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Decoding why breast cancer is the most common cancer in India

Breast cancer tends to affect a significant number of individuals in India when they are relatively younger, often around ten years earlier than those in Western countries. 

Decoding why breast cancer is the most common cancer in India
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First Published May 30, 2024, 7:30 AM IST

In India, breast cancer constitutes about 12.5% of all cancer cases and 10.61% of all cancer-related deaths among women, as per the 2020 GLOBCON data, differing from Western countries' statistics. A considerable proportion of patients experience breast cancer at younger ages, nearly a decade earlier compared to the Western population. Breast cancer tends to affect a significant number of individuals in India when they are relatively younger, often around ten years earlier than those in Western countries.

Several factors could contribute to this trend, including genetic predispositions, lifestyle factors, environmental exposures, and disparities in access to healthcare. Early-onset breast cancer presents distinct challenges as it may be more aggressive, necessitating prompt and tailored interventions to improve outcomes and quality of life for affected individuals.

Decoding why breast cancer is the most common cancer in India

Around 60% of patients possess an understanding of the disease, and its presentation significantly influences breast cancer mortalities. Breast cancer tends to affect a significant number of individuals in India when they are relatively younger, often around ten years earlier than those in Western countries. Several factors could contribute to this trend, including genetic predispositions, lifestyle factors, environmental exposures, and disparities in access to healthcare. Early-onset breast cancer presents distinct challenges as it may be more aggressive, necessitating prompt and tailored interventions to improve outcomes and quality of life for affected individuals.

Also Read: Women's Health Day 2024: 7 myths that should not be believed

Approximately 25% of Indian breast cancer patients are diagnosed with metastatic disease (Stage IV) at the time of diagnosis. A concerning aspect of breast cancer diagnosis in India is that a notable proportion of patients are already diagnosed with advanced-stage disease at the time of detection. Metastatic breast cancer (Stage IV) refers to cancer that has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs or distant parts of the body.

Decoding why breast cancer is the most common cancer in India

Diagnosis at this advanced stage typically carries a poorer prognosis and necessitates more aggressive and complex treatment approaches, often with limited curative options. Addressing this high incidence of metastatic breast cancer underscores the urgency of enhancing early detection efforts, improving access to screening programs, and implementing strategies to ensure timely diagnosis and intervention to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.

Several factors contribute to healthcare professionals' roles and responsibilities:

  • Insufficient awareness regarding breast cancer symptoms and the significance of early detection.
  • Limited education on self-awareness and screening tests, crucial for early breast cancer detection.
  • Social stigma surrounding breast cancer.
  • Financial constraints hindering access to screening tests and leading to delayed presentations.
  • Fear of cancer diagnosis contributing to avoidance of screening.

Breast cancer stands as the most prevalent form of cancer globally, impacting millions of lives each year. Its multifaceted nature encompasses various risk factors, including genetic predispositions, lifestyle choices, and environmental influences. Despite advances in screening, diagnosis, and treatment modalities, challenges persist, particularly in regions where access to healthcare resources is limited. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from healthcare providers, policymakers, researchers, and communities worldwide. Through continued advocacy, education, early detection initiatives, and advancements in treatment options, we can strive towards reducing the burden of breast cancer, enhancing patient outcomes, and ultimately, fostering a future where this disease no longer claims countless lives.

-Dr. Krishna Reddy, Consultant - Medical Oncology, Manipal Hospitals Vijayawada

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