The decision to delay the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer may have grave consequences for cancer mortality in the years to come, say oncologists. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a massive challenge for the treatment of breast cancer patients.
“A substantial increase in inquiries was witnessed since the lockdown. We are urging women to keep examining their breasts and to contact their doctors. The success depends on early diagnosis and treatment and delays could lead to higher mortality rate in the coming decade,” says Dr. B. Ravi Shankar, oncologist of Omega Hospital, Visakhapatnam.
Breast cancer, that is diagnosed early, is easier to treat and offers the best survival chances. Regular screening for breast cancer, including annual mammograms after the age of 40 and self-examination of breasts after the age of 30 is important for everyone.
Hospitals are doing everything possible to make them safe and accessible to everyone who needs them as delay in breast cancer screenings and treatment could lead to a higher mortality rate in the coming decade.
During this testing time of COVID-19, experts are offering phone and online video consultations, where they are going through the patient’s symptoms and deciding the future plan of action. If annual mammogram was delayed by the pandemic, one should call the doctor and reschedule it.
Breast cancer has become the commonest cancer in urban women in India and second most common in rural women. According to World Health Organisation, the numbers are expected to rise dramatically by 2030, due to increased urbanisation and changing lifestyles.
Sedentary lifestyle coupled with junk food and smoking are some of the causes of the rise. Besides, family history and genetics do play a role in determining a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Women are considered at high risk if they have a family history of breast cancer or are over the age of 50, says Dr. Ravi Shankar
Women should look for any changes in their breasts and discuss it with their doctor. They should examine the entire breast, including the nipple area, up to the armpits and the collarbone, he adds.