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Young India unaware of cervical and breast cancers, says survey

A recent survey report by Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai and BLK Hospital, Delhi, shows an urgent need to create awareness amongst youngsters about cancers and its subtypes

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A recent survey conducted by Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai and BLK Hospital, New Delhi shows there is an urgent need to create awareness about detection and preventive measures in Indian youth to march towards the goal of cancer elimination.

A total of 375 students from Mumbai, aging 18-21 years, participated in the survey conducted at Dahanukar College and Sathye Colleges. In Delhi, 220 youngsters aging 16-24 years from various colleges and surrounding areas of BLK Hospital responded through an online questionnaire.

While in Mumbai more number of women (65 per cent) than men (35 per cent) responded to the questionnaire; in Delhi, the men (69 per cent) responded more enthusiastically than women (31 per cent).

However, a common thread amongst the youngsters was their lack of awareness about most common subtypes of cancers affecting cervix and breasts. Despite almost half the participants being women, 58 per cent in Mumbai and 60 per cent in Delhi, thay said they are not aware about cervical cancer. Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which as per World Health Organization (WHO) causes 70 per cent of cervical cancers and pre-cancerous cervical lesions, had failed to grab the attention of 58 per cent of students in Mumbai and 71 per cent in Delhi.

However, the youngsters were well-informed about the oral cancer and general cancers, most likely due to the intensified anti-tobacco campaigns run by state and central governments, said experts. Over 80 per cent participants across the two cities were aware about the direct co-relation of tobacco and alcohol with that of oral cancer. Majority refused smoking or consumption of tobacco as means to relieve stress or gain focus.

Discussing the survey report, Dr Sanjay Dudhat, Head – Oncosurgery, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, said the survey will help oncologists, decision makers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in this field, to identify specific areas of improvement for cancer awareness.

“We always say prevention is better than cure and this is true for cancer. Now, since we know efforts to intensify knowledge about HPV, its means of transmission and vaccination, pap-smear test, SBE and clinical breast examination are necessary, we will focus on these areas while dealing with society at large,” he said.

Dr. Surender Dabas, Director – Surgical Oncology and Chief — Robotic Surgery, BLK Cancer Centre, citing the data, requested the need to create awareness about advantages of early diagnosis. “Lack of awareness often delays the diagnosis and as a result, about 50 per cent cancer patients discover their ailments only in the third or fourth stage, which severely restricts their survival chances. Due to rising incidence of cancer, youngsters in our country need to be made aware of advanced facilities for early diagnosis, treatment and care,” he said.

The survey has marked the beginning of a new string of community outreach programs, to be organised by both Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital and BLK Hospital to create more awareness about cancer, its preventive measures, diagnosis and treatment among youngsters. Considering the increasing cancer incidents, the hospitals have been engaging in various awareness programmes and activities across geographies to march towards the ultimate goal of cancer elimination.

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