“I kept on ignoring the pain in my breast for quite some time. When it became unbearable I went to a gynaecologist, and by the evening my entire world was topsy turvy,” Madan, a customer care executive based in New Delhi, told Arab News.
After treatment — surgery, chemotherapy and radiation — that lasted more than a year, “I got the gift of a new life.”
She added: “One reason I suffered was because I wasn’t conscious of my body. I had no awareness about breast cancer, and this awareness is very important if we want to fight the growing menace of this disease.”
Dr. Geeta Kadayaprath, a leading oncologist in India, told Arab News that there should be “a concerted awareness campaign” in the country about breast cancer.
“The worrisome thing is we’ve seen lots of young women with breast cancer in their late 20s and early 30s,” she said.
“Cases of breast cancer are increasing every year. Last year I saw approximately 350 cases. This year so far, I’ve already seen more than 450.”
The oncologist, who has 20 years of experience treating breast cancer, added: “There are about 140,000 new cases every year, and by 2025 it will be 240,000. The urban population is more affected than the rural.”
Kadayaprath does not subscribe to the popular view that breast cancer is genetic. “Only 10 percent of cases are genetic, and 90 percent are due to other reasons.”
Talking about the southern state of Kerala and the northern city of Bhatinda, she said: “The rising cases of cancer in these places are due to the presence of pesticides in vegetables.”
To create greater awareness about breast cancer, and help sufferers and survivors, two years ago she co-founded the Bliss Foundation. “We need to collaborate with the right kinds of people, like legislators, activists, students and others,” said Kadayaprath.
Madan, who has been part of the NGO since its inception, said: “My association with the Bliss Foundation has changed my life and the lives of so many.”
“Imagine a champion like me visiting a day-care center where cancer patients are being treated. The moment they see me, the expression on their face changes. The gloom goes away. When they see a fit survivor talking to them, it greatly boosts their morale.”
Kadayaprath said: “The Bliss Foundation is an attempt to intervene in the lives of people in a meaningful way, and create a wider platform to spread awareness about breast cancer. Creating medical infrastructure isn’t a solution; creating awareness is the major issue.”
Breast cancer patient Debjani, 46, a schoolteacher in New Delhi, told Arab News: “I live a very healthy lifestyle and used to do regular exercise and eat good food, but still I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s very important to have regular check-ups… Body awareness is important.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 60 percent of women in India are diagnosed with third- or fourth-stage breast cancer, which “drastically affects the survival rate and treatment options.”
Kadayaprath said: “Education is important. We have to make people breast-aware, and train them to examine themselves regularly so if they find something unusual, they can go to a doctor at an early stage and the survival rate is then very high.”