In the Indore Government Cancer Hospital in India’s Malwa Nimar region, a sixty percent surge in breast cancer cases was witnessed – in just two years.
Between 2016 and 2018, cases jumped from 700 to 1,125 according to hospital records. In the same timeframe, the total number of cancer increased by 12.5 percent, from 4,000 to 4,500. The records show that breast cancer has overtaken cervical cancer as the most common cancer affecting women at the hospital.
The spike in breast cancer cases is far from limited to the Indore Government Cancer Hospital or to the region. The disease is on the rise throughout India and is the most common form of cancer among women. In 2018, the country reported 162,468 new cases of breast cancer and 87,090 deaths due to the disease. A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every four minutes. Every eight minutes, a woman dies due to the disease.
What is vitally needed in the fight against breast cancer is early screening and detection. Detection of breast cancer in its early stages improves survival outcomes. However, almost sixty percent of breast cancer cases in India are detected in advanced stages and fewer than five percent of women in India undergo breast screening. The consequences are dire of low rates of screening and late diagnoses are apparent. Late diagnoses could result in 76,000 breast cancer deaths a year by 2020, fuelled by lack of awareness and a dearth of oncologists throughout the country.
To improve early detection, awareness building is vitally needed. October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise the public profile of breast cancer, its symptoms, and the importance of screening. The new data from the Indore Government Cancer Hospital is reflective of a national crisis growing in scope – and reinforces the necessity of a public health response to address the disease.