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Times of India
27 December 2008
by Chitra Nair
Pune, India.

Increased Awareness can be a Contributing Factor
(Left to right) Aastha members Madhavi Sagade, Aparna Ambike, Aartee Halbe and Rashmi Joshi (Left to right) Aastha members Madhavi Sagade, Aparna Ambike, Aartee Halbe and Rashmi Joshi
Though there may be increased awareness among women about breast cancer today, city–based Aastha Breast Cancer Support Group says this awareness is limited, with very few realising the importance of post–surgery aspects like the use of a prosthesis.

“In a case where a woman undergoes a mastectomy (removal of the breast), it is a must for them to use a prosthesis to balance the upper body. Not doing so can give rise to severe backache,” says Rashmi Joshi, a member of the group.

“Using a prosthesis can also help avoid any unwanted or uncomfortable attention, although we do not think there is anything to hide,” she adds.

Available in three types – silicon, sponge and the homemade variety made of cloth and cotton – it is the silicon one that is the most expensive and has to be imported. The sponge variety is considerably cheaper and is available at the Tata memorial hospital in Mumbai and the Inlaks hospital in Pune. Aastha gives information on how to make a prosthesis at home.

But, what makes the group unique is the fact that it is run by a group of patients for the patients. “It is perhaps this aspect of our group that encourages people to join us and talk freely,” says member Aparna Ambike. Since January this year, the group has added 56 members to its fold.

“We have experienced a sudden increase in the number of cases being reported. We attribute this rise to not only to the larger incidence figure, but also an increase in the level of awareness,” says member Aartee Halbe.

According to the Cancer Atlas produced by the Indian Council of Medical Research in 2005, breast cancer has replaced cervical cancer as the leading form of cancer among women in Indian cities. A study by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), says there will be approximately 2,50,000 new cases of breast cancer in India by 2015.

Director of Tata memorial hospital Rajendra Badwe says the number of cases in urban India has seen a 100 per cent increase over the last decade. “If 15 years ago, the number of cases in urban India was 15 in one lakh women, today the number has increased to 30 cases in one lakh women in urban areas. The number for rural India on the other hand is about nine per lakh,” he says.

“Cases of breast cancer have increased in urban areas over the past couple of years. But this can also mean that the cases that were not reported earlier are now surfacing due to increased level of awareness,” says breast surgeon Shekhar Kulkarni.

Founded in January 2002, by social worker Mugdha Yardi and breast surgeon Shekhar Kulkarni, Aastha, will complete seven years in January. But the group will celebrate the occasion on December 27 with the felicitation of director of Tata memorial hospital Rajendra Badwe.

Aastha can be contacted on 9860992972 or 9822667683.

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