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Tata Memorial Hospital's Women's Cancer Initiative (WCI) and Pune-based support group Breast Friends (BF) jointly organised a two-day Indian Breast Cancer Survivors Conference in the city on October 6 and 7. The conference was organised by Pune oncologists and founder of Breast Friends Pune, Dr Shona Nag and Dr Anupama Mane, along with Devika Bhojwani, vice-president of Women's Cancer Initiative.
More than 200 survivors from from Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and New Delhi participated in the conference which aimed at bringing together patients, caregivers, doctors, psychologists and nutritionists under one roof. They were also informed about latest treatments and preventive methods. Many survivors shared their experiences at the conference that highlighted post-operative care, beautification, mental, physical and spiritual health and sharing of experiences.
'Twelve years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I was shocked. The only question in my mind was why me? It felt like the end of the world. But my friends, family and doctors were very supportive throughout the treatment,' said Devika Bhojwani, founder WCI. 'When I was cured, my radiologist gave me the idea to help others who were going through the same. And that is how WCI was born, added Bhojwani.
500 women per year from lower income groups are given free cancer treatment by WCI.
Breast cancer cases are likely to double by 2025 as per a study by Tata Memorial Hospital. 'One in every 20 women in cities and one in every 80 women in villages are afflicted with breast cancer every year. Although comparatively there is slightly more awareness in high income group, there is still a long way to go. Societal taboos go down deep and that is what we have to fight against,' said Dr Anupama Mane, oncosurgeon, Sahyadri Specialty Hospital and Ruby Hall Clinic.
Educationist Kalpana Gupte described herself as not a patient, but a survivor while sharing her experiences at the conference. Gupte said that her husband's support in battling the disease gave her strength. She urged women to raise awareness by speaking about their illness. 'I went bald during chemotherapy and I refused to wear a scarf. I wanted people to ask me questions, so that I could spread awareness on breast cancer,' said Gupte.
'In clinics, doctors don't have time to spare and hence minute details cannot be given by them. At this conference, we are learning things that we never knew, finding answers to questions that we thought were too silly to ask, said a survivor. Dr Bhawna Sirohi informed survivors that Lymphoedema, a side effect of breast cancer treatment, gets aggravated by parlour treatments like waxing or deep tissue massage.
'When my mammography report came, I was traumatized. Throughout this, I never told my family about it. I had never wanted myself to be a burden on anyone and I definitely didn't want anyone to feel sorry for me. Within 48 hours, I was operated upon and then my family came to know about this,' said another breast cancer survivor. 'Cancer taught me the importance of giving time to my loved ones and that life is small,' she said.
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