Women are the luckier gender when it comes to Breast Cancer. We can easily be screened!
Breast cancer in India is very different from the cases in the West. While women in the West are detected in the age group of 60’s-70’s, in India, breast cancer is visible in women in their early 30’s-50’s leading to a higher loss of productive life. Our cancers are also visibly more aggressive. In the West, only 15% of the cases are advanced. In India, this number is high at 35%. Most of the cancers detected reach us in the 3rd or the 4th advanced stages where the cancer has spread to the chest and lungs unlike the West too. Screening in the West is mandatory leading to better detection and over diagnosis. In India however, screening needs to be made mandatory or atleast higher awareness for women to screen themselves regularly.
While it’s still not as common, breast cancer cases are shooting up with over 1,60,000 new cases being detected annually in India and the number is only growing rapidly. More and more cases are being detected in urban India with Bangalore being crowned as the breast cancer capital of India.
Here are some tips of how you can prevent yourself from being one of the statistics of cancer.
1. Examine yourself regularly
A self-breast exam is required every month. Preferably after your menstrual cycle your breasts are not sore or tender. Teach yourself how to do one via the Internet if needed. It’s also advisable annually to see your gynecologist or a clinical physician so they can do a breast examination thoroughly too. Once you are sexually active, a pap smear test every 3 years or a papsmear with an HPV DNA test every 5 years is a must. This will help in identifying if there are any cancerous strains that can be removed by biopsy and can be addressed immediately. It may be 10 minutes of discomfort to get a papsmear test done – but luckily for us women, our cancers (breast and cervix) are superficial and lend themselves to screening easily. It’s not as easy for men to screen themselves for prostrate or lung cancer as it is for women. We are the luckier gender and we should take complete advantage of it.
2. Be fit and healthy
Obesity is the main reason for increasing the rates of risks of breast cancer amongst women. Do not allow yourself to put on weight. Push yourself to exercise and enjoy everything in moderation – be it drinking or junk food.
Everything in our body is interlinked. Excess weight impacts diabetes, heart diseases and increases issues with how our bones function. It’s proven that cancer patients with osteoporosis have a tougher time dealing with cancer treatment than others. 30 minutes of exercise every day once you are in your 20’s is a must.
Also in two large ethnic studies done by the Tata Memorial Hospital and the JCDC in association with TMH, what has been starkly visible has been is increased waist circumference or central obesity has a very strong link with increased risks with cancer.
3. Turmeric is key!
Turmeric is the most well-known anti-cancerous agent liberally used in the Indian diet. Eat home-cooked meals every day to raise your body’s immunity. Let’s go back to our age old traditions which served us well!
4. Do not neglect your health or push your symptoms under the carpet
Educated women have been seen to neglect issues related to their health. We have had cases where lumps have been detected by women and they have chosen not to come forth for treatment. This loss of three to four months makes all the difference between cancer being detected and treated to a full blown stage 3 or 4 cancer treatment which pushes your rates of survival… So shrug off the negative attitude because cancer can be treated. I was shocked recently, when a nurse who had been detected but refused chemotherapy came to us with a hole in her chest where the tumour was! She had been hiding that from her fear of being able to deal with it…
5. Urban women are at higher risk due to pollution, pesticides and chemicals
Numbers showcase this divide. 1 in 22 women in Urban India is at risk of breast cancer, while that number drops to 1 in 66 for women living in villages just 100 km’s away from the city. The risk is the same for a house help living in a crowded slum in Borivali to the woman in living in a plush fancy apartment in South Mumbai – no difference to risk factors despite a big difference in their living conditions! The pollution, chemicals, pesticides seen in urban metros besides processed food is a key reason for this!
6. Bust the myths: Bras and antiperspirants don’t cause cancer
It is scientifically proven that bras and antiperspirants do not cause cancer with multiple studies done across the world.Hygiene is key and important and you must practice good habits of keeping under arms and private areas clean and washed. While in the UK and US, cervical cancer has been eradicated –India carries the burden of 1/3rd of the world cervical cancer amongst women. And hygiene is absolutely essential for a woman’s well being