Srinagar, Oct 20: Breast cancer remains a significant cause of cancer-related deaths among women in their reproductive years, and approximately one-third of cancer cases are associated with behavioural and lifestyle factors, prominent Oncosurgeon, Dr Shabnam Bashir said.
Dr Shabnam, Kashmir’s first female organ-specific Oncosurgeon, who is trained in advanced technologies such as Robotics, CRS with HIPEC, PIPAC therapy, and laser therapy, stressed the importance of timely cancer diagnosis and screening to facilitate appropriate treatment.
She pointed out that cancer has emerged as a modern epidemic, with approximately 2 crore new cases diagnosed worldwide annually and one crore deaths attributed to cancer each year. There is a critical need for awareness because nearly 60 percent of women seek treatment for breast cancer at the third or fourth stage due to a lack of awareness, she said.
Explaining further, Dr Shabnam while quoting the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said there is a projected 12% increase in cancer cases over the next five years. She cautioned that these numbers are likely underestimations due to the absence of well-maintained, population-based cancer registries across the country.
“Breast cancer, in particular, has seen a sharp increase and is now the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women of reproductive age,” she said, adding that approximately 23 lakh new cases occur globally each year, with 10% (2.23 lakh cases) reported in India, resulting in around 1 lakh deaths annually.
She attributed this increase to changes in lifestyle, modernization, pollution, radiation, and stress. However, increased awareness has led to higher diagnosis rates, which contributes to the overall rise in cancer incidence, she added.
The Oncosurgeon stressed that 30-50% of cancer cases are preventable, and the majority of cancer-related deaths occur in low-middle income countries.
According to the Regional Cancer Registry Kashmir (2014-2016), 5336 new cases of breast cancer were registered at SKIMS, Soura, Dr Shabnam said, adding that this translates to roughly five new cases reported daily in a single hospital in Kashmir.
She said the trend indicates a steady rise in breast cancer, and 1 in every 28 Indian women is at risk of developing breast cancer during her lifetime, with urban women being more vulnerable (1 in 22) than rural women (1 in 60).
“A study at SKIMS (2014-2016) revealed that CRC is most common in the age group of 56-65 (25%), with around 20% of cases occurring in individuals less than 35 years of age. Approximately 50% of cases are diagnosed at Stage 3, and one-third of all cancers are linked to behavioural and lifestyle factors,” she said.
Dr Shabnam stressed the need to raise awareness about lifestyle modifications to reduce the risk of various cancers. She highlighted the role of tobacco consumption, which is responsible for approximately 2500 deaths per day in India. She also stressed the importance of understanding the role of alcohol, diet, stress, sleep, body weight, radiation exposure, carcinogens, hormonal treatments, and physical activity.
Worryingly, cancers in India are occurring a decade earlier than in Western countries, and many patients present with advanced-stage cancers, reducing survival rates, according to the doctor. She underscored the critical importance of creating mass awareness about the causes of cancer, early detection through screening, seeking medical assistance at the earliest sign of trouble, and adopting preventive measures, including lifestyle changes, to prevent cancer from claiming precious lives within families and society.