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Breast Cancer - battling ignorance, apathy, and cultural conditioning

Updated: Jul 1

I have encountered countless cases of women with advanced breast cancer abandoned on the streets or shut away in a room left to die. The memories are hard to erase… gangrenous wounds covered with waste material in the absence of bandages. Absolutely no pain relief due to draconian laws prohibiting the use of morphine at home. A lonely, miserable death in soiled clothing….

I have seen and smelt this scene far too many times to remember.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in India, yet there are obstacles preventing timely diagnosis and treatment. Indian women are expected to prioritise the needs of the family above their own. Low-income women diagnosed with breast cancer are especially vulnerable as they cannot afford time away from work or the home to seek treatment. Nor can they afford the cost of travel too and from hospital, let alone the expense of diagnostic tests to determine the type and grade of cancer.

Awareness and screening are the only ways to prevent unnecessary suffering and loss of life. Through Women in Need's iBreast Exam program (IBE) screening is taken to the heart of Nagpur’s poorest communities. Those detected with breast abnormalities are supported by the charity for further investigations, treatment, and counselling.

(Leah Pattison)

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