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November 18, 2020 Wednesday 02:07:06 PM IST

A Case for Free Mammograms

Health Monitor

It’s only once in a blue moon that I have lunch at our hospital canteen. Checking on social media, while having a homemade snack in my own cabin, works out quite convenient for me. Very shortly I intend to buy that diamond necklace, which my radiology colleagues believe, is what I should have saved for by now -after years of skipping paid lunches.

Speaking of our canteen, the largest clusters are inevitably female doctors. Divided by specialties they are united by the need to make most of the 45 minutes allotted luncheon. Naturally this space is buzzing with exchange of information. And it’s amusing to see how my occasional entry has resulted in a shift of topics-from the more interesting ones to breast cancer.

“That lady was only 40 right? So sad…so very scary”

“It’s so common these days…so many cases in their forties  ...isn’t it?”

“Oh good! Seeing you reminds me I have been postponing a scan for so long now”

“It’s high time I got a mammogram done…I have some family history too”

“By the way …what are the charges of mammogram?”

Well many a times I have been tempted to say “The same charges as when you last enquired  ...a couple of years ago”.

Isn’t it quintessentially feminine –to enquire the cost of something we don’t intend to buy!

Screening &Awareness

A good 99% of those interactions with doctors have never materialised into a mammogram. I am also aware of staff lower down in the rung who enquire about charges from the radiology reception and leave without getting one done.

Women will continue doing complex mathematics of cost and time and at the same time cringe when someone known to them is diagnosed with breast cancer. This is what got me thinking –why can’t we offer free mammograms for our own staff.

Woman constitute a good 60% of our 2500 plus hospital workforce.

And only a third of these women are over forty. Meaning we needed to screen about 500 staff or so on an annual basis. This is definitely not a huge number if spaced and accommodated into regular work.

Thankfully for this endeavour, I had the support of our social service department .They I must say, they have been doing an amazing job already, analyzing and understanding stressors in working women across of all ages. The management too was very receptive and proactive about the whole idea.

On a personal note it feels great to add some action to the whole “screening and awareness” talk that we do. It definitely takes some extra effort and time, but the gratitude expressed by our staff pays for it all.

Multi-Disciplinary Approach

Breast cancer continues to be the number one malignancy among women according to cancer statistics in India for the year 2020 .Several population based registries have revealed that the highest burden of breast cancer was amongst women in metropolitan cities.  With steady increase in the number of cases, breast cancer is steadily increasing to proportions where it poses to be a  health challenge to women in India.

Only a multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer which includes awareness programs, preventive measures, screening programs for early detection, and availability of treatment facilities can reduce both incidence and mortality of cancer in Indian women.

How wonderful it would be if we could promote breast awareness and screening for just very “small” subsets of female populations. Institutions, industries, banks, educational establishments and hospitals –anyplace where women constitute a sizeable number of the workforce could go an extra mile to show they care for their women.  Ensuring they have some kind of basic knowledge about breast cancer, arranging a session for them to interact with a trained medical personnel, getting their queries and apprehensions addressed, arranging screening facilities with a hospital are all possible ways to show appreciation to our women.

We now have a successful programme running in place, where we screen our women hospital staff for breast cancer on an annual basis. This wouldn’t have been possible without very receptive and concerned people at the top running this institution.

“Just as a drop of water creates countless ripples, so does a gesture of kindness or concern change countless lives”.
Wouldn’t it be great if this act of care and concern for women work force was replicated by others too...some food for thought.