• According to reports, breast cancer accounts for 25-32% of all female cancers in big metropolitan cities like Kolkata.
• Being the most common type of cancer in women, breast cancer accounts for 14% of cancers in Indian women.
• More than 50% of Indian women suffer from stage 3 and 4 of breast cancer.
• Doctors recommend annual mammography test for better diagnosis in women over 40 or those who have a family history.

The state of West Bengal is witnessing a rapid rise in breast cancer cases, with its capital Kolkata bearing the burden of most of the cases, according to doctors. Despite high level of literacy, the lack of awareness regarding this disease is leading to several cases every year. Eminent doctors and medical experts from the busy metropolitan have noted that breast cancer cases have overtaken cervical cancer recently. According to reports, breast cancer accounts for 25-32% of all female cancers in cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, and Chennai. This is more than one-fourth of all female cancers.

Being the most common type of cancer in women, breast cancer accounts for 14% of cancers in Indian women. Every four minutes, a woman in the country is diagnosed with the disease. At the same time, the rural-urban difference in the incidence of the disease is reducing due to urban trends penetrating in villages as well as small towns. Dr Sudipta Bandopadhyay, MD (PGIMER), DM, Chief Medical Oncology, Ruby Hospital, Kolkata, says that the disease is becoming more common in younger age group also. “A few years back, we used to get most of the breast cancers in postmenopausal women i.e., over 50. Urban lifestyle, late marriages due to higher education or career ambitions, unhealthy lifestyle like excessive use of alcohol and smoking have brought younger women (25-50) also in the radius. Our hospital has received several cases after restrictions were lifted recently and many of them are in advanced stages. Although the numbers are staggering and constantly rising, we recommend self-examination and annual screening tests for women over 45,” he says.

According to a report released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Bengaluru-based National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (NCDIR), the number of cancer cases in India is estimated to be 13.9 lakh in 2020 and may increase to 15.7 lakh by 2025. Several reports have also indicated that more than 50% of Indian women suffer from stage 3 and 4 of breast cancer. Apart from that, Indian women develop breast cancer at least 20 years in advance than their western counterparts.

Risk factors also include increasing age, a personal history or family history with breast cancer, obesity, radiation exposure, postmenopausal hormone therapy. Symptoms include change in the shape, size or appearance of a breast, a lump or thickening, changes to the skin over breast, a newly inverted nipple. “We recommend mammogram screening test for better diagnosis of the disease as it is approved by WHO as well. “The good news is that it is the most treatable form of cancer in women if diagnosed early, so awareness regarding the same is important. To reduce the risk, women should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, limit postmenopausal hormone therapy, maintain a healthy weight, and consume lot of fresh fruits and vegetable in their daily diet. At the same time, they should avoid sedentary lifestyle, limit their alcohol intake, and quit smoking,” says Dr Sudipta Bandopadhyay.