By Dr Jayanti Thumsi
There are some moments in our life that suddenly give us an insight that no book, no school and no philosopher can give. We treat such moments as a part of our routine life, but then we realize that there was a hidden lesson in them and sets us thinking. I remember one such day in my life which really set me thinking and inspired me to share this with all the women.
It was a routine day at BGS Global Hospitals, Bangalore. I had finished two surgeries and was in the Out Patient Department where patients had lined up for consultation. I started with the first patient who was a success story because of BGS Global Cancer Institute's timely effort and the alertness of the patient herself. Neelima was completely cured of breast cancer and looked so happy when I told her that her reports post treatments were absolutely normal. The day continued with few more patients for routine follow up. Work continued smoothly. While having a small coffee break, I had no idea what I was going to confront in the next hour. I was getting back to my OPD when I saw a patient coming to my consultation chamber in a wheel chair. She was absolutely breathless. Next 30 minutes, were freezing. Time stood still. Rajani was a 47 years old lady working in an MNC holding a very high post. A very well educated, well read, worldly wise lady.
Her work included meeting lots of clients and I was told that she was a kind of "counselor" for her entire family and friends who came to her for various kinds of advice. Eight months ago, she developed swelling of right hand and discomfort in right breast, she assumed that it was menopausal symptom and water retention which is common at that age. She consulted a homeopath who treated her for six months. There was no relief, but she was told that the effect will be seen after a while. Subsequently she developed skin rashes over right breast, for which she was further treated for skin allergy. She took treatment for almost 8 months. Suddenly she became very breathless and visited me at BGS Global Hospitals. My team examined her, and after various investigations came to a conclusion that she was suffering from advanced stage of cancer of breast. The cancer had spread to her lungs, liver and bones, hence she was breathless, her whole breast was one big mass with skin involved. What was disturbing was the crucial time lost in getting her the right mode of treatment.
After her came another patient Deepa, 45 years old. She came from a small village near Gulbarga.
She was an uneducated lady confined to her house, unmarried and living with her old father and elder brother. Her world was only her home. When I examined her I found that she had a big fleshy mass in her left breast, protruding out of her skin since one year. I was wondering how this lady lived with such a huge mass which would bleed on touch. There was no female member in her family, hence she was shy to share it with any one and suffered from the last twelve months. The day that had started so smoothly ended with a deep concern in my heart. Rajani and Deepa, both women of same age with a similar disease - Two women from different strata of life.
It set me thinking, one is educated, another uneducated, but is there really any difference in them? Of what use is the education when there is no AWARENESS. I hope this is a wake-up call for all women to be aware, get some facts about breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second largest cancer in women. 1 in 28 women develop breast cancer in India. Breast cancer can be completely curable if detected and treated early. All women above 40 years of age should undergo mammogram and examination by a breast surgeon once a year. All women above 20 years of age should do breast self examination once a month. Every doctor wants to see a smiling patient who is completely cured and back to normal life, like Neelima. It is so painful to see women like Rajani and Deepa who lost out on cure due to negligence, ignorance and complacency. I wish my patient files are full of smiles of women who get cured of the disease and continue their life as a wife, mother, homemaker, professional - more importantly as a WOMAN of substance.
Dr Jayanthi Thumsi
Breast Cancer Surgeon
BGS Global Hospitals.