‘Breast cancer on the rise among Kashmiri women’

SRINAGAR: Experts fear breast cancer has been on the rise among Kashmiri women over the recent years .
The Department of Radiation, Oncology at SMHS Hospital  received around 900 patients suffering from the lethal disease in 2013 while the number stood at 881 at  SKIMS, Valley’s premier tertiary care   hospital.
Officials at the Oncology Department of both the hospitals say that on an average one to two  breast cancer patients seek treatment every single day.
Renowned Oncologist of the valley, Dr Ashiq Hussain Naqshbandi claims that since last 25 years there has been an alarming increase in the number of patients suffering from different forms of cancer especially breast cancer. To study the cause and effect of the rising prevalence of cancer in Kashmir, a research project was taken up by Dr Naqshbandi in 1997 in and around downtown area of Srinagar. The research brought  forth that most of the patients suffering from cancer belonged to  areas like Rainawari, Khanyar and Hawal.
“In my observation, I found that people living in downtown areas were at the higher risk of breast cancer. The prime reason was the lack of awareness among Kashmiri women,” said Dr Naqshbandi.
Another study suggested that breast cancer was the second most  common cancer in the valley after Oesophageal cancer.
Breast Cancer occurs with the highest incidence within the age group 30-50 and is approximately three times higher in urban areas as compared to rural areas. Besides, lack of awareness, a number of specific reasons are said to be responsible for the increased risk of Breast Cancer.  “Women who have had more monthly cycles because they started their cycles at an early age (before 12) and/or went through menopause at a later age (after 55) have a slightly higher risk of Breast Cancer.  Another reason can be the genetic factor. A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer is higher if her mother, sister, or daughter had the same problem,” said Dr Naqshbandi.
Obesity has been consistently associated with an increased risk of Breast Cancer among postmenopausal women. Dr Naqshbandi said, “Fat cells produce estrogen and obese postmenopausal women tend to have higher blood estrogen levels than lean women.”
Dr Naqshbandi who is also the Management officer at ‘Cancer Society of Kashmir’ said that on an average 5-6 fresh/new patients suffering from Breast cancer admit themselves in different hospitals of the valley per day while most of them prefer to go outside the state for their treatment. The cost of treatment ranges from Rs 50,000 to 20 Lakh, depending upon the stage of the disease.
The disease which is gradually on rise has now become known as one of the main causes of death among women in Kashmir. Underscoring the need for early diagnosis and timely treatment of the patients, Dr Naqshbandi said that awareness about this disease can lead to early detection and thereby decrease the mortality rate.
“Awareness campaigns, life style, dietary habit changes, self examination and early detection of the disease are very important for Cancer control especially when a women turns over 40,” added Dr Naqshbandi.

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