Each of us have a role to play in spreading awareness on Breast Cancer

Oct. 8, 2022, 7:32 p.m.

By: Reshma Jain

Every October, the world celebrates breast cancer awareness month. A lot of breast cancer specialists and social and screen celebrities espouse the cause and create awareness. Many just hear and forget it soon after. Such exposure needs to translate into action – for yourself, if you are a woman, or for your loved ones – if you are a man.

In a conversation with Socio Story, Dr. D. Raghunadharao , Chief Consultant Medical Oncologist, KIMS ICON, Vizag opines that let us appraise ourselves and create awareness amongst our families, colleagues and communities - teenagers and young women about breast cancer.

1. The first step is to learn facts and figures.

It is of great concern that breast cancer in urban India has attained the status of the number one cancer in women. In rural India, it occupies the second place.

2. What could be the reason(s) behind this sudden spurt in the incidence of breast cancer?

a. A change in the lifestyle of urban women: increasing weight (obesity) coupled with lack of exercise (sedentary life), fewer pregnancies, the first child being born after 30 years, shorter duration of breastfeeding are possibly the result of adopting a western lifestyle.

b. An early onset of menses (menarche), as well as a delay in cessation of menses (menopause)

3. What are the possible methods by which one can reduce the risk of breast cancer?

a. Avoid gaining weight – either as a teenager, adult or after cessation of menses.

b. Have an exercise routine that you can follow an entire lifetime

c. Plan to complete your family before 30 years

d. Breast feed your child for at least a year

e. Do not change from a healthy Indian diet to western fast-food 

f. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, consult an oncologist for an appropriate genetic test

4. Be breast aware: 

a. Feel your breasts, especially the portion extending into the arm pits, during a bath, with soapy hands, soon after menses, with the palm of your hand – breast self-examination. You are the best person to know if there is something wrong with the nipples, breasts or armpits. Look for any retraction, dimpling or the tiniest changes in texture. Feel for any lumps. 

b. If possible, start a routine of a regular Clinical Examination of the Breast by your gynecologist, at least annually, along with a mammogram, from your 45th years, until the 65th year.

c. You may also have a cervical smear examination – either with cytology or a HPV test simultaneously.

5. What can you do if you are a man?

a. Take your mother, sister, wife, daughter for a cancer screening program

b. Be their advocate for a healthy lifestyle – wean away from high calorie fast foods. Encourage play and exercise.

c. If you opt for a family medical insurance – either through your employer or by yourself, choose one which includes an annual screening program for cancer along with all the other lifestyle disorders

6. If you are an employer – contribute towards screening for cancer

7. If you are a wage earner, contribute a fraction of your earnings towards cancer research that is India centric for cancer that is relevant to our people.

8. Support a survivor! Hail them as warriors. Celebrate their freedom from cancer. Join a survivor’s walk

9. Finally, support cancer prevention campaigns in India – especially prevention and screening. 

10. If you are a journalist or have access to the print or electronic media – help propagate this message widely, especially to the hinterland, preferably in the vernacular.

Let us resolve to spread awareness. To open our purses towards screening and prevention. To help create an open dialogue. To make a difference – TODAY!

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