Thursday, November 7, 2019

Awareness must for breast cancer: Dr. Shona Nag


PUNE: Breast cancer, which makes up 14% of all newly diagnosed cancers is currently the most common cancer diagnosed in India. According to Globocan, 1.62 lakh women were newly diagnosed with breast cancer in India in 2018.  The same year, around 87,000 deaths were reported due to this disease which means that more than half of those diagnosed with breast cancer died the same year making the mortality rate of breast cancer 50%. In countries like the US, the mortality due to breast cancer is 20% which highlights the fact that both late diagnosis - women coming in at advanced stages of the disease and lack of access to good and standardized care are the main issues in India which need immediate attention.

Speaking about the rise in breast cancer cases, Dr Shona Nag, renowned senior oncologist and Director of Oncology Department at Sahyadri Hospitals said, “last year Pune had around  8000-9000 new Cancer cases out of which 1300-1400 were diagnosed with  breast cancer. Around 2-3 decades ago the incidence of Breast cancer in India was low i.e. 15 per one lakh population. In metropolitan cities, it is now 35 per one lakh population. The reason for this rise is our westernized lifestyle and increasing obesity in the population.”

She further said that Simple things like self-breast examination and clinical breast examination (physical exam by a qualified specialist) are cost effective methods to diagnose breast cancer earlier. “Mammography is not accessible to everyone. It is available in most major cities in India and women living in urban areas should be encouraged to do mammographic screening after 45-50 years of age. It brings down the mortality of breast cancer by 30% by diagnosing breast cancer in stages 0 and 1,” She added.

Dr. Nag added that between 5% and 10% of all breast cancers are caused by faulty genes which can be passed on from one generation to the next. A simple blood test or cheek swab can be done to find out whether the patient carries the gene or not. Genetic testing for breast cancer is now affordable. Today we also have special drugs against this type of breast cancer due to genetic mutations. Hence all women with breast cancer should have access to a genetic clinic.”

Speaking of one of the neglected areas for breast cancer, Dr. Nag said, “HR policies in places of employment are one of the neglected areas in case of breast cancer patients. There is a need for inclusiveness. Often women with breast cancer are working and are forced to take leave without pay on their chemotherapy days. We are giving men paternity leave but what about chemotherapy leave and recovery leave. Some organizations also ask their employees to leave the job once they are diagnosed with cancer or then make it difficult for them to re-join work. These issues need to be looked into,” she added.

Dr Nag also informed about the various activities being carried out at Sahyadri Hospitals throughout the year. She said, “During the breast cancer awareness month in October, we have intensified our activities with screening camps, survivor group meets and awareness sessions. More than 400 women were screened during the camp. We also lit up Sahyadri Hospital’s Hadapsar Unit with link lights and rolled out pink carpets during the month to highlight the issue. On 8th and 9th November Nag Foundation in association with Sahyadri Hospitals and Womens Cancer Initiative - Tata Memorial has organised a breast cancer survivors conference at YASHADA auditorium Baner Road, which is free by prior registration.


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