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Breast cancer awareness campaign goes online

Ramya Kannan

CHENNAI: If you want to run a campaign that intends to reach a large number of people, it is generally accepted that riding the social media or using online tools to do so brings in more eyeballs. From Facebook status messages to online ‘Pink Month' campaigns, breast cancer awareness campaign has probably utilised social media and online resources most.

This year, during October, observed as National Breast Cancer Awareness month, some people intend to do just that. Indusladies.com, an online community for Indian women, has joined hands with Forum for Breast Cancer Protection (FBCP) to conduct an innovative online Breast Cancer Awareness campaign that will attempt to reach a million women during the month.

Breast Cancer has been and continues to be the commonest cancer among urban Indian women, according to Indian Council for Medical Research statistics. In a paper “50 years of Cancer Control in India” in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website, Chaudhry and Luthra say cervical cancer is the commonest cancer among women, followed by breast cancer.

Population-based survival studies showed the five-year relative survival for breast cancer was 46.8 per cent in Bangalore, 49.5 per cent in Chennai and 55.1 per cent in Mumbai. What oncologists stress repeatedly is that cancer, especially of the breast, if detected early is curable. However, late reportage continues to impact on the mortality and morbidity of several women with breast cancer.

FBCP is a non-governmental organisation focused on spreading breast cancer awareness. Medical professionals from institutes and hospitals like AIIMS, Gangaram Hospital, and Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute joined together to start FBCP in 2001.

FBCP chairperson Ramesh Sarin, Senior Consultant Oncologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals (Delhi), says, “The need for awareness among Indian women is absolutely desperate. The surprising thing is that this lack of awareness is not just among uneducated, rural women. Even urban, educated and sophisticated women are unbelievably ignorant on these things.”

“Indusladies being a women's community, breast cancer impacts our audience the most. Being the most curable form of cancer, it is inexcusable not to save every life that can be saved'', says Malathy Jey, founder, Indusladies.com.

As part of the campaign, women can take an online breast cancer quiz, they will also have access to a breast self-examination video.

Visitors can also download a pamphlet that provides practical information on breast cancer facts, myths, risk factors (including dietary and activity related information) and women's responsibility in early detection. According to the FBCP website, “most breast lumps seen by clinicians are found by women themselves. Once a person suspects a lump on BSE, she should get this checked up by a physician.”

“We absolutely believe the online campaign will have a major impact as more and more women are going online to find health-related information. The ability to target the women audience, particularly at a time when they are receptive to such information is possible through the internet'', adds Ms. Malathy.

Several leading hospitals and healthcare centres all across the country have promised to actively participate in the Online Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign.

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