Lifestyle change in India has impacted women adversely. Women have become increasingly
vulnerable to cervical and breast cancer. The latest trend pattern point towards younger
women contracting breast cancer, whereas the average age of contracting the disease till a
decade ago was from 45-55 years of age, as stated by the doctors at AIIMS1.
According to the recent reports, 17% of the total world population suffering from breast
cancer is from India. Furthermore, according to the experts from AIIMS, breast cancer is the
second most common cancer that the people suffer from. It has been roughly concluded that
for every 2 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one lady is dying of it. 2
Even though the statistics provide a rather grim scenario, fortunately the survival rate of
people suffering from breast cancer is estimated to be around 85% or more. Therefore, if
awareness is spread regarding the disease and there is early diagnosis then death due to breast
cancer can significantly reduce.
In order for an early deduction, symptoms and causation of breast cancer have to be
The risk factors that are present in breast cancer are divided into further sub-categories, (i)
Non-Hormone related risk factor, (ii) Hormone related risk factor.
(i) Non- Hormone related risk factors are: Hereditary breast cancer- People who have
(ii) Hormone related risk factors: Action of estrogens on breast. Breast tissue is
a history of breast cancer in their family are more prone to contracting breast
cancer. Other factors that affect are- Gender, females are prone to breast cancer.
Out of every 100 cases of breast cancer, only 1 may be in a male.
Age is also considered to be one of the leading factors. Chances of developing
breast cancer increases, as the age increases. Presently, the peak period is
between the ages of 40 years-60 years.
Stress, Obesity, taking of oral contraceptives and lack of exercise are also
considered to be few of the major risk factors.
responsive to the hormone estrogen, and prolonged action of estrogen on the
breast is not desirable; in a majority of breast cancers, estrogen is responsible to
‘drive’ the cancer cells.3
If a women has disorder that affects that affect menstrual cycles, the likelihood
of risk of getting affected by breast cancer increases.
Reproductive history of a woman is also a determining factor. If a woman has
a child after the age of 30, has an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
And so for the lady, who has never borne a child.
Early menarche (The age when the first menstrual cycle occurs) and late
menopause (The age of the last menstrual cycle) are considered to be risk
A person can perform a self detection in order to find out whether they have the
symptoms of breast cancer or not. If the following abnormalities are found, they
can go to a professional for further check-up and help.
(i) A change in how the breast and nipples feel: – If there is any tenderness or
any sort of lump near the breast or the underarm area.
If there is any change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin
of the breast.
If there in any lump in the breast.
(ii) Any change in the breast or nipple appearance: – If there is any sort of
change in the size of the breast, either swelling or shrinkage of breast.
(especially if only on one side)
If there is any redness or change in the texture resembling skin of an orange.
(iii) Any nipple discharge: – if there is any sort of milky discharge from the
nipple, when a woman is not breastfeeding can also be one of the
symptoms of breast cancer.
These are some of the common symptoms of Breast cancer. It is highly encouraged for
women to perform self examination at least once a month. Forty percent of diagnosed breast
cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is
very important. 5 It is also highly recommended for women to go for mammography at
regular intervals during the age of 40-60, in order for early detection.
TREATMENT IN INDIA
To fight breast cancer it is imperative to spread awareness regarding it. The term ‘cancer’
itself stems a foreboding feeling amongst most of us, it is important to understand that cancer
is curable. Breast Cancer has a very high chance of survival, hence if detected at an early
stage and with proper treatment it can be completely cured.
There are hospitals and healthcare facilities dedicated solely to cancer. The standard
treatment methods include- surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. There are hospitals
providing the high-end treatment for breast cancer. But it is expensive, unaffordable and
inaccessible to people. The process of cancer treatment can be a long and tedious one,
spanning over years at times. For most people living in towns and remote areas, it means
uprooting their lives in order to get the treatment.
In rural areas, there is a severe lack of awareness and screening process for early process. The
lack of facilities and technology in rural areas makes it incredibly difficult for people living
in those areas to get the treatment. Locally, there are hardly facilities available to do the
Therefore, there is an urgent need to firstly, spread awareness on breast cancer. It calls for
complete evaluation of National Cancer Control Program (NCCP) with strong emphasis on
educating the public about the common symptoms and signs and the importance of early
diagnosis and treatment. This can be achieved through educating the individuals involved in
health care i.e. doctors at primary health centre, pharmacists, health workers (male and
female), anganwadi workers etc. The next level includes the educated and respectable persons
in the villages i.e. school teachers, sarpanch, ward members and active youths. 6
Participatory workshops and training sessions by the non government organizations(NGO),
municipal, district and state health administration, structured training and field activities by
medical colleges and regional cancer centres, participatory programs on radio and television
i.e. mass media, descriptive articles in newspapers and magazines, exhibitions and public
lectures etc. Well-illustrated audiovisual educational materials are extremely useful for
literate as well as illiterate populations. The other programs like reproductive and child health
programs can be utilized as opportunities to educate the public about the presentation and
early detection of cancer. Community-based educational intervention can increase
community awareness about cancer and can yield a positive change in the practice of strategy
for early detection of cancer. 7
Various strategies that have been given in order for cancer prevention are:
Clinical breast examination by trained personnel in the rural areas like female
health workers has been suggested to be a viable screening option considering
the socio-economic condition and the unavailability of facilities at the remote
In the present scenario where a number of programs are being conducted on
the national basis under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), organizing
7 Sharma V, Giri S. Cancer control in India- A sorry state. Indian J Cancer 2009;46:340.
training and education for the health workers regarding clinical breast
examination can be achieved.
Proper screening at the root level can definitely improve the present scenario
of presentation at an advanced stage in breast carcinomas. The availability of
treatment option at least at the district level is also essential as the
economically poor people differ to go for treatment to a far off place which is
the major cause for late presentation.
A breast cancer pilot project can be initiated with establishment of diagnostic
facilities with trained staff for early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer
patients at an early stage.8
If these steps are taken, if extensive awareness is spread amongst the people regarding the
disease and care and screening is made available at the very primary level then Breast Cancer
can be prevented before it gets fatal.