Rising cases of breast and cervical cancer among Indian women

Breast cancer accounts for 25-32% among female cancer patients across all cities in India, says Dr Gowri Kulkarni

Breast  cancer, Cervical cancer, World Health Organisation, Geneva Headquartered United Nations, WHO, Indian women, Hormonal pills, Ayushman Bharat

Rising incidence of cancer is a cause of concern with mortality rates among women being higher globally. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the global cancer burden is estimated to have risen to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths in 2018.

One in 5 men and one in 6 women worldwide develop cancer during their lifetime, and one in 8 men and one in 11 women die from the disease. Worldwide, the total number of people who are alive within 5 years of a cancer diagnosis, called the 5-year prevalence, is estimated to be 43.8 million, said the Geneva Headquartered United Nations agency - WHO.

Among Indian women, breast cancer is the most common followed by Cervical cancer. Breast cancer accounts for 25-32% among female cancer patients across all cities in India while Cervical cancer, which impacts women between the age of 15-44 years, was the cause for 60,070 deaths in Asia’s third-largest economy in the year 2019.

The significance of this disease among women can be gauged from the fact that one Indian woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 4 minutes while one woman dies due to it every 13 minutes.

Late age pregnancy and lactation, usage of hormonal pills, changing lifestyle, exposure to radiation, changing lifestyle are some of the reasons for the rising incidence of breast cancer. Most types of breast cancer are easy to diagnose by microscopic analysis and can be treated through pre-emptive surgery, lifestyle improvement, radiation and medications.

Among the various surgeries, mastectomy for removal of the whole breast, quadrantectomy for removal of one-quarter of the breast and lumpectomy for removal of a small part of the breast, apart from Hormonal therapy, Chemotherapy and Monoclonal antibodies for biological therapy are the treatment prescribed for a cure.

According to the Indian government’s universal health care scheme – Ayushman Bharat, 70 lakh women have been screened for breast cancer while 30 lakh women across the country have been screened for cervical cancer.

However, unlike breast cancer, early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms, though screening for cancer is known to reduce mortality by early detection and treatment.

Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include:
o   Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
o   Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odour
o   Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse

Sexual activity at an early age led by multiple sexual partners leads to sexually transmitted infections and weakens the immune system thereby threatening the risk of cervical cancer. This type of cancer begins when healthy cells in the cervix develop changes (mutations) in their DNA.

To prevent the same, conducting routine PAP tests, practising safe sex, and seeking the doctor’s advice on HPV vaccine would be a way to go apart from dis-associating with smoking.

HPV called Human papillomavirus vaccines that prevent infection and protect against either two, four, or nine types of HPV and particularly HPV types 16 and 18, which cause the greatest risk of cervical cancer.

A PAP test also called PAP smear test, is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women by collecting cells from her cervix — the lower, narrow end of the uterus which is at the top of the vagina. Detecting cervical cancer early with a PAP smear gives a greater chance at a cure.

India has a population of 436.76 million women aged 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. In India, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women and also the second most common cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.

To conclude, Indian women need to be more aware and conduct regular diagnosis for early detection of these cancer symptoms and address it to enjoy a complete life.

Dr Gowri Kulkarni is Head of Medical Operations with DocsApp.