'Over 60% women with breast cancer present in advanced stages'

Hyderabad, Jan 9 (IANS): Due to lack of awareness about breast cancer and absence of a robust population-based screening programme, more than 60 per cent present in advanced stages, with most succumbing within a year of being diagnosed, said eminent breast surgeon Dr. P. Raghu Ram.

With 200, 000 new cases being diagnosed every year, breast cancer has emerged to become the commonest cancer affecting women in India.

Dr. P. Raghu Ram -- the founder, director and CEO of Ushalakshmi Breast cancer Foundation was speaking at public awareness panel Discussion on “Breast Cancer Advocacy & Screening” during the 66th annual conference of All India Congress of Obstetrics & Gynecology (AICOG 2024) being held at HICC in Hyderabad. About 10, 000 delegates are attending this Congress being held from January 6-10.

Dr Shantha Kumari, Chairperson of AICOG 2024 and past president of FOGSI, said that there is a pressing need for Gynaecologists to be empowered about the need to make women ‘breast aware’ and to refer patients in time to specialists that will ensure those diagnosed with breast cancer derive the best possible benefits through early detection.

Professor Anne-Beatrice Kihara, President of International Federation of Obstetrics & Gynecology (FIGO) spoke about the vitally important role that gynaecologists have at ensuring early diagnosis of breast cancer to patients presenting to them.

She said that gynaecologists must routinely examine women’s breasts when they present to them for various gynec issues, even when they have no complaints in the breast because this meticulous approach would help detect breast lesions, some of which may turn out to be malignant.

Dr Raghu Ram noted that on most occasions, gynaecologists are the first port of call for women presenting with breast diseases. It is vitally important for gynaecologists to ensure that all women presenting with a breast lump must undergo triple assessment, which includes clinical examination, mammography and ultrasound guided core needle biopsy to confirm or exclude breast cancer.

“It is disturbing to see many patients being referred for FNAC (Fine needle aspiration Cytology), which is inadequate, not accurate and also has a potential for false positive diagnosis, which can then mislead patients, resulting in wrong diagnosis and incorrect treatment,” he said.

The surgeon emphasised the need for gynaecologists to actively encourage women 40 years and over to have an annual screening mammogram, which would go a long way to save lives.

He also outlined the importance of Mammogram as the gold standard investigation for women presenting with a breast lump and cautioned gynaecologists about referring patients for Thermography, which has not been proven to be an effective investigation in the evaluation of breast lumps.

Amala Akkineni, patron of Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation paid rich tributes to Dr Raghu Ram and Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation for creating the much-needed awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer through a number of unique and innovative initiatives over the past 17 years.

“I too, like most women despite being educated, was unaware that women over 40 must undergo screening mammograms until Dr Raghu Ram brought about this awareness in the city and all across India,” she said.

Damayanthi, a retired IAS officer and a breast cancer “conqueror” stressed upon the fact that her diagnosis was delayed because the gynaecologist who saw her initially did not refer her for a core needle biopsy. She underlined the importance of undergoing core needle biopsy to confirm or rule out breast cancer.



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