International Women’s Day is an ideal time to remind every woman that they need to look after their health by getting regular medical check-ups to ensure a healthier and happier future.
A woman needs to be aware of the gradual changes in her body as she ages. This means she needs to get checked up regularly to prevent the risk of severe chronic disorders like diabetes or breast cancer in her later years.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, which invariably leads to other complications, besides painful radiotherapy treatments.
Early screening, detection and management exponentially increase the chances of surviving breast cancer. When early detection is supplemented with timely access to treatment, proper follow-up and care, there can be a significant reduction in mortality due to breast cancer. 1
The Global Cancer Statistics 2020 report has pointed out that breast cancer has overtaken lung cancer as the most diagnosed form of cancer for the first time in the history of clinical diagnosis. 2
Why Are Breast Cancer Rates Increasing?
Experts have proposed various reasons for the increase in the rate of breast cancer cases:
- Life expectancy has gone up over the years and as more people are aging, more people are entering the high-risk group.
- Lifestyle and environmental factors such as physical inactivity, excessive body weight, consumption of alcohol, advanced childbearing age, opting for fewer childbirths, and lesser breast-feeding are increasing the susceptibility to the risk
- Increased detection rate due to the improvement in screening across the globe. 3
- The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted healthcare services, including cancer screening. Lockdowns, disruption in transport services, hesitancy in patients has led to reduced screening and delayed treatment and this might also cause an uptick in the number of cases when the normal services are restored.
Breast Cancer Screening Needs to become a Priority
Early and regular screening can help greatly in the timely detection and management of breast cancer. Despite this, in comparison to the high-income countries, the utilization of breast cancer screening services is relatively poor in low resource countries. Women’s participation in breast cancer screening services is geared by multiple factors such as education, head of the household status, age at first birth, socio-demographic and economic factors, nutritional status, access to healthcare facilities, healthcare insurance coverage, prior knowledge, religion and cultural beliefs.
Health awareness, culturally appropriate promotional campaigns, health policy and health education programs focussing on geographically and socio-economically disadvantaged women, access to affordable screening and treatment can help in encouraging more women to be receptive to screening. Women must also get familiarized with their breasts so that if they come across any changes, they can reach out to their doctor. 4
Talk to Your Doctor about Breast Cancer Screening
Even though early breast screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help detect cancer early and easier to manage. Women must be made aware of the best screening options available to them by their health care providers. This will help them assess the benefits and risks of different screening techniques and make an informed and a shared decision based on their age, risk factors, guidelines for screening in their region and other important factors.
What can you do to Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer?
Keeping weight in check, eating healthy, being physically active, opting to breastfeed, avoiding exposure to environmental pollution and radiation, limiting postmenopausal hormone therapy, going for annual screenings and reaching for support if you detect some abnormality in your breasts can reduce the risk greatly. 5
This International Women’s Day, take ownership of your breast health. In case you are a man, talk to the women in your life about the importance of breast health and how timely screening and interventions can make a world of difference.