When former actress Deepti Jha (name changed) was 23 years old, a benign fibroid had developed in her left breast. So, when a similar lump developed in her right breast last year, the 28-year-old ignored it. But when she got it tested two months ago, she was shocked when the doctors told her she had breast cancer.
“I should have gotten the lump tested the day I felt uncomfortable. Even though the doctors have removed the tumour, they have warned me that I may not be able to conceive,” rued Jha.
“Jha will be started on injections to suppress her menstrual cycles for three years. There is a 15%-20% chance that she may never conceive. Early diagnosis, on the other hand, helps avoid high-end chemotherapy, which probably would not cause infertility issues in young women,” said Dr Mandar Nadkarni, oncologist at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Andheri.
Though breast cancer is predominantly thought to afflict women above 50 years of age, private hospitals said at least 5% of such patients are in their 20s. With International Breast Cancer Day being observed on October 21, doctors urge women to follow the World Health Organisation guideline that they should carry out regular breast self-examination after 20 years of age.
According to the latest figures by Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel, one in every 3,000 women between 20 and 50 years in Mumbai is afflicted with breast cancer. “An average of 1,300 such cases were observed every year between 2001 to 2005 in Mumbai. The number of cases is predicted to double to more than 2,500 cases per year by 2025,” warned Dr Rajan Badwe, director, Tata Memorial Hospital.
Suvarna Singh, 30, (name changed) ignored the lump on her breast for close to a year passing it off as a pregnancy-related swelling though she felt discomfiture while breastfeeding. Her world came crashing down when it dawned upon her that the lump was a rapidly proliferating cancer.
“The lump was the the size of a cricket ball by the end of her pregnancy. She ignored the swollen breasts till she started feeding her baby. The sad part is that the first line of chemotherapy has had little effect on a lump that big,” said Dr Chetna Bakshi, oncologist at Jupiter Hospital in Thane.
Doctors fear that the deadly cells will spread rapidly into her lungs, liver and bones in a matter of months and her survival not lasting beyond few years.