treated with curative intent, but the entire process is a costly affair. Insurance policies and central or state government run schemes cover partly or only a few of these modalities, resulting in patients paying from their pockets or resorting to the approved protocols, even if it is over/under treating them. Doctors opine that the policies and schemes need to be more welcoming and be periodically updated on par with the changing trends in management of these cancers for more people to reap the benefits.

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