Will women in India bite into Angelina Jolie pill?

Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group/ Delhi

Angelina Jolie has made a new health statement declaring publically she had undergone double mastectomy. The Hollywood beauty is now planning to get her ovaries removed as she has fifty per cent chances of contracting ovarian cancer.

Her bold announcement has given rise to hope for millions of women suffering from gynecological cancer in India. But the big challenge here is the ability of the message to sink through and the requisite support from the society to be able to act on the available recommendation as also take preventive measures as applicable.

India is high density gynaecological cancer destination. Various kinds of gynaecological cancers prevalent in the country are cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar. Breast cancer is generally not included in the list of gynecological cancers.

The medical fraternity is of opinion that out of all the gynecological cancer’s, ovarian cancer is the least common. However, it is the most dangerous one because it goes largely undetected. Most of the cancers of women are asymptomatic initially. Also, family history is one of the leading causes of cancer in women.

With nearly 73,000 women dying every year, India now tops the world in cervical cancer deaths according to a report ‘Cervical Cancer Global Crisis Card’ released by Cervical Cancer- Free Coalition on May 9th , 2013 .India represents 26.4 per cent of all women dying of cervical cancer globally. According to the report card, cervical cancer kills an estimated 275,000 women every year and 500,000 new cases reported worldwide.

Detailing the symptoms of the cervical cancers in women, Dr. Anjali Kumar, head of obstetrics and gynecology at Paras Hospital, Gurgaon, warns, “Cervical cancer is generally seen in women after the onset of sexually activity and initial stages of this cancer have no symptoms, the actual symptoms arises when the cancer has already spread and is at higher stage. The symptoms usually include excessive bleeding after intercourse and menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding).”

Breast cancer is the second leading causes of death in women in India after cervical cancer. According to the figures by Health Ministry , in 2009 , 8,7693 cases of breast cancer was reported in India, the latest available figure for 2012 stood at 9,3723 respectively.

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all. Concurring with the above view ,Dr. Madhu Goel, senior consultant, gynecology at Rockland Hospital, says, “The symptoms of ovarian cancer includes nausea, vomiting and something similar to gastroenteritis, so it is usually undetected in the preliminary stage , by the time it gets detected it’s already in advanced stage and chances of survival are less.”

“As far as breast cancer is concerned, usually it is characterised by the presence of a lump which is initially painless, but gradually when the lump grows in size, it is painful. The cancer can be diagnosed with the help of mammography test,”further adds Dr. Goel at Rockland Hospital.

There are several ways to treat gynecological cancer. The treatment depends on the type of cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. People with cancer often get more than one kind of treatment.

Doctors remove cancer tissue in an operation. Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs may be given in several forms, including pills or through an IV (intravenous) injection. Radiation uses high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to try to kill the cancer cells and stop them from spreading. The rays are aimed at the part of the body where the cancer is.

Precaution is better than cure. Endorsing the above view, Dr.Kumar at Paras Hospital, Gurgaon, says, “Majority of the cancers do not have any symptoms initially so all women in the age –group of 30 -35 years should go for a regular health check up atleast once a year to avoid complications further. For cervical cancer, once a woman becomes active sexually, she should go for a Pap smear test as cervical cancer happens once a woman is sexually active.”

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