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An umbrella of hope

ELIZABETH PAULOSE
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Health Early detection of Breast Cancer is one way of curing it. Hospitals in the city are going all out to educate women in this month dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness. ELIZABETH PAULOSE reports.

Think Pink Avoid Breast Cancer PHOTO: K. Bhagya Prakash
Think Pink Avoid Breast Cancer PHOTO: K. Bhagya Prakash

N avaratri and Deepavali may make October a month of celebration and festivities. But, it is also the month of breast cancer awareness. Breast cancer is the no. 1 cancer killer in women, with one in every eight women diagnosed with it (According to the Cancer Registry of India).

To help women understand breast cancer and detect it at its earliest stages, P. Guhan, Director, Sri Ramakrishna Institute of Oncology and Research, Coimbatore in association with Reddy Laboratories has come out with a CD called ‘Awareness for Life'. It focuses on a step by step guide on Breast Self-Examination (BSE), something most women know nothing about. The nine-minute video CD is free and is available in four languages — English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. A woman over 20 years of age should regularly do breast self examination. Familiarisation with one's breasts is vital. The step-by-step instructions in the CD helps women how to do breast self examination.

Be aware

Dr Guhan is surprised how many so called well informed women are ignorant about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. He says, “I have had many educated women patients coming to me complaining of bleeding and lumps in their breasts, which usually indicate the final stages of the cancer,” he says. Effective treatment of breast cancer is entirely dependent on when the patient comes in for treatment.

A. Rajkumar, HOD, Medical Oncology and Lead physician of the Breast Cancer Unit, G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Hospital, points out that he has noted an alarming rise in the number of breast cancer cases. While there were 350 patients in 2009, it rose to 490 in 2010. The reason for this escalation in numbers is attributed to lifestyle habits. “Breast cancer has largely become an urban phenomenon, says Dr. A. Rajkumar. Obesity is an important risk factor. “A lot of women who come in for treatment these days are obese. In such cases, the patients themselves may not be able to feel the lumps,” says the doctor. Disturbingly, an increasing number of younger women, in the age group of 30-40 years are being detected with breast cancer. A combination of hormonal and dietary factors is responsible, say the doctors. “The disease is a lot more aggressive in younger women. There is a huge difference in how a 35-year-old woman is affected by breast cancer at stage II than a 55-year-old woman at the same stage”, says Dr.Rajkumar. In men, only 1 in 100 are likely to get breast cancer. “We get around three-four cases of breast cancer in men every year,” says the doctor.

Rajkumar also dispels fears about mammography. A lot of people seem to think it is painful and has side effects. That is not true, he says. Breast self examination and mammograms are crucial.

But, adds the doctor on a positive note, “Awareness amongst people is improving. Earlier, we used to get more patients in the final stages. Now, we have patients coming in at Stage II. If detected at Stage I, this disease has a 90 per cent cure rate.

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