As the world observes Cancer Day on Sunday, the dreadful disease stare at the face of the country with the Indian Council Medical Research (ICMR) estimating more than 17.3 lakh new cancer cases and more than 8.8 lakh deaths due to the disease by 2020.
Among women, breast and cervical cancers tops the list which, if detected at an early stage, can be easily cured. However, lack of awareness is disturbing.
"A recent study has reported the incidence of 41 breast cancer cases per lakh women in Delhi itself. The disturbing factor is that a low percentage of women ever go for any kind of examination of breast. This is largely because of unawareness, myths and secondary position of women in the patriarchal set up. Women usually fail to identify the sign of the disease, which includes formation of lumps in the breast, changes in breast, lymph nodes and skin, fatigue," said Dr Dinesh Chandra Katiyar, senior consultant, surgical oncologist, Venkateshwar Hospital, Dwarka.
He further said that gender bias in society means women tend to compromise on their own health and prioritise family health and welfare over theirs. Economically weaker sections avoid visiting a doctor unless something serious hits them. The early signs therefore are missed, diagnosis delayed, and chances of survival drops drastically.
Ditto with the cervical cancer which is the second most prevalent cancer among women. "The situation seems to be even worse in the case of cervical cancer, as nationally 85 per cent cervical cases have late diagnosis. In Delhi, over 26 per cent of women in the age group of 15 to 49 years have ever undergone examination of cervix, while cancer registries report that 10 per cent of cancer cases in women are cervical," said Dr. Mohit Bhatnagar, Consultant, Surgical Oncologist from Venkateshwar Hospital, Dwarka
It is important that regular cervical screening is promoted and so is the awareness on HPV vaccination, which can prevent the disease, he added.
Dr Satinder Kaur from CORE Diagnostics said, cancer of the cervix tends to occur during midlife--between 35 and 55 years of age. For this reason, it is important for women to continue cervicalcancer screening until at least the age of 70.
Precancerous cervical cell changes and early cancers of the cervix generally do not cause symptoms. For this reason, regular screening through Pap and HPV tests can help catch precancerous cell changes early and prevent the development of cervical cancer, said Dr Kaur.
To raise awareness and as a part of its CSR activity, DlF5 and DlF Foundation too organized a day-long cancer screening and awareness camp recently for its employees, conducting free early detection and screening of prostate, cervical and breast cancer.
"With the alarming speed at which cancer has spread across the nation, there is a need to educate people about the importance of its early screening to ensure control and treatment at the earliest," said Vinay Sahni, CEO, DlF Foundation.
Recent study published in the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology, notes that India recorded total productivity loss of $6.7 billion in 2012 because of cancer, representing 0.36 per cent of its GDP.