By 2020 India would register 1700000 new cancer cases and approximately 800000 deaths due to cancer. The worrying trend is increasing number of cancer cases among women

‘One woman dies of cervical cancer every 8 minutes in India,” while, ”For every 2 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one woman dies of it in India.”

The most common cancers among women in India are breast, cervical and ovarian cancers.

Increasing Number of Breast Cancer Cases in Urban India

In urban India, breast cancer is more common as 1 in 22 women living in urban areas is likely to develop breast cancer during her lifetime. This increase in numbers is a cause for concern and it can be attributed to the following lifestyle changes – changes in sleep patterns, high stress, poor eating habits, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, early onset of menarche (Early puberty or menstruation), late menopause and increasing maternal age.

Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

Women with genetic tests results showing gene mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are at increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Women with Lynch syndrome are at increased risk of developing uterine, breast and ovarian cancers.

Apart from the known genetic causes, the exact cause of breast cancer is not known – but there are some risk factors including obesity, late marriage, sedentary lifestyle, eating a high-fat diet, having fewer children and inadequate breastfeeding. Nulliparity, having first pregnancy after 30 years and post-menopausal hormone therapy can also increase breast cancer risk. These risk factors could be leading to more cases of breast cancer in urban India.

Ovarian cancer is the third most commonly detected cancer in Indian women

 In almost 60 to 70% of the cases, the diagnosis of ovarian cancer is made in the later stages of cancer (III or IV stage), Therefore, in India, the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is very pathetic (only 45%).  For women at relatively higher risk, genetic tests are available to screen the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Cervical cancer is more common in rural India as compared to urban India

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers – pelvic examination, pap smear and HPV vaccination is the key to the prevention of cervical cancer in India. Ignorance about the availability of HPV vaccination (This vaccination offers protection against cervical and oral cancers caused by HPV) is one of the reasons for its prevalence in rural India.

Bottom Line

The development of cancer is an intricate process involving several steps – wherein mutated genes act in unison with several other factors – lifestyle and environmental factors. In other words, genetic, environmental and other risk factors can contribute to cancer growth.

The number one reason for the increasing number of gynaecological cancers in India is lack of awareness and comprehensive knowledge about all types of gynaecological cancers.

Lack of awareness about the screening programs for breast and cervical cancers and avoidance of regular health check-ups – clinical breast examination, PAP smear and pelvic examination are all the other major factors contributing to the increasing number of gynaecological cancers in rapidly urbanizing India.

The next reason is ignoring the warning signs and symptoms. Delay in approaching a specialist doctor – many women may be diagnosed late because of lack of awareness and reluctance to go to doctors.

The best way to ensure early detection, diagnosis and Treatment Outcomes

You should talk to your gynaecologist or gynaec-oncologist as soon as you experience any signs and symptoms. Your visit to an oncologist becomes necessary if your symptoms are not responding to basic treatment and have lasted for more than two weeks. An early diagnosis can lead to better treatment outcomes and drastically improve survival rates.