The Rise of Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Mrs. M. B.*, a 32 year old marketing professional employed at a leading life insurance company in India was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. She was a healthy lady with no prior medical history to cause concern, no precedent in her immediate family, a teetotaller and a non-smoker.  An avid trekker and a health enthusiast, she would go on long expeditions with her husband to unwind and be one with nature. This unfortunate ailment took a serious and exponential toll on her health, which ultimately led to her sad demise in just a little over two years. It left her family and friends utterly devastated, her colleagues shocked and her husband still struggling to come to terms with the terrible loss.

Alarming Statistics

Breast and gynaecological cancer (largely ovarian and cervical cancer) are the most commonly occurring critical diseases among women in India. One woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes, and one woman dies of breast cancer every six minutes (Source: Economic Times). Ovarian cancer cases too are escalating in our country. We have the 3rd highest number of cancer cases among women after China and U.S.A, and the 2nd highest incidences of ovarian cancer globally (Source: Epidemiology of ovarian tumours in Northern India - A tertiary hospital based study, published in 2018).

Causes and Concerns

Age used to be considered a reason for higher probability of developing cancer, but not anymore. Around 30 years ago about 30% patients were below the age of fifty. Today it is at 50% (Source: 2018 survey, Economic Times).
Some causes for higher propensity of getting cancer are obesity, poor diet (increased intake of processed foods, sugar, red meat and alcohol), smoking and lack of exercise. However, the larger contributors are heredity and genetic disposition. Women whose immediate female relatives have had cancer are at more risk than others. Similarly women with mutations in BCRA 1 and BCRA 2 genes (these produce tumour suppressor proteins) are at a 75% risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer.
One of the biggest deterrents in treatment of cancer among women in India is late detection, owing to lack of awareness. Studies suggest that only around 60% of women being treated for breast cancer survive for 5 years post treatment. This is due to delay in screening and diagnosis. While cancer cannot be prevented, the survival rate can be improved greatly by early detection and immediate treatment.

Mitigating Risk

The risks can be eliminated to a large extent by adopting a healthy lifestyle, eating a wholesome diet, exercising regularly and abstaining from addictive substances. Keep a regular check on your health and be on the lookout for any signs of abnormality, such as lumps, vaginal discharge, excessive bleeding, irregular bowel movements etc. Scheduling timely health checkups with your gynaecologist will go a long way in identifying if anything is amiss and obtaining required treatment. DNA testing for BCRA 1 & 2 genes will help you find out whether you have any genetic propensity of breast or ovarian cancer.

Financial Solution for unfortunate times

Much like Mrs. M. B.* who was young and led a healthy lifestyle, there could be many cases among women who are not otherwise inclined to develop cancerous cell mutations. However, should such an unfortunate incident occur it would be best to be prepared in advance for any eventuality. The emotional stress and pain cannot be compensated; however, you can do your best to ensure financial assistance in such times of urgency.
There are specific health insurance plans available in India that target pre-, on-going and post-treatment for cancer cases. These policies cover various costs related to diagnosis, hospitalization, radiation, chemotherapy, surgery etc. can help you gain better understanding with advice from experienced professionals of a health plan best suited to your needs. Simply log onto and key in your contact details to have a Sana Expert get in touch with you at your convenience.

Wish you a healthy and happy life!

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