Concerned at the high incidence of breast cancer in Calcutta and the rest of Bengal, leading oncologists, welfare organisations and pharmaceutical companies have joined hands in the ‘Pink Ribbon Campaign’ — a nationwide crusade launched to sensitise women to the risk of contracting breast cancer.
According to modest estimates, at least one in 30 women tests positive for breast cancer in Calcutta, compared to one in 60 a few years ago.
“The situation is alarming in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal, since most cases are now being detected at an advanced stage. Of every 100 women checked, at least 55 are between Stage III and IV,” says city-based oncologist G.S. Bhattacharya, who is participating in the campaign.
If detected at Stage I, when the tumour or lump on the breast is not more then two cm long, 95 per cent of cancer patients can be cured. “In Calcutta, only 12 per cent cases are diagnosed at an early stage,” said Bhattacharya. Most cases are detected in the younger age group. In the West, mostly 50-plus women contract it.
In India, an estimated 1.3 million women die of breast cancer every year, accounting for nearly 25 per cent of cancer deaths in the country. With 80,000 new cases being detected every year, the Central government decided to speed up the Pink Ribbon Campaign to create an awareness about breast cancer, the risk factors and ways of preventing the killer disease.
Apart from Bhattacharya, the multinational Astra Zeneca Pharma has tied up with several organisations, including the Army Wives Welfare Association and many NGOs, to campaign among women in Calcutta and the districts. The campaign includes slide-shows, distributing leaflets and teaching women ways of self-breast examination to prevent breast cancer.
Health workers will inform people about the risk factors of breast cancer, including obesity, a diet in high-saturated fats and drinking, as well as late motherhood and short period of breast-feeding (at least two years).