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Coordinated, grassroot action needed to fight breast cancers: Union ministers at 2nd National Breast Cancer Action Day

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MoS External Affairs & Culture Meenakshi Lekhi and MoS Women & Child Development & AYUSH Dr Munjapara Mahendrabhai call for enhancing public awareness about good lifestyle and regular check-ups to prevent cancer, diseases

Noting the spread of breast cancer in India, renowned lawmakers called for a coordinated and multisectoral approach to expand reach of the awareness, diagnosis, and treatment. Speaking at the second National Breast Cancer Action Day, as a part of Breast Cancer Action Month organised by Integrated Health & Wellbeing (IHW) Council, powered by Novartis, they expressed concern that breast cancer is affecting women in both cities and villages and urged people to adopt healthy lifestyle practices.

Meenakshi Lekhi, Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture said, “Rapid spread of chronic and debilitating non-communicable diseases causes about 60% deaths in India. Breast cancer accounts for about 27% of all cancers in women in India and impacts the age group of 40s the most, as against 55-60 in advanced countries. Awareness is very important as it leads to early determination of disease. I believe there are three pillars of preventing death caused by breast cancer: a) health promotion among women; b) timely diagnosis; and c) comprehensive treatment. We must make men aware of breast cancer as well – they are important for healthcare and support mechanisms. Besides, community-based organisations need to be strengthened as much as media campaigns – we will need people, health experts and others to join the efforts that are important to devise risk reduction strategy; I would be happy to extend any help IHW Council needs for campaigns around health promotion and diagnosis.”

Dr Munjpara Mahendrabhai Kalubhai, Minister of State for AYUSH and Women & Child Development says, “Cancer cases in India are growing at an alarming speed; it is the biggest cancer killer among women in India and more and more women are being affected. Whether it is a city woman or a woman from a village, the problem is common. We must think of ways to channelise them towards adopting healthy lifestyle that will reduce the risk of cancer such as shunning processed food, practising meditation and yoga or any other form of regular exercise, and knowledge of herbs and spices that are suitable for the tropical environment and has helped people in and around India live a healthy life for several centuries. I also urge the medical fraternity to expand the treatment of breast cancer to the remotest of areas. Better diagnostic and treatment facilities are needed and Ayushman Bharat has helped women in rural and remote areas.”

Saumil Mody, General Manager, Novartis Oncology, India added, “Awareness about breast cancer leads to action and the pharmaceutical industry must play the role of a platform provider and builder of an ecosystem. We also need to ensure that our near and dear ones are screened. We have come a long way in terms of treatment for breast cancer with modalities such as radiation protocol but innovative screening methods will be critical.”

Padma Bhushan Dr. S. H. Advani, Director, Dept. of Medical Oncology, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai said, “As India is on a fast track to grow into a developed nation so there is a chance that we imitate their lifestyle too – lifestyle changes are going to have a major impact as in the recent times, it has led to higher incidence of breast cancer. Lactation period in cities has shortened and limited physical activity is a problem. Creating awareness about the disease is a big challenge.”

“Earlier, breast cancer cases were rising by 2% every year but now we see 35 new cases per 100,000 population in Delhi every year. India has seen a huge transformation in terms of treatment facility, though it remains underfunded. State governments need to improve awareness of breast cancer and it is time to move health facilities more into the interiors of India,” says Dr Vinod Raina, Executive Director- Medical Oncology & Hematology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute.

“According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer has spread rapidly worldwide during the pandemic – in 2020 alone, 2.3 million women across the world were diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 6 lakh died. As much as 7.8 million women alive were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer. There is no doubt that India has acted on the prevention and treatment of breast cancer more vigorously in the past few years. But a sizable number of women remain outside the ambit of this cover. Besides, not many men are aware that breast cancer is not exclusive to women, and even men may develop it. The burning question today is, as a nation, is India ready to avert a devastating spread of breast cancer?” says Kamal Narayan, CEO, Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council.

The month-long event is being organised on the occasion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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