'Docs feel shy to discuss breast cancer issues with patients'

According to Indian Council of Medical Research, one in 22 women in India is prone to breast cancer and the estimated number of breast cancer cases in India in 2010 is 90,659. The incidence is high among women in the metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi.

The experts advocate physical verification of lumps in breast by women themselves since an early age such as 20-21, which is the simplest way of detecting the presence of cancer in earlier stages. Detection at earlier stages, they say, can increase the efficacy of treatment manifold and can also help cure the disease completely.

But Doctors often feel shy to discuss breast health issues with their patients because of social taboo. In such a scenario, women remain ignorant about the possible deadly disease which may claim their lives at an advanced stage.

"It is not only women who should be made aware about the disease but even many doctors do not know much about it. If physicians have a complete knowledge about the disease and the screening procedure, half of the war against breast cancer is won," Dr Bhawna Sirohi, head of medical haemato-oncology, Artemis Cancer Centre, said.

Another expert Dr Ramesh B V Nimmagadda, director, medical oncology, Apollo Hospital Chennai, warned that most doctors lack awareness about the disease.

"Most of the doctors are not aware about breast cancer. Not only the women feel shy to talk about it but doctors too. Even a family physician has been seen feeling shy to discuss about breast cancer with his patient whom he has been treating for ages. This problem needs to be addressed first," he said.

Citing lack of awareness amongst physicians about the disease, Dr Ratna Chopra, head of surgery in Swami Dayanand Hospital, said, "A patient was detected with breast cancer two years late. She had complained of a lump under her arm and the pathologist kept on telling her that it was nothing and by the time the cancer was diagnosed, the tumour had invaded other body parts making it a very life-threatening situation."

To bring about awareness about the disease, Dr Sirohi has also launched New India Cancer Charity Initiative so that they could cater to screening, diagnosis and treatment in rural areas. "We had been to villages where ladies were not aware of what breast cancer is. They had never heard about it from their doctors," Dr Sirohi said.

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