Posted on: 06/01/2016


`Breast cancer strikes Indians earlier'


breast cancerBreast cancer affects Indian women earlier than their counterparts in the West, a study conducted by the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGMER) has revealed. Analysis of breast cancer cases and a comparison with data collected from the UK pointed to the fact that the average age at which the disease struck was 4445 years in India, while it was 5560 in Europe.

The revelation was significant, said experts who believed that rather than screening, awareness was needed to curb the cases in India.

Conducted at the IPGMER, in collaboration with the Royal Free Hospital, London, the study recommends a complete overhaul of the strategy to tack le breast cancer, "Indian solutions are needed for Indian problems," it says, adding that a number of cases could spiral out of control if the stress continues to be on screening as a preventive measure.

Diptendra Kumar Sarkar, professor and in-charge, breast cancer department, IPGMER, said, "Screening through mammography has failed in the UK where it was introduced in 1987.Every woman, once she turned 49, had to undergo a compulsory test every three years. But it has been seen that the screening hasn't been able to reduce the number of cases or curb the death rate."

He pointed out that in India, the mammography system can never work as the disease strikes at least 10-15 years earlier than in the West on an average and with younger women having dense breast tissues, the mammography x-rays can't always penetrate and detect cancer. "Women below 40 can't rely on mammography to detect breast cancer. On the contrary , they might contract the disease through regular mammography ," Sarkar warned.

"What we need is early diagnosis that can happen only through awareness. We need to ensure that every woman does a selfscreening and consults a doctor immediately if she detects a ump in the breast," he suggested. In India, 75,000-1 lakh new breast cancer cases are detected every year. There is no reliable data for West Bengal.

The study also revealed that he reason behind the early onset of breast cancer in India was a sub-type, which was more common here than in the West. Basal and luminal are the two sub-types of the disease and while the former was frequent n India, the latter was prevalent n the West.

"Basal is a hormone-independent sub-type which can't be prevented by having children early or through breast-feeding.

It is a more virulent form of the disease that has a high mortality. Early detection is the only way," explained Sarkar. IPGMER has started DNA analysis of the basal sub-type and hopes to come up with significant findings. But till then, early diagnosis would have no substitute, experts said.

Veteran oncologist Subir Ganguly said, "DNA analysis will be expensive, so awareness has to be stepped up. Breast cancer strikes early in our country and so we need to start make teenagers aware. They should be told about the risks and the ways to prevent it. We need to train youngsters to self-examine."

Oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay said breast cancer was among the most neglected forms of the disease. "A breast cancer lump is neither painful nor easily identifiable. So, by the time one seeks treatment, more than half the patients have reached stages three or four," he said.

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