Women over 30 should get breast cancer screenings done regularly: Doctors

In a bid to gauge awareness levels about breast screening and to do a risk analysis among women in the city, the International Oncology Services conducted a survey among 375 women in Mumbai and found that only a small percentage of them get timely check-ups. As much as 79 per cent of the surveyed women had never visited a breast specialist though 54 per cent of them were susceptible to breast cancer on grounds of a family history of the disease.

Dr Neeraj Mehta, head of department, International Oncology Services Pvt Ltd said, "One of the major problems in treatment of breast cancer is the delay in diagnosis. Only if you take regular and timely breast cancer examination will you be able to get it rectified quickly. Of the 71 women who were screened as part of the survey, five were diagnosed with breast cancer," Mehta said.

The survey was conducted over a span of five months. Kiosks were set up in malls and women would register themselves for the survey. The maximum number of participants ( 57 per cent) were aged between 35 and 50. The survey indicated that although the women came from educated backgrounds, only 47 per cent of them were aware of mammography as a screening test to detect breast cancer. "The awareness levels about timely screening is quite poor. Also, with changing lifestyles such as late marriages, diet, stress, pollution, women should get themselves checked as soon as they reach 30 years of age instead of 40," Mehta said.

Experts estimate that the incidence of breast cancer in Mumbai is around 27 new cases per 100,000 women a year while in rural Maharashtra, it is only eight per 100,000. "Many young women who have breast cancer ignore warning signs, such as a breast lump or an unusual discharge. This makes it difficult at the time of treatment. Recent trend shows that the age-group of cancer affected patients is shifting from the late 40s to early 30s. This is because more and more women in India are beginning to work outside their home which allows the various risk factors of breast cancer to come into play," said Dr Sanjay Sharma, president, Breast Cancer Foundation of India and consultant (surgical oncology) at Bombay Hospital and Lilavati Hospital. "Also, five per cent of breast cancers are hereditary. People with a family history should be doubly cautious," said Sharma.

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