More than two thirds of breast cancers in developing countries are diagnosed at a late stage. Awareness-based screening programmes, integrated into existing infrastructure, are the way forward for cancer control in these countries. We aim to describe a structured screening programme established in an urban community in Mumbai, India. We conducted a breast cancer awareness survey in this urban community covered by employees' health scheme. A brochure was designed to inform women about early signs of breast cancer and was posted for the women in the community. We described early signs and symptoms of breast cancer and encouraged the women to seek healthcare in the breast clinics specifically designed for early referral. A multidisciplinary team was established for further in-house care at the community hospital. A database of the detected cancers was maintained. A total of 22,500 brochures were sent in each round of mailing. Four such rounds were conducted in 3 years. A total of 3547 women reported for clinical breast examination (CBE) for various breast complaints or screening. Of these women, 53% were asymptomatic. CBE was normal in 2843 women, and 767 (21%) women were referred for further investigations. Eighty-three breast cancers were detected with 72% having early (stage I-II) cancers. Our exploratory study revealed that awareness-based screening programmes with organised infrastructure and referral pattern could lead to diagnosing early cancers.
Setting up a breast cancer awareness project in Mumbai
Methodology, experiences and challenges