Dr Ravi Guar
Cancer, one of the world’s most fatal diseases, is spreading at an alarming rate in India and women, especially urban women, are more affected by this dreadful ailment due to a variety of reasons.
The numbers of confirmed cancer cases among women are third highest in India, after China and the US. Also, it has the higher mortality rate in the country. The more pervasive among all cancer types is the breast cancer which tops the list with 19 per cent incidence.
Many current studies confirm that about 25 per cent to 32 per cent of women in seven metros of India are completely or partially afflicted with breast cancer. Though 69 per cent of patients are aged above 50, 16 per cent are in their thirties, and 28 per cent of them are in their forties.
Moreover, the current trend suggests that breast cancer will cause maximum female deaths in India than any other cancer by 2030. However, despite such shocking statistics, women are not actively aware or concerned about this grave issue.
Working women more prone
Unfortunately, the awareness about breast cancer is restricted to health institutions and government agencies. The target audience is still least educated about the symptoms, causes, screening, diagnosis and treatment of the breast cancer. Eventually, the tentacles of this disease are penetrating more in urban India than the rural parts.
Further, inadequate healthcare facilities, contaminated environment, and rising contact with toxic substances, including UV rays, are causing more danger to working women. In such an unwholesome scenario, women at digital workplaces, financial companies, laboratories and chemical industries are more susceptible to breast cancer. Because, these are the places where workers often get in contact with various types of radiation, pesticides and gases like benzene which are carcinogenic and toxic by nature.
That’s why the incidence rate is higher in cities. In contrast, the ratio of the women who have breast cancer in rural areas is 1: 60 against the ratio of urban women, which is 1: 90. Hence, it should be the responsibility of employers to educate their employees regarding this disease and provide them with basic health check-up facilities on a regular basis.
Early diagnosis helps
Unlike the West, breast cancer patients in India survive less as they usually come to know about the disease at stage 3 or 4 whereas people in the developed world, due to more awareness and better diagnostic facilities, can cope with the disease discovered at its early stages.
Early screening and timely consultation with doctors help them to take the right treatment at the right time. Besides, women in the west, who have a family history of breast cancer, are more serious towards getting screened, mammography, and clinical examination to detect and prevent the disease.
Contrary to this, very few women in India know about their family history of having breast cancer. The possibility of transferring BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes from generation to generation is quite high, i.e., 50 per cent or even more. Here, it is evident that if a woman has inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2, then the chances of her having breast cancer in the future is 80 per cent.
Hence, awareness is the key to success. Educating the women about causes, symptoms, breast cancer screening, benefits of early diagnosis and advantages of breastfeeding to their infants can definitely minimise breast cancer incidence in India. It is the responsibility of both the governments and the corporate houses to take effective measures in this direction.
— The writer is COO, Oncquest Laboratories