International Women’s Day: 1 in 28 women is likely to develop breast cancer during her lifetime

Economic growth in India, has brought with it other challenges – including cancer. Cancer prevalence in women, as well as deaths, are increasing rapidly among Indian women, primarily because of changing lifestyle, increasing lifespan, low awareness and late detection

  • Now, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Indian women, constituting about 27% of all female cancers and incidence rates begin to rise in the early thirties and peak at ages 50-64 years.
  • Overall, 1 in 28 women is likely to develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • India accounts for the third highest number of breast cancer cases among women after USA and China. More than 10 % are hereditary and can be predicted by genetic analysis.

Early breast cancer constitutes just about a third of all cases. The reason for this advanced stage presentation could be due to the availability of a robust cancer screening program as well as unwillingness to participate in such programs that do exist. This is due to dearth of awareness, lack of access to healthcare facilities, effective referral system for diagnosis and treatment and social-cultural attitudes.

Prof. Ravi Mehrotra, Director National institute of cancer Prevention

Although, cervical cancer is on a modest declining trend, it remains the second most common cancer in women after breast cancer, accounting for 23% of cancers diagnosed in women in the country. Of all deaths due to this malignancy worldwide, more than a quarter of all deaths occur in India. The vast majority of these deaths are eminently preventable by vaccination, early detection and appropriate treatment.

It is imperative to address the menace of growing incidence of cancer among women with urgency and a comprehensive plan for prevention, timely diagnosis, effective treatment and palliative care is the need of the hour.

Source: Lancet Oncology

  • Cancer diagnoses vary within the country, with cervical cancer being the leading cause of cancer in many rural registries, not urban ones.
  • Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer accounting for 5% of all cancer diagnoses in women, with an age-standardised rate of 4·9 per 100 000.
  • WHO has set an ambitious target to reduce death from non-communicable diseases
  • (NCDs), including cancer, by 25% by 2025 in its global monitoring framework.
  • Barriers to early detection specific to India stem from factors including low cancer literacy, stigma, fear, health-care access, and cost of care.
  • Public health measures to tackle cancer control include essential interventions (championed by WHO) for primary health care that address cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and chronic respiratory disease.
  • Hopefully, these measures will provide a conceptual framework to strengthen equity and efficiency of primary health care in low-resource settings by providing core technologies, medicines, and tools to predict disease risk.

The author is the Director of National institute of cancer Prevention

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