October is the Breast Cancer Awareness month. Symbolised by the Pink Ribbon, the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign was started in 1993 Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estée Lauder Companies.
Landmark buildings all over the world are lighted up in pink during this month to highlight the importance of breast cancer awareness. Walks and runs are arranged; pink ribbons distributed and pink ribbon products are sold, all for the sake of the millions of dollars that can be raised annually to defeat the scourge of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer - The Global Predator
Breast Cancer is a global disease, the most common and deadly of all diseases in women. It is fast spreading its tentacles all over the world due to genetic, environment and lifestyle factors. The culture of pink seeks to focus attention on actions we need to take to successfully address and end the breast cancer global epidemic and to achieve health for women in all communities.
India is also witnessing a steep rise in cancer cases. It is said that every 13th new cancer patient in the world is an Indian and breast cancers tops this list. This cancer is now the most common cancer in most cities in India, and 2nd most common in the rural areas.
What is the Cause of this Epidemic and Why Now?
What is the cause behind the rise in breast cancer? Our sedentary lifestyle could be the first thing to be blamed.
Imbalance in the circadian clock due to
- Sleeping late
- Lack of exercise
- Eating unhealthy and junk foods
- Work-related stress
- Smoking and
- Alcohol abuse
These are some of the key reasons behind the high rates of women with cancer.
Urban women are more focused on professional life and end up getting married late. Having babies is also postponed. Many women opt for artificial hormone therapies for contraception, for PCOD or to help in fertilisation and this further increases the risk of cancer.
Almost 1 in 28 women in India will develop the disease during her lifetime. The worst of it is that more and younger women are getting this cancer. Previously most women who developed breast cancer were above the age of 50 but this trend has recently reversed. Now almost half the cases are detected in women in the age group of 25 to 50 years. This is a cause for concern.
Why We need a Whole Month to Raise Awareness
Why do we need a full month dedicated to the awareness of breast cancer? There are 2 main reasons. The first is that we need to drill into the minds of women that being aware of the symptoms of breast cancer, looking out for them regularly and reporting to the doctor promptly. If there is the slightest doubt, can make all the difference in combating and surviving the disease.
Secondly, cancers tend to be more aggressive in the younger age group which is getting more prone to this cancer. The sooner one detects the disease and starts taking active treatment, again, the better the chances of choice treatment and survival. So awareness is the key.
We can take motivation and encouragement from the example of America. There the overall 5-year survival for breast cancer has increased from 75% in 1970's to almost 89% presently. Out of every 100 women with breast cancer in the US, almost 90 women are likely to survive for at least 5 years.
The Story of Breast Cancer Victims in India
In India, this figure is not even close to 60%. This is depressing. And again the main reason for this is the lack of awareness about the disease. Rural women, in particular, may have no idea at all of the breast cancer leave alone the screening of it.
It is a sad fact that most of the cases in our country had diagnosed very late. More than 60% of the women have diagnosed with the later stages of breast cancer, i.e., at stage III or IV in India. This drastically brings down the survival rate and affects the treatment options for the patients. India needs aggressive promotion of screening and awareness and proper treatment to achieve better survival rates. The creation of awareness is certainly the way to go.
Now that this annual reminder of being aware is here, the question is then, how can we detect breast cancer as early as possible? Breast self-examination and mammography are the two most important techniques to do this so we will examine them one by one.
Stay updated, take care of yourself, because you are important. Ask a gynecologist of your choice, while sitting at home, download LAIMA.