A new research study on breast cancer awareness in India reveals that it is spreading due to delayed diagnosis. Educating men could be a solution to encourage women to seek help earlier. The study found that due to cultural and religious issues women don’t access health services and neglect their health, which in turn results in a delayed diagnosis of breast cancer.This study was published in the Journal of Business Research.
Community nurses are the most effective channel for raising awareness of the disease as they are trusted in the community and by male members of the family. They can thus create a better understanding of the early symptoms and diagnosis in men.
The country's rapid economic development has led to greater urbanization and influenced a western lifestyle in some women. This has contributed to an increased breast cancer rates, causing one of the biggest health threats.
Judith Fletcher-Brown, from the University of Portsmouth who visited India, found that in cities and urban areas, breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women. It was found that 70,218 Indian women (average incidence age 50 years) died of breast cancer in 2012 but in 2020, the estimates are expected to increase to 76,000 by age 30.
Judith said: "India is still a patriarchal society and while women are now in responsible jobs and earning for their families, it's the men who are still the head of the household. Even educated professional women do not discuss private matters about their bodies with their husbands, fathers or brothers so it's essential to direct health messages towards men to increase their awareness of and willingness to discuss the problem. Their understanding is pivotal in enabling female family members to access medical help at the earliest stage."
These Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) have a core role in the community and their involvement in breast cancer awareness was the most effective in creating trust and overcoming cultural barriers. Schools and the media were less effective alternative channels to raise awareness of breast cancer.
Westernization of Indian women has resulted in them having fewer children later in life and decreased breastfeeding increased the chances of developing breast cancer. Western diets cause obesity, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer and a lack of resources for early diagnosis adds to the problem. Judith said. "The emerging economy of India has presented women with newfound economic independence and career opportunities but the lack of breast cancer awareness campaigns puts even these educated women at risk."
Breast cancer predictions are grim and have major policy implications for the Indian government. Professor Vijay Pereira said, "Our findings reveal complex challenges at national, state and community levels. What is clear is that the state healthcare sector must transform itself to deliver quality breast cancer health care and awareness underpinned by the effective use of social marketing campaigns. This research presents several proposals that would assist health marketers working in India's emerging economy."