covid: Covid fear: Many women delayed breast cancer diagnosis, say Bengaluru oncologists | Bengaluru News – Times of India


BENGALURU: Despite realizing they had a growth, many women delayed getting themselves screened for breast cancer for fear of visiting hospitals during the pandemic, oncologists in Bengaluru say. As a result, most patients they are now seeing are in the third stage of the disease.
Doctors say the disease, which could have been diagnosed in the first or second stages especially among educated women, worsened. Breast cancer, the most common type, accounts for 25-32% of cancers among women in urban areas, as per registries. October is breast cancer awareness month.

“Covid not only impacted the diagnostic part, but also affected treatment of confirmed patients,” said Dr Nidhi Tandon, medical oncologist, Narayana Health City. “Regular follow ups also took a beating and it affected survival and the quality of life of patients.”
While there is no data to suggest a decline in hospital visits in India, Dr Tandon said that the NHS, UK found that the incidence of breast cancer came down by 27% during the pandemic.
“That does not mean the number of breast cancer cases came down, but the number of hospital visits reduced drastically,” she said. “As against 75-80 new breast cancer cases that we would see in our hospital every month, we saw only 30-35 during the peak of the Covid waves.”
The impact of the delay in seeking consultations was worse during and after the second wave, Dr Tandon said. But what frustrates the medical fraternity most is that breast cancer in most women can be cured if detected early.
Dr Niti Raizada, director, medical oncology and hemato oncology, Fortis hospitals, cited the example of a 29-yearold woman who ended up coming in the third stage of the disease with two growths. “The woman had noticed the lumps six months previously, but sought diagnosis only recently,” she said. “Evaluation of cases took a beating in April, May and June this year, leading to a lag in diagnosis and treatment.” She said time is a key factor in cancer care.
The situation appears to have been no different globally. Fortis hospitals is now seeing women in the third stage from Bangladesh, African countries and West Asia.
Dr C Ramachandra, director, Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology in Bengaluru, said footfall at their OPD was down to just 50 per day during the peak of the Covid waves. In pre-Covid times, they saw 1,500 patients a day.
“Covid is perhaps a reason for the delay in seeking treatment, but that’s not the only reason,” Dr Ramachandra said. “Our population is laid back when it comes to cancer and more than 50% of patients seek treatment only when in advanced stages.”
He said depending on the type of breast cancer, there are chances of the disease advancing to the third stage in just six months.

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Sagar Biswas

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