Multiple Indian states are witnessing an increase in their number of breast cancer cases according to recent data, suggesting an uptick in rates of one of the major public health threats to Indian women.
As previously reported by Health Issues India, “breast cancer… is the most common type of cancer among Indian women and, together with cervical cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer, accounts for 47.2 percent of the overall cancer burden in the country.” Concerningly, “almost sixty percent of breast cancer patients in India are not diagnosed until the disease is in its late stages. It is estimated that late diagnosis of breast cancer could lead to 76,000 deaths a year by 2025. This is indicative of a fatal lack of awareness surrounding the disease. Put simply, for every two women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one will die from it.”
The uptick in breast cancer cases in a number of states is reflective of a national trend. According to data presented last week in the Lok Sabha, breast cancer cases increased between 2016 and 2018, from 1.42 lakh to 1.59 lakh. State by state, the uptick varied – particularly in the states where breast cancer cases numbered at in excess of 5,000.
In Kerala, breast cancer cases increased by 18.76 percent between 2016 and 2018, from 5,682 to 6,748. Bihar saw a 14.26 percent rise, from 9,958 breast cancer cases in 2016 to 11,378 in 2018. Uttar Pradesh’s cases increased by 13.12 percent, from 21,376 to 24,181. In Gujarat, breast cancer cases increased by 12.97 percent, from 8,001 to 9,039. Similarly, Madhya Pradesh saw a 12.96 percent increase, its cases rising to 9,414 in 2018 compared to 8,334 in 2016. Karnataka saw a 12.78 percent jump, from 8,029 breast cancer cases in 2016 to 9,055 cases in 2018.
The findings reinforce the gravity of India’s breast cancer burden and the need for early detection. With so many cases not being registered until they are advanced to the extent that treatment outcomes and survival rates are vastly diminished, it is clear more needs to be done to raise awareness and encourage the utilisation of procedures such as an annual sonography – recommended in women above the age of thirty – and an annual mammography – recommended in women above the age of forty. Practices such as self-testing for lumps in the breast can be useful.
The Government affirmed to lawmakers that, to combat India’s burden of cancer, eighteen cancer institutes at the state level and twenty tertiary breast cancer centres have received approval, in what could manifest into a boon in the country’s efforts to tackle breast cancer cases and other incidents of cancer. For example, the information submitted to the Lok Sabha indicated that cervical cancer cases have increased from 99,099 in 2016 to 1.01 lakh in 2018.
“The most susceptible group is between thirty to forty years. The second highest prevalence can be seen in the forty to fifty age group,” commented Dr Shefali Desai, a consultant breast surgeon based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. “We used to see three to four cases a month about 10 years ago. Today, we see about five to eight new patients every week.”