Breast cancer is on the rise in India, with various health experts attributing it to lifestyle changes, changing reproductive preferences, and hormonal imbalances in the body. As per an expert, one in 22 females in urban India is likely to develop the disease.
According to WHO, there are about 1.38 million new cases and 458,000 deaths from breast cancer each year. The Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world every October, helps to increase attention and support for awareness, early detection, and treatment as well as palliative care of this disease.
According to Dr (Col) R Ranga Rao, Chairman of Paras Cancer Centre at Paras Hospital, Gurugram: “Breast cancer is increasing by 10 percent every year and the reason behind is changing reproductive preferences and hormonal imbalances in the body. So, late children, no children, few children, and late marriages are the few causes of it.”
“Apart from hormonal factors, lifestyle issues like overweight, excessive consumption of calories, low exercise, less consumption of fruits and vegetables, and less breastfeeding. Moreover, in India, women have bigger breast lumps as compared to western countries. In India, early onset of breast cancer has been seen with an average age of 40-42 years.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Indian females, accounting for 14 percent of all cancers. Currently, there is a lack of sufficient knowledge as to its causes, and therefore, early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control.
“Unfortunately, most of the cancer registries in India are recording a 1-5 percent annual percentage increase. The incidence rises in the early thirties and peaks at 50-65 years of age. Overall, 1 in 22 female is likely to develop breast cancer in Urban India,” said Dr. Deepak Jha, Clinical Lead Breast Surgery, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology at Artemis Hospital.
Jha also said that a lot of advancements have happened in treatment strategies of breast cancer, with surgery having decreased in extent leading to lesser mutilation with better cosmetic outcomes. Chemotherapy and targeted therapies have evolved for better patient tolerance.
“Hopefully with better awareness and timely treatment, we can prevent some of 87,000 lives lost every year due to breast cancer in our country.”
Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, Founder, and Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, said: “Breast cancer is one of the largest killers of women on the planet. Many women suffer from breast cancer, but the problem is it’s detected too late and that’s the reason they couldn’t get good quality treatment.”
“Breast cancer, if detected on time, is 100 percent curable. Please motivate all women in your family to motivate doing self-breast examinations. It’s a very simple thing to do and takes a few minutes. If you detect any lump in your breast you should immediately bring it to your doctor’s attention,” he added.
Dr. Kaushal Yadav, Surgical Oncologist at Columbia Asia Hospital, Palam Vihar in Gurugram, explained how breast self-examination (BSE) can be done to identify any sign of potential breast cancer.
“Stand in front of a mirror with hands on the hips. Check breasts for any skin changes, lumps, or changes in the black area around the nipples. Raise one arm and try to feel for lumps around breasts — move from armpit area towards the breast until the gap on both sides. If there is a lump on the breast or in the armpit that is growing bigger and feels hard; visible skin changes over and near the lump; blood discharge from the nipple or the nipple seems pulled inwards, visit a doctor without delay,” he advised.
Kamal Narayan, CEO of Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council, said that the rapid and alarming rise of breast cancer in India needs urgent attention. While the treatment of breast cancer is covered under schemes such as Ayushman Bharat, awareness of the disease is important.
“More cases of breast cancer in India are detected at later stages, which makes encouraging women aged 35 and more undertake breast self-examination crucial to detect cases at a stage where treating them is easier. India should contemplate introducing an awareness drive for BSE by roping in community workers who can check for abnormalities in breast or breast cancer cases door-to-door, especially in rural areas where diagnostic services may be scant,” he added.