Breast cancer cases increase, call for awareness grows (Oct 1-7 is Breast Cancer Week)

October 2nd, 2009 - 9:32 am ICT by IANS  

By Nakshab Khan
New Delhi, Oct 2 (IANS) Mugdha Yardi was shattered when she was detected with breast cancer and thought the diagnosis must be wrong. It was not, and her worst fear came true. Now she has overcome her disease and is helping others do the same. With one out of every 22 Indian women sufering from breast cancer, she has plenty to do.

“I was pretty healthy and couldn’t have thought of such a menacing disease when this thing (breast cancer) happened to me in 2001 at the age of 40 and my life was thrown upside down,” Yardi told IANS on phone from Pune.

Mugdha now runs Aastha Breast Cancer Support Group.

“The cases of breast cancer have increased from what it used to be a decade ago and to curb the spread of this disease we have decided to open an NGO creating awareness for its prevention,” she said.

Someone who has gone through the same crisis and endured the same pain can really understand and help the victims of this disease, Mugdha says. “Early detection is the best cure for this disease.”

“For years we have been visiting schools and colleges and holding public shows and rallies to create awareness. We invite experts to address people and clear their nagging doubts and worries. Also, there are some question-and-answer sessions and workshops,” Mugdha added.

India accounts for nearly six percent of deaths due to breast cancer globally and one out of every 22 women in India is diagnosed with breast cancer, according to a study by Indian Council of Medical Research. Breast cancer is rapidly overtaking the number of cervical cancer cases among Indian women, the study said.

There will be approximately 250,000 new cases of breast cancer in India by 2015, says a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

According to the Indian journal of cancer, more than a million new patients suffer from breast cancer annually in the world. In India, the incidence of breast cancer has steadily increased over the years and as many as 100,000 new patients are being detected every year, it said.

Sameer Kaul, senior surgeon of oncology at New Delhi’s Apollo Hospital, says that modern diet and lifestyle, plus work stress are the commonest reasons for the spread of breast cancer. Junk food rich in carbohydrates, fats leading to obesity, excessive alcohol intake and smoking are also among the causes.

But breast cancer need not be the end of the world for the patient. Kaul said the digital mammography system has become a great weapon in detection of cancer at a very early stage. The machine can often detect the tumour where conventional methods fail. “The mammography system can show micro-calcifications and tumours in greater detail, both significant indicators for early diagnosis of breast cancer and allows many images to be captured more rapidly.”

In many developed countries, smaller families, delayed childbearing and reduced breast-feeding have driven the increase in breast cancer. The same trend is now seen in India, experts say.

Geeta K, Senior consultant surgeon of oncology at Max Healthcare in New Delhi, says that early menarche (menstruation) leading to hormonal change and delay in childbirth have also contributed to this menace.

“There has been a spurt in cases of breast cancer in India though less than in Western countries,” Geeta told IANS.

She pointed out that urban Indian women are more prone to this disease than those who live in villages.

She also said the average age of the high risk group in India is between 43 and 46 years, unlike in the West where women aged 53-57 years are more prone to breast cancer.

The authorities must have a strategy to highlight the risks of alcohol consumption, obesity and lack of exercise leading to breast cancer, says Ruquaya Mir, senior oncologist at Apollo Hospital here.

(Nakshab Khan can be contacted at nakshab.k@ians.in)

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