Viji (name changed), a daily help in her forties, has been braving frequent spells of dizziness. She refuses to take rest. A visit to the doctor may strain the meagre financial resources of her family.

But a visit by a team of Kudumbashree health volunteers has changed it all for her – for good or bad.

Today, Viji is one of the 210 women from financially-backward homes within Kozhikode Corporation limits short-listed for extensive tests and biopsy for cancer.

Viji’s house is one of over a lakh houses where Kudumbashree health volunteers conducted door-to-door survey to help women detect cancer.

The survey by the social-empowerment group saw women, initially reticent about doing a self-examination for physical symptoms of cancer, later open up and confide to the health volunteers about their fears.

“The survey was conducted by women health volunteers and limited to economically-backward homes in the Corporation limits. We targeted women in this financial background because they keep the welfare of their family before their own. They are so selfless that they would quietly suffer the illness rather than upset the financial balance of their homes. In many cases we had to coax them to speak out,” K.K. Mohammed Faisal, Kudumbashree District Mission Co-ordinator, Kozhikode, told The Hindu on Tuesday.

The survey project called ‘Jeevanam’ was set in motion in October 2012.

Though Jeevanam comes under a special scheme worth Rs. 13 crore called SMILE (Sustainable Microfinance with Integrated Livelihood Enhancement), the cancer survey was done on a shoe-string budget of just Rs. 6.13 lakh.

Assistant District Mission Co-ordinator N.K. Harish said the survey was completed in a month’s time in January 2013.

Health volunteers were drawn from 2,816 Kudumbashree neighbourhood groups in the corporation limits.

“About 2,500 health volunteers were selected from the neighbourhood groups. They were trained by personnel from the Malabar Cancer Centre and Indian Medical Association,” he said.

Each of these volunteer groups was given questionnaires prepared by oncologists who trained them. The queries were primarily meant to help detection of cervical and breast cancer types.

“We found 1,744 women showing preliminary symptoms. They were asked to attend ‘filter’ camps conducted on March 5 and 15 for detailed checks. Eighty per cent of the women turned up,” K.C. Hameed, a senior Kudumbashree official, said.

On March 23, a ‘mega’ camp was held at the Nadakkavu Vocational Higher Secondary School where a mobile vehicle fitted out with the latest in test equipment and even telemedicine facilities was present to help provide a pin-point diagnosis of the women.

“About 210 cases were found with serious symptoms. They require immediate treatment,” Mr. Faisal said, adding that budget is of course a problem.

He said a review meeting is scheduled with Social Welfare Minister M.K. Muneer on March 28. Hopefully, a road map ahead would be charted in the meeting, Mr. Faisal said.

“When we began working on the project in October 2012, our brief was cancer detection alone. But now we realise that we cannot stop at that. These 210 women cannot be left stranded after giving them the shocking news that they have cancer. Something has to be done to give them treatment, including tie-ups with hospitals like the Regional Cancer Centre. We should give them an opportunity to live,” Mr. Faisal said.