Early Detection: The Key to Conquering Women's Cancers in India

Early Detection: The Key to Conquering Women's Cancers in India

Dr. Mohamed Zehran of Apollo Cancer Centre highlights the importance of early detection, advancements in treatment and the evolving approach to cancer care.

35-year-old Meena, a school teacher and mother of two in Chennai, faced a life-altering challenge when she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer despite leading a healthy life. Her journey, laden with fear and uncertainty, mirrors the experiences of many Indian women confronting cancer. But Meena's story is also one of hope and resilience, a testament to the power of early detection and modern medical interventions. Thanks to early detection, she now lives a normal life. 

Dr. Mohamed Zehran, a Consultant Medical Oncologist at Apollo Cancer Centre, Chennai, emphasizes this crucial aspect. "Cancer is not a death sentence. The earlier we pick up cancers, the more successful we are at curing people. Cure is definitely a possibility, but we want to be picking up people at the right time," he asserts.

In India, the most common women-related cancers are breast, cervical, ovarian, and uterine. Dr. Zehran notes that these are also the leading cancers globally, with breast cancer being the most prevalent. Interestingly, breast cancer is more common in urban populations, whereas cervical cancer is more prevalent in rural areas. This pattern holds true worldwide.  Dr. Zehran sheds light on regional variances within India, particularly in Tamil Nadu. The state witnesses a higher prevalence of breast cancers in women and gastrointestinal cancers in men. This increasing trend in cancer cases is alarming, with a steep climb in numbers from 53,000 in 2012 to 280,000 in 2022.

Recent breakthroughs in women-related cancer treatments have been significant. The HPV vaccine, targeting the primary cause of cervical cancer, has revolutionized prevention. Additionally, the advent of targeted therapy and immunotherapy has personalized cancer treatment, moving away from the 'one size fits all' approach. These advancements are pivotal in treating cancers at a molecular level, tailoring therapies to individual patients.

However, the approach to treating women-related cancers in India faces challenges, including cultural and socioeconomic factors. Women often under report symptoms due to responsibilities at home or financial constraints, leading to advanced-stage cancer diagnoses. To counter this, the Indian government aims to increase early-stage cancer detection from 30% to 60% by 2030, improving infrastructure and awareness programs.

Dr. Zehran also highlights the unique challenges faced in Tamil Nadu, such as access to quality cancer care, especially in rural areas. The government's efforts to improve infrastructure, increase the number of oncologists, and enhance existing cancer centers are steps toward addressing these issues. Increased awareness and screening programs have led to more women presenting with early-stage cancers, improving the likelihood of curative treatments.

Despite improvements in treatment accessibility, challenges remain in data collection and the cost of cutting-edge treatments. Dr. Zehran recounts the story of a patient from a humble background who, with the help of compassionate pharma companies, received reduced-cost treatment and achieved complete remission. This underscores the need for closer collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and the government to make advanced treatments more accessible.

The future of cancer care and research in India hinges on increasing participation in clinical trials and enhancing awareness of clinical research. The shift towards personalized medicine is a significant change in the treatment of women-related cancers, offering tailored solutions for individual patients.

Meena's story, reflecting Dr. Zehran's insights, is a beacon of hope and strength. Her successful treatment journey highlights the critical importance of early detection and the advancements in cancer care. As Dr. Zehran aptly concludes, "The earlier we find the cancer, the more successful we are with our treatment." This message resonates with every woman in India, urging them to prioritize their health and embrace the life-saving potential of early cancer detection and treatment.

For more details on women related cancers , please refer https://www.apollohospitals.com/cancer-treatment-centres/cancerTiles/Gynaecological.php

Dr Mohamed Zehran, Consultant – Medical Oncology
Dr Mohamed Zehran, Consultant – Medical Oncology

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