It was a warm and bright sunny day on 12th February 2018. For most, it was an ordinary weekend with daily humdrum of work and activity. But for me and my colleagues at Aaroogya Research Analyst Team, it was one of the most special days of our lives. It was the inception of Aaroogya – The Fight Against Breast Cancer- Research and Awareness Campaign.
Breast cancer is now the most common cancer among Indian women, recently overtaken by cervical cancer. It is a well-known fact that India has a lower incidence of breast cancer -in comparison to western countries, about one-third in urban areas and one-ninth in rural villages. The lack of preventive checkups in India undoubtedly contributes to this statistic but more importantly, so do lifestyle, reproductive and dietary factors. There need to be systematic efforts at researching, preserving, and promoting the above factors that “protect” Indian women from breast cancer.
From 12th to 14th February, we did our on-ground data collection and breast cancer awareness campaign in Milana, Shahpur Bahrganga, Khaprana etc. rural villages in western Uttar Pradesh. We found that the majority of the woman was either illiterate or have studied till Class 10th. Hence they were not much aware of breast cancer. We saw a considerable change in the level of awareness among woman in these villages. Initially, they were a little bit shy but when we told them about the gravity of the disease and made them more aware of breast cancer-related problems, we found those women losing their reticence.
Many women in these villages faced work-life balance worries. Their usual causes of stress were financial, family, health-related and work-related issues. Body shaming, an expense of screening and unawareness were the three main factors that prohibited them from taking breast cancer screening.
According to me, major hurdles to obtaining a screening mammogram are individual-level (i.e. pain from the unsystematic procedure) and structural-level factors (i.e. cost, geography, convenience etc.). Steps to overcome these obstacles could include the creation of structural mechanisms where a woman can receive a host of services during a visit to the healthcare expert’s office. Important promoters of screening behavior include social-level factors such as social support, hope, and positive treatment outcomes.
Social decisive factors are also important to cancer outcomes. These contribute to higher mortality rates among poor and women of minority sections suffering from breast cancer. One way to begin dealing with the imbalance in breast cancer cases and deaths is to remove difficulties in preventive screenings and ongoing care. Sufficient health awareness, easy approach to health centers, and community education and outreach may be good places, to begin with.
We at AAROOGYA are working towards prevention and early diagnosis of breast cancer, to live to our Agenda “Early Diagnosis for All- Rural and Urban”.