Health expert laments Nagas shying away from seeking medical help for breast cancer
Dimapur, Oct. 3 (EMN): Even though October is celebrated as breast cancer awareness month worldwide, many women are still uninformed about this fatal disease, especially in the Northeast, as coming forward to seek medical attention is still considered a taboo by many.
Dr. Suiyibangbe, a surgeon at a reputed private hospital in Dimapur, told Eastern Mirror that early detection of breast cancer is ‘very important’ but most women seek medical help only when the disease has reached a later stage.
“An early detection can be done by the patient themselves and it is very important to know the symptoms; this will help in early diagnosis,” the doctor said.
Sharing that most women who come with symptoms are often ‘ignorant and shy away’ from even getting an examination, the doctor said that an early detection is also helpful in not only reducing the spread of the disease but also from the perspective of psychology and finance.
“By the time women seek treatment, the cancer might have spread to different areas. And psychologically also they get affected, leading to depression,” Suiyibangbe said, adding that mortality rate is high if detected late.
“Ignorance and lack of awareness about breast cancer is also another major factor why detection of the disease is delayed. Nagas are still not advanced in this field and sometimes the patient doesn’t even know which doctor to approach; this might lead to false diagnosis also which can be fatal again,” said the doctor.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are about 1.38 million new cases and 4,58,000 deaths from breast cancer each year (IARC Globocan, 2008). Breast cancer is by far the most common form of cancer in women worldwide, both in the developed and developing countries. In low and middle-income countries, the incidence has been rising steadily in the past years due to increase in life expectancy, increased urbanisation and adoption of western lifestyles.
In regard to Nagaland, Suiyibangbe said that ‘there is no breast cancer specialist as such but all who handle (the cases) are surgeons and gynaecologists who have studied extensively about the disease’.
This, he said, is also why giving a specific status report of how many people have succumbed to breast cancer in the state is not certain.
“It is still very much a taboo in our society and many women are still very shy to share their problems when it comes to breast cancer,” said the doctor.
“Awareness programmes, and speaking openly about it with teenage girls especially, is very important so that an early detection can be made by themselves,” said Suiyibangbe.
According to him, family history and genetics also contribute to many women getting breast cancer. He shared that some of the most common symptoms of breast cancer include a lump or tissue that feels different and has developed recently, breast pain, red skin over entire breast, swelling in all or part of the breast, a nipple discharge other than breast milk, bloody discharge from the nipple, sudden change in the shape or size of the breast.
Further, he informed that detecting breast cancer in men is ‘very rare as they have less breast tissue’.
“Men also certainly get breast cancer but only one in every 100 breast cancer cases will be men; it is very rare,” said Suiyibangbe.