According to The Times of India, India's Union health ministry has recommended breast cancer screening begin at age 30 and is requiring community health centers to "clinically examine" women for breast cancer (regardless of what disease or condition they are actually being seen for) and refer for biopsy if a lump is found.
Some stats according to the article:
- 90,000 Indian women die of breast cancer every year, more than any other cancer
- One in 25 Indian women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime
- A World Health Organization (WHO) study predicts that by 2020, one in eight urban Indian women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime
- Indian women seek treatment very late; around 65 percent are already in stage 3 or 4 when diagnosed
- The most common misconception among women is that a breast cancer lump will be painful
According to Dr. Pankaj Garg, "The misconception that 'pain is an important sign' is prevalent in India, and is evident in the fact that 70 percent of breast cancer cases are detected late as compared to developed nations, where late detection is 20 percent."
To combat this lack of education and understanding, some educators (midwives) are going door to door to educate women on breast cancer and early screening.
However, there is still the issue of rural areas not having the equipment nor clinicians skilled enough to screen properly.
What impressed me most is that India and the US are facing the same issue: education. While our numbers regarding screening and survival are better, our biggest barrier to getting women screened in the first place is education. And just as in India, certain populations in the US (the poor and those living in rural areas) are at greater risk.
Are any of our community members treating patients who are in these more at-risk populations? What has been effective in terms of educating and/or screening these women?