Only 22% and 42% Maharashtra Women Have Ever Been Examined for Breast and Cervix
Around 55% breast and 85% cervical cancer cases are detected late in Indian women.
In Pune, breast (31%) and cervix (10%) cancers are leading two cancers in women.
Lack of awareness, secondary importance to women’s health, and myths and stigma associated with the disease delay timely diagnosis.
INVC NEWS Pune, It has been reported that around 55% and 85% of breast and cancer in Indian women are detected late, leading to higher treatment cost and lesser chances of survival. Assuming the same percentage is to be taken true for Maharashtra and considering that it is one of the most populous state in the country and a home for around 12 crore people, it is certainly indicative of a huge health concern. And there are other factors that indicate the same. Take breast cancer for instance. As per the cancer registry, breast cancer accounts from 31% cancer in the Pune women. At the same time, another national level survey reports only 22% women in Maharashtra have ever undergone examination of breasts. Clearly, many women do not seem to be aware enough of the growing prevalence of the disease. Elaborating on various factors which could be playing a role in the delayed diagnosis of breast cancer, Dr. Tushar Patil, Consultant - Medical Oncology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Punesays, “Breast cancer is the leading cancer in Maharashtra women. What is troubling is the fact that only some women ever go for any kind of examination of breast. It is possible despite the symptoms, they are failing to feel the need for medical consultation. This could be due to unawareness, myths and secondary position of women in the patriarchal set up. Unawareness related to breast cancer symptomswhich include formation of lumps in the breast, changes in breast, lymph nodes and skin, fatigue, irregular bleeding, and so on, may be causing ignorance or negligence on their part. Stigma related to the disease or its diagnosis plays a contributory factor. The prevalent gender bias in the patriarchal society means women tend to compromise on their own health, keeping the husband, children, and family health and welfare first. Financial limitations, especially in the economically weaker sections, prevent them from visiting a doctor unless something serious happens. The early signs therefore are missed, diagnosis delayed, and chances of survival drops drastically,” Not much is different in the case of cervical cancer, which is the second most prevalent cancer in women, and accounts for 10% of all cancer cases in Pune women. A reasonably better than breast cancer, only 46% of women in the age group of 15 to 49 years have ever undergone examination of cervix. “The symptoms of cervical cancer includevaginal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge, unusual changes in menstrual cycle, and it is possible that due attention is not being given to these symptoms.The disease is caused by the infection from human papillomavirus virus, and due to delayed medical consultation, the cancer is being diagnosed late in women. This could be rooted in lack of awareness. Women tend to ignore early warning symptoms, do not necessarily give painless vaginal bleeding the required attention, and there are other social and economic factors involved, including myths and stigma associated with disease, that delay women from seeking medical attention. It is important that regular cervical screening is promoted and so is the awareness on HPV vaccination, which can prevent the disease”said Dr. Snita Sinukumar Consultant - Surgical Oncology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune Both breast cancer and cervical cancer can be treated if they are diagnosed well in time. It should be stressed that only through biopsy can the presence of cancerous cells be confirmed. Today, there are multiple methods, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and more, for treating the cancers. Only by giving due importance to women’s health, spreading awareness, and disassociating stigma from the disease can the country expects to combat these diseases strongly.