Lack of early diagnosis of breast cancer may kill 76,000 Indian women in a year by 2020, says a study, one of whose researchers is of Indian origin.
One of the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women in India, breast cancer claimed 70,218 lives in 2012, the study published in the Journal of Business Research showed.
It also revealed that the average age of death from the disease has shifted from 50 years to 30 years.
The magnitude of the problem is enormous and has major policy implications for the Indian government, said Vijay Pereira, Associate Dean (Research) at the University of Wollongong in Dubai.
Pereira said there were complex challenges at national, state and community levels.
“What is clear is that healthcare at state-level must transform to deliver quality care and awareness,” Pereira said.
The researchers found lack of awareness about self-examination and cultural barriers played a major role. Women sought medical care extremely late.
Women do not access health services and are reluctant to consult male doctors, neglecting their health due to family obligations. They are over-dependent on other family members. All of these cause delay in diagnosis, the researchers said.
Thus, educating Indian men about the significance of early diagnosis for breast cancer, could be key to halt the disease which is turning into an epidemic, the researchers suggested.
“India is still a patriarchal society. Although women are now in responsible jobs and earning for their families, it’s the men who are the head of the household,” said Judith Fletcher-Brown, from the University of Portsmouth in England.
Even educated professional women do not discuss private matters about their bodies with their husbands, fathers or brothers. So it’s essential to direct health messages towards men, Fletcher-Brown said.
Rapid economic development and greater urbanisation are also responsible for the rise in breast cancer rates, the researchers noted.
Besides, women tend to have children at a later age and breast feeding is less, which increases their chances of developing the disease.
Working women in urban India often have a more western diet leading to obesity. That also increases the risk.
The study said community health nurses had the greatest impact in raising awareness of early breast cancer symptoms.
In addition, schools and media were also found to be the good channels through which awareness could be raised in young women.