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Indian Women and the Cancer Problem

India has a 71 per cent cancer mortality rate (The Lancet, March 28th 2012)

NAGPUR has the third highest prevalence of breast cancer in India and the highest number of cancer patients in the state of Maharashtra.

A lack of awareness and unaffordable treatment contribute significantly to India’s high mortality rate. There are other factors too.

Indian women are reluctant to undertake breast and cervical examinations. Since preserving modesty is an integral part of a woman’s cultural conditioning, many avoid such intimate checkups.

WIN is often approached by those who develop cancer for assistance in paying for treatment.

Breast, cervical and oral cancer drugs cost between £395 and £790 for six cycles of chemotherapy per patient, which is a significant financial responsibility for the charity.

As the majority of cases are advanced, Women In Need is often faced with the awful decision of prioritising who should receive the support.

WIN also helps women with HIV, who are more susceptible to developing cancer than those who are not HIV positive.

PAP cervical smears should be conducted annually. However, many women are either unaware of the necessity for this or reluctant to undergo a test they view as embarrassing. Education and encouragement are important here.

In October 2012, the charity initiated and financed an oral, breast and cervical screening camp for 100 women.

They were selected through the distribution of a cancer screening questionnaire by WIN’s health workers during their daily visits to Nagpur’s slums over a one-month period.

The camp was supported by government radiologist, Dr Krishna Kamle, and a team of voluntary medics (gynaecologists, ENT consultants, and nursing staff).

The venue was kindly provided by Dalvi Trust Hospital, which is near to Women In Need’s head quarters in the heart of the city.

Transportation for the women, food and refreshments for the attendees and volunteers, medical equipment and disposables were paid for by WIN. The event was a resounding success and feedback from participants has been extremely positive.

Five cases of cancer were confirmed and four pre-cancerous detected. A significant number of women had STD’s and menopausal-related symptoms.

The screening gave them an opportunity to see some of Nagpur’s top gynaecologists and for most, a solution to problems they would have otherwise ignored.

For the cancer cases, treatment has been organised by WIN with the support of Dr Kamle. Regular screening camps will be continued by the charity, as preventing cancer saves lives. Photos: Dr Kamle discusses the importance of early detection; a patient consultation in progress; a lady examined for oral cancer Sadly for the 32-year-old mother of two (pictured), treatment came too late. With stage-4 cervical cancer, her time is running out.

WIN is supporting her palliative care and will help to secure a good hostel, where her daughters will live and continue further education after their mother has died. Their father left when the diagnosis was confirmed.

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