New Blood Test For Breast Cancer Early Detection A Game Changer!

Just like PAP smear can detect cervical cancer early, now there's a new blood test for early detection of breast cancer, along with regular mammograms, of course.

Trigger Warning: This speaks of breast cancer and cervical cancer, and may be triggering for survivors.

A recent article in the morning newspaper reported that there is now a blood test which can help in the early detection of breast cancer.

This test has been developed a few years ago as this 2019 article in the Science Daily says, but possibly only now in the news.

New blood test for breast cancer detection a ‘game changer’ for women?

Good news, very good news indeed! After all, compared to regular cancer screening which can take anywhere from 7-10 days, other than being invasive and painful, this test is non-invasive and the reports come in as fast as 2 days! A game changer. That’s what Dr. Pramod Gautam, Associate Professor, Biochemistry, AIIMS, said about it.

Speaking of “game changers”, we definitely need more of those, particularly where women’s health is concerned. With World Cancer Day being observed on the 4th of February every year, it is important to note that in India, breast cancer, closely followed by cervical cancer, is one of the most common types of cancer among women.According to Indian guidelines, women in high risk categories must get an annual mammogram after the age of 25 years. This of course, is simply a guideline.

An enormous percentage of women in our country are completely unaware about when, how and what they need to do to ensure early detection of cancer. The total lack of focus on women’s health is a primary cause of this.

Some cancers are preventable, and early detection crucial

A new report said that cancer deaths in the US have declined by a third over the past three decades. Increased awareness, focus on women’s health, vaccinations, and regular screening are some of the most important factors which will help us replicate this trend in India.

Did you know that India accounts for the highest number of cervical cancer cases in the world? Compromised hygiene and illness infection are the chief reasons for HPV (Human Papillomavirus) which is the root cause of cervical cancer.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 4.1 million women in India have died from the disease since 2019, and without intervention, as many as 5.7 million will die by 2070. Which is why the importance of vaccination and regular screening cannot be over emphasized. The new quadrivalent vaccine, called “Cervavac,” developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII), offers protection against four strains of HPV and is so much more affordable compared to foreign vaccines. It has in fact, like the breast cancer blood test, been called a “game changer”. Furthermore, a simple Pap smear can detect cervical cancer in the pre-cancerous stage.

These game changers can decrease deaths and complications, but…

It is a pity that despite medical support, there is a needlessly high incidence of late detection and subsequent mortality. Factors like fear, social stigma, lack of familial support and low awareness, are the culprits. Suffice it to say that even educated, enlightened women will regularly slot out time for a manicure at the salon, but will develop a strange, inexplicable sense of lethargy or reluctance while scheduling a much needed pap smear or mammography.

Medical science is making rapid progress to make vaccination, screening and treatment affordable and easily available, but there also has to be speedy progress in attitudes and outlook. For instance, less than 10% of women in India have been screened for cervical cancer in the past 5 years. LESS THAN 10%. That’s not an encouraging figure, is it?

It is therefore evident, that there is a lot that needs to be done and no time to waste. So let’s get started, shall we? And what better place to start than yourself? Might be time to slot in that very necessary pap smear or vaccination into your busy schedule right away, ladies. No more procrastination. It’s time to act.

Image source: a still from the Marathi film Photo Prem

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About the Author

Rrashima Swaarup Verma

Rrashima is a senior corporate analyst with over 20 years of experience in the corporate sector. She is also a prolific writer, novelist and poet and her articles, stories and poems are regularly published in read more...

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