The Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2018 is being observed throughout October 2018 across the globe to raise awareness on breast cancer and its harmful effects. Let’s take a look at Nepal’s ongoing battle with Breast Cancer.
US Breast Cancer Scenario
According to the American Cancer Society, 2018 is witness to approximately 1,735,350 new cases of cancer. Furthermore, 609,640 cancer-related fatalities are likely to occur in US including 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2018.
In an alarming estimate, the cancer treatment cost in US is likely to touch USD 157.8 billion by 2020 and even higher for breast cancer.
Scenario in Nepal
Breast Cancer puts a considerable amount of strain on Nepal, socially and economically. Prevention methods have been the only effective way in lessening the rise of this malignant illness.
However, there is more to prevention than meets the eye. Due to lack of financial resources, socio-economic gaps, inadequate numbers, training and distribution of health-care personnel & equipment, Nepal has not been successful in its prevention measures.
Although Nepal lacks a population-based national cancer registry, it has a multi-institution hospital-based registry that keeps a record of the breast cancer sufferers and related information.
Through various population-based studies performed across Nepal, the most common age of breast cancer patients has been recorded between 40-50 years with a remarkable chunk below 50 years.
Following are the risk factors that breast cancer brings to patients:
As per studies, breast cancer also occurs in premenopausal Nepalese patients with a late menarche (above 14 years of age), early first full-term pregnancy (before 40 weeks of pregnancy) and a longer duration of breastfeeding.
Additionally, delayed childbearing, reduced breastfeeding and other westernized lifestyle patterns were found to be important factors for breast cancer risk and prognosis among Asian women.
Studies also suggest that high dietary fat, smoking excessive alcohol intake, exposure to radiation and hormone replacement contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer in Nepalese women.
Early Detection of Breast Cancer
Unfortunately, Nepal lacks a breast cancer screening program. The malignant disease can be only arrested through early detection, which is an important step in reducing its spread.
Breast self-examination and clinical breast examination are the most effective early detection practices among others. Additionally, studies suggest that Mammography screening can reduce breast cancer mortality risk by 20 percent. Following this, screening may be considered as the optimal method to prevent breast cancer.
Detection methods like high-resolution ultrasound, automated whole breast ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging are out of reach and too expensive to invest in for a nation like Nepal.
Therefore, it would be effective if early detection methods like awareness and breast self-examination are extensively promoted through newspapers, electronic media, as well as through the support of health personnel.
Methods of Treatment in Nepal
As discussed earlier, factors such as financial position, access to proper healthcare facilities and social condition of the patients are the biggest hindrance to breast cancer treatment.
Following are the methods of breast cancer treatment in Nepal:
Breast Cancer Treatment –The Way Forward
Nepali women lack the required knowledge of breast cancer risk factors. A study on breast cancer literacy among higher secondary students of Nepal indicated that students had poor knowledge on breast cancer risk factors, symptoms and cure.
Furthermore, students lacked awareness of age, early menarche, delayed menopause and usage of the oral contraceptive pill as risk factors for breast cancer.
In another cross-sectional study conducted at KIST Medical College of Kathmandu, 70 percent of the students never heard of breast cancer. The study thus concluded that the understanding and awareness of breast cancer among Nepali women was remarkably poor.
This brings us to the conclusion that the following steps are necessary to enhance breast cancer awareness and healthcare:
Important Facts about Breast Cancer in Nepal:
Let’s unite against Breast Cancer – A 2018 Initiative
On October 13, 2018, people got together at Kathmandu and held a rally with the theme “Let’s unite against breast cancer”. Hundreds of people including women, girls, cancer survivors & celebrities participated in the event organized by Nepal Cancer Relief Society (NCRS) and Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital. They shared knowledge about the risk factors, disease, treatment methods and prevention of breast cancer.