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October to Pinktober

26 September, 2019

, Breast Cancer

October is mainly a festive season in India, with the Dusshera and Diwali kicking in. Historically, it is one of those times when people in India shop more, with many families keeping their big-ticket purchases around this time. So, people buy new cars, phones, furniture, household appliances and even gold considering Dhanteras also, comes in between. Perhaps, that is the reason why India has not yet been fully taken on by a Pink revolution that has taken most other parts of the world by storm during the month of October.

Come October, you will find a sudden spurt in articles about breast cancer awareness, hospitals churning out special or free breast cancer screening, and a lot of talks and seminars on the event. October has been designated as the breast cancer awareness month for long, and been associated with the small Pink Ribbon, and hence has been dubbed as Pinktober. Why is it so important to create awareness about this disease?

The Need

While it is true that cancer is a deadly disease, it is also true that many of the cancers, especially breast cancer do have a good survival rate, especially if, diagnosed and treated early. And this can only be achieved through awareness drives like those being done in the month of October. In countries like India, women are still shy of speaking out about their problems related to breast and uterus.

Especially in rural India, there are possibilities that women may try to hide or ignore, or worse still, try to make do with some home remedies, etc., thinking the problem will go away. Ignorance, coupled with societal issues, as well as lack of access to good and affordable healthcare are also reasons why rural women do not seek help. The Ayushman Yojana started by the PM of India, Shri Narendra Modiji is addressing the affordability part of the issue; however, nothing is more important than awareness, and early diagnosis to save lives.

The Statistics

Here are a few numbers to drive home the point.

  • Breast cancer accounts for 27% of all cancers in India, making it the most common cancer among women in India.
  • Incredibly, India, US, and China, collectively account for 1/3rd of all the breast cancer cases across the world.
  • 1 out of every 28 women in India is likely to develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • In India, 2000 new women are diagnosed with breast cancer every single day.
  • Late detection of breast cancer reduced the survival rate among women, anywhere between 3 to 17 times.
  • The highest cases per 100,000 women were reported from Delhi (41),  Chennai (37.9), Bangalore (34.4), and Thiruvananthapuram, (33.7).
  • Currently, India continues to have one of the lowest survival rates in breast cancer with 66.1%, as compared to the US and Australia at 90%.
  • The peak age to get this cancer in India is 45-50, which is a decade younger than the peak age in the high-income countries. It is said that breast cancer risk increases with age. And also, the body may not be able to withstand the harsh chemotherapy, as much as it can when still young.

What we can do?

The statistics tell a rather alarming story about this deadly disease in India, and hence it is our collective responsibility to fight against it. And checkups, screening, and early detection, leading to early treatment is a must. While we celebrate the festive season, it is also important not to ignore the rather important message given by the little Pink Ribbon that you see around. Do not ignore the screening requests as well.

It is important to discuss this aspect with your doctor, and get a screening done, once a year; more so, if there have been instances of breast cancer in your family. Pinktober just serves as a reminder to us that this is a truth we cannot escape from. It is mostly a lifestyle-based disease, though there are instances of genetic mutations also that come in. The most important thing to do is create and spread awareness about it. One needs to take on the responsibility for screening self as well as other family members, household help, etc. It can save lives, and prevent them from becoming statistics in the fight against this disease.


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