My goal is to bring cancer awareness to women in a simple way – by helping them recognize early signs of cancer by taking certain steps, for example:
- How & when to do breast self-examinations and what to look for,
- 12 unusual signs that indicate breast diseases, and
- How to promote early detection to ensure proper treatment and survival
Cardiac Care Center – Khambhati Charity International, Inc.
I’m proud and honored to be part of Cardiac Care Center(Khambhati Charity International, Inc., a non-profit) and to do this Breast Cancer Awareness Project for them. In 2010 a mammography unit was started at Cardiac Care Center, Khambhat (only unit in 50 km radius of Khambhat). The Siemens’ machine costs about $52,000 and it’s a great addition to the center’s radiology department. With the help of Cardiac Care Center staff I will be traveling to different villages and medical camps with two nurses who will offer to do breast exams and also give them instructions on how to do monthly self exams. The leaflets that we’ll be handing out will have full information on breast diseases. We will include the Cardiac Care Center’s address and phone number so women can contact them with any further questions and concerns. Please visit our web-site for more info: http://khambhaticharity.org/index.html
Why do we need breast cancer awareness?
World Data shows out of every 8 women, one is likely to develop breast cancer.
Breast Cancer accounts for 20% of cancers in Indian women. It is more common than cervical cancer in developed as well as developing countries. In the past 20 years, breast cancer incidence in the world has experienced a dramatic increase of 50-100%, which strongly supports the need for breast cancer prevention and screening programs.
The most programmatic solution to early detection lies in breast cancer education of women.
Breast cancer is easier to treat if diagnosed early. For that reason, some experts recommend that women over the age 20 perform a monthly breast self-examination to look for new lumps and other changes. The self breast exam has some limitations, but it has definite role in early diagnosis in countries like India. However, one should not forget the importance of regular breast examinations by doctors or mammogram screenings.
There is no uniform cancer prevention strategy for the entire country. Awareness programs have been under-taken in a few places, but there is no uniform standardized information, education and communication (IEC) strategy for cancer prevention. There is no education on risk factors, early warning signals and their management. Cancer screening is not practiced in an organized fashion in any part of India. The Public Health Centers (PHC) in Gujarat have raised some awareness on breast cancer, but reach is still limited.
Prompt diagnosis of breast cancer in the early stage is very important. This is possible by increasing the level of awareness among women, health care professionals, nurses and social workers. The following methods are used for early detection:
- Breast Awareness and Breast Self-examination (BSE): The first person to detect any lump is the woman herself. For this, it is essential that every woman be aware of the size, shape and breasts, and know when there is an abnormal change in any of these.
- Clinical Breast Examination (CBE): This can be performed by a physician, trained nurse or a health worker. It is recommended that women be examined for any lump in the breast when they have come for other reasons.
- Mammography: This method delivers a small dose of radiation and conducts a soft tissue radiography. This method allows for the detection of lesions as small as 1mm.
Using the Lemon Metaphor
There are a few taboos and myths that surround the topic of breast diseases. First, “breast” is often associated with sex, and displaying images of breasts can be a problem. Second, “cancer” is often associated with death, a topic difficult to talk about and face.
The materials we will use remove the “sex” and “death” from the message of breast cancer through using the visual metaphor of a lemon to represent the breast. A lemon looks similarly but is separate from the body. It can be a powerful tool for showing signs of breast diseases in a very specific way, while avoiding censorship. Images can communicate far better than words to people who may have difficulties with reading or are embarrassed about the topic.
Lemons resemble the shape of a breast on the outside and resemble the anatomy of a breast on the inside. Surprisingly, a cancerous lump often feels hard and immovable—just like a lemon seed.
Below are some of the educational tools we have created for breast cancer awareness in Gujarat. A special thank you to the wonderful people at Worldwidebreastcancer.com who made all of these materials.