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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

High incidence of breast cancer a wake up call for Chandigarh women

Chandigarh has the highest incidence of breast cancer in India, reason enough for its women to adopt a healthy lifestyle and undergo mammography.

punjab Updated: Oct 18, 2018 11:59 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
In 2017, Population-based Cancer Registry (PBCR) of Chandigarh concluded that at 35 per one lakh women, the prevalence of breast cancer in the city is the highest in the country.
In 2017, Population-based Cancer Registry (PBCR) of Chandigarh concluded that at 35 per one lakh women, the prevalence of breast cancer in the city is the highest in the country. (Representative image  )

Eighty Chandigarh women out of 20,000 screened at Asha Jyoti, a mobile van with a mammography unit, since May 2012 were found suffering from breast cancer.

Calling it an alarming number, Dr Tulika from the department of Radiodiagnosis and Imaging, PGIMER, said, “Usually, the prevalence of breast cancer in asymptomatic women is around 30 per one lakh. Here, we found 80 women with breast cancer after screening a mere 20,000 women, most of them asymptomatic.”

Dr Sonia Puri from GMCH-32 agreed that the figures are alarming.

In 2017, the Population-based Cancer Registry (PBCR) of Chandigarh concluded that at 35 per one lakh women, the prevalence of breast cancer in the city is the highest in the country. This annual registry is maintained by PGIMER and Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai. At 10.1 %, cervix uteri cancer is the second leading cancer among city women, followed by ovarian cancer at 7%.

Breast cancer is the commonest form of cancer among women, the only silver lining being that the patients can lead a healthy life if it is detected in time.

Young patients on the rise

Dr Gurpreet Singh, professor and head of Department of General Surgery at PGIMER, says the number of young patients is increasing every year due to better awareness and health facilities.”

Around 20% of my patients are less than 40 years of age, which is a big number. Currently, 32% women in India fall in the age group of 20-39 years. Only 7% of my patients are between 70 and 79 .”

The department of general surgery at PGIMER performs over 600 breast cancer surgeries a year, and an equal number is referred to radiotherapy department from other hospitals for radiation.

Dr Gurpreet said increasingly, patients are reaching him at an earlier stage of the disease.

“Ten years ago, 40%-50% of my patients used to reach us with locally advanced tumors. But now, their share has fallen by over 10% because of increased awareness.”The doctor says now women are aware that a lump can be cancerous. “One in 10 lumps is cancerous, hence if you feel a lump, consult a doctor.”

The risk factors

Doctors say the strongest risk factor is the genetic defect – the two genes (BrCa-1 and BrCa-1) associated with this cancer. “Those born with these genes have a 70% risk of getting this cancer in their lifetime,” says Singh.

But he is quick to add that only 5% of patients with breast cancer suffer from this genetic defect. “This means there are other risk factors in 95% of the cases. Obesity, early menarche, late menopause, child-birth after 30 heighten the risk of breast cancer. Women above 50 are also more vulnerable to it,” said Dr Gurpreet Singh.

Doctors advice women above 40 to get the mammography test done once a year.

“All women should lead a healthy lifestyle, eat more fruits and vegetables, consume less fat and exercise regularly. They should also avoid alcohol and smoking,” advised Dr Sonia Puri from General Medical College an d Hospital, Sector 32.      

PGIMER van providing free diagnosis needs your help

Asha Jyoti, a mobile van with a mammography unit that scans women for breast cancer besides conducting video colposcopy for cervical cancer and Dexa scan to check osteoporosis, is helping thousands of city women by detecting cancer at an early stage.

Dr Tulika , who has been associated with the van since its inauguration in April 2012, says the Rs 5-crore van was donated to PGIMER by a US-based non-profit organisation in 2012. “The mammography unit alone cost 2 crore,” says Tulika.

The van functions four days a week from 9am to 2pm. It is stationed at the Sector 45 Civil Hospital on Monday and Wednesday, and parked outside Sector 38 Gurudwara on Thursday and Friday.

“Every day, around 60 women reach the van for tests but we can only conduct 30-35 cases as each case takes around 30 minutes,” says Tulika. The tests that cost over Rs 5,000 in the market are done free of cost in the van. The van that has saved the lives of thousands is now in a state of disrepair and needs an urgent infusion of funds.

“When the van was donated to us, it was under guarantee for five years. The staff, petrol expenses are borne by us. But this monsoon, its roof started leaking because of which we could not perform tests. We need around Rs 6 lakh for repairing the van and 10-15 lakh for revamping the machines.”

Dr Manavjit Singh Sandhu, head of radio-diagnosis and imaging, urged philanthropists in the city to donate for the upkeep of the van. “That is the only way it will continue to remain functional for years to come.”

First Published: Oct 18, 2018 11:40 IST