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The Indian Express
08 Oct 2012

For the first time, a two–day Indian Breast Cancer Survivors Conference was organised in the city jointly by Tata Memorial Hospital’s Women’s Cancer Initiative (WCI) and Pune–based support group Breast Friends (BF) on October 6 and 7.

The meeting, attended by around 200 people from Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and New Delhi, aimed at bringing together patients, caregivers, doctors, psychologists and nutritionists under one roof and to inform them about latest treatments and preventive methods. Post–operative care, beautification, mental, physical and spiritual health and sharing of experiences were some of the features at the conference.

"Twelve years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I was shocked. The only question in my mind was why me? It felt like the end of the world. But my friends, family and doctors were very supportive throughout the treatment," said Devika Bhojwani, founder WCI. "When I was cured, my radiologist gave me the idea to help others who were going through the same. And that is how WCI was born," added Bhojwani.

WCI gives free cancer treatment per year to 500 women belonging to lower income groups.

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As per a study by Tata Memorial Hospital, breast cancer cases are likely to double by 2025. "One in every 20 women in cities and one in every 80 women in villages are afflicted with breast cancer very year. Although comparatively there is slightly more awareness in high income group, there is still a long way to go," said Dr Anupama Mane, oncosurgeon, Sahyadri Specialty Hospital and Ruby Hall Clinic. "Societal taboos go down deep and that is what we have to fight against."

Sonia Watson from Sharjah was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. "When my mammography report came, I was traumatised. Throughout this, I never told my family about it. I had never wanted myself to be a burden on anyone and I definitely didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Within 48 hours, I was operated upon and then my family came to know about this," said Sonia.

But for Sonia, cancer became the biggest teacher in her life. "Cancer taught me the importance of giving time to my loved ones and that life is small."

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