Breast Cancer - a wake up call for Indian women

Breast cancer, a dreaded disease has got deadlier for the modern woman. Experts project breast cancer to strike approximately 2.5 lakh women in India by 2015.

New Delhi: Breast cancer, a dreaded
disease has got deadlier for the modern woman who with her
late marriage, unhealthy eating and growing weight is becoming
vulnerable to the illness. Experts project breast cancer to
strike approximately 2.5 lakh women in India by 2015.

"Breast cancer has overtaken cervical cancer to become
the leading cause of cancer-related mortality among women
living in metropolitan cities," says the Indian Council of
Medical Research which places incidence of the disease at
30-33 per 1,00,000 women in urban India.
Smart government sponsored advertising that spreads
awareness about self screening as well as timely checkups,
which include mammographies and diet control, prove good
safety mechanisms for early detection crucial to curb the
spread of the curable disease, advise doctors.

"We have seen a considerable change in the level of
awareness among women in semi urban and urban areas. Initially
they were shy but when we told them about the gravity of the
disease and the ease with which they can do a self exam, we
found women losing their reticence," says Isha Bhandari, ROKO
Cancer an NGO which runs mobile cancer units across India.

The number of Breast cancer cases in India is about
100,000 women each year and there will be approximately
2,50,000 new cases of breast cancer in India by 2015, says

The Roko cancer mobile units - air conditioned buses-
ply in remote areas providing pre-cancer screening facilities,
play relevant audio visuals and carry educational kits to be
distributed in various camps.

"We started the campaign almost four years ago and aim
to make mammography tests a routine for every woman in this
country. We are also working for a polio like campaign to
reach the masses," says Bhandari.

Cancer rates could further increase by 50 percent to
15 million new cases in the year 2020, according to the World
Cancer Report, the most comprehensive global examination of
the disease to date.

The report also reveals that the developing world is
expected to account for more than half of all cancer cases in
the world by 2020. The WHO is also warning that Asia`s annual
death toll from cancer, currently at about 4 million, could
reach 6.4 million by 2030 if current trends continue.

Said to be a western disease, the incidence of new
cases in Asia is rising by around 60 percent in some parts.

"The rise is particularly affecting younger women
between 30 and 40 years. Unlike in the West where typically
women after 50 years get early stage disease, breast cancer in
Asian women occurs at a younger age and is usually presented
and diagnosed at a later stage," Dr Col CS Pant, vice
chairperson for the Forum for Breast Cancer Protection.

The forum, supported by Hard Rock Cafe, is organising
a women`s car rally from Delhi to Agra, to raise funds and
generate awareness about breast cancer prevention and its
early detection.

Though there is no known cause for the illness, a cure
is possible if detected early.

"I have been in this field for over 25 years and have
found that breast cancer creates psychological havoc for a
young woman usually in her 40s and with one or two children,"
says Pant.

"The fault to a certain extent lies with the doctors
too who do not encourage screening. Every woman after 40
should go for a mammogram test," Isha Bhandari.

Government advertisemets also should not talk about
advanced mammography techniques like digital ones and should
focus on disseminating ordinary ones because these tests are
by itself expensive and more advanced ones with their more
expensive rates prove as a deterrent in many cases, say

"A regular mammogram costs between Rs 1,500 to Rs
2000, digital ones can cost as much as Rs 8000. Even in the
US the usage of digital instrument is limited to just 32 percent. It requires volumes to make it cost effective," says

"The cause for the cancer is not known but it has been
statistically found that Japanese and Chinese are least prone.
Perhaps it is a good idea to take a look at their food.
Sipping green tea, having more vegetarian diet and plenty of
exercise can be act as a deterrent," says Pant.

Bureau Report