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Fighting The Big C

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Fighting The Big C

The Pink Initiative is helping battle breast cancer by raising awareness about symptoms and lifestyle changes that could prevent the illness

By Anila Mathew

Breast cancer is the most common cancer occurring in women in India, with the statistics becoming more alarming each year. India is seeing a spurt in the cases of breast cancer in the age group of 30 to 50 years, and this incidence seems only likely to increase. Recently, director Tahira Kashyap underwent mastectomy after the detection of DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ) in her breast.

It was the personal experience of losing a loved one to cancer and battling breast cancer that had cancer survivor Ujwala Raje joining hands with her oncologist Dr. Sumeet Shah to form The Pink Initiative. Founded in 2014, the NGO that works out of Mumbai strives to raise awareness about the terminal illness that can be cured if detected at the right time. Statistics show that 33 percent of cases of cancer in metropolitan cities occur in the breast.

Fighting the Big C1
Cancer survivor Ujwala Raje with her oncologist Dr Sumeet Shah

In the Indian milieu, where even the mention of the breast is taboo, early detection of the condition is often thwarted. Women are naturally inhibited about discussing health issues concerning their private parts and often ignore symptoms until it is too late. It is this dismal picture that The Pink Initiative wishes to correct. By holding awareness sessions that give detailed information about symptoms as well as lifestyle changes that can be implemented in order to prevent the illness, the NGO has been instrumental in reaching out to thousands of women.

The Pink Initiative holds the two-hour sessions across women-only educational institutions like colleges and schools and also in corporate houses. From small groups of 50 to large gatherings of more than 300 participants, the informative programmes are offered free of cost. The programmes impart knowledge about the necessity of screening and lifestyle changes such as eating organic food to prevent the onset of breast cancer. They also offer refresher courses for fresh graduate students of nursing and pharmacology in order to enable them to help patients with the diagnosis.

Along with spreading the word through flyers, social media, and interactive sessions, there are programmes being broadcast on the state-sponsored radio channels, Vividh Bharati, to help in disseminating information to the general public.

Dr. Pallavi Gupte, who was part of organizing a medical awareness camp under the aegis of NGO Mitra, at Thakur village, recounts how the session conducted by The Pink Initiative touched a chord with the audience.

“Women Must Learn To Love Themselves. They Must Never Ignore Their Own Health. Protect Your Family From The Trauma Of Cancer. Men Should Join In To Fight The Taboo In Addressing Breast Cancer.”

Ujwale Raje, Co-founder, The Pink Initiative

“Ujwala Raje builds a connection with the audience,” she explains. “When she narrates her own experiences, her preventive mastectomy and fight against cancer, everyone is attentive. Not only ladies but even men also attended and appreciated the session. Women who were hesitant to ask doubts were able to talk to her and get clarifications during the informative session.”

Ujwala Raje with the team of The Pink Initiative
Ujwala Raje with the team of The Pink Initiative

Founded in 2014, the NGO that works out of Mumbai strives to raise awareness about the terminal illness that can be cured if detected at the right time. Statistics show that 33 per cent cases of cancer in metropolitan cities occur in the breast.

Having conducted up to 150 lectures in various institutions, Raje conveys the urgency of a more aggressive awareness drive and has been trying to get more assistance from the state and central governments in scaling up campaigns across different media platforms and organizing cancer detection camps. Sensitization towards the illness is also essential as most women do not attend such camps due to natural inhibitions and a misplaced assurance that they are free of the disease due to the absence of major symptoms.

She opines that men should also attend programmes in order to be able to take better care of their wives and mothers and join in fighting the taboo in addressing breast cancer.

The NGO has an exhaustive website, breastcancerindia.net, which hosts an online forum that caters to patients and offers a support system to those undergoing treatment. It hosts oncologists who address queries. The Pink Initiative also collaborates with yoga centers to impart knowledge about holistic living for prevention as well as other measures to be taken by women after the age of 40 years. The Pink Initiative aims at extending the awareness program to other parts of Maharashtra. While the Pink Initiative can guide patients towards suitable treatment centers and options, it does not provide funds or treatment.

“Women must learn to love themselves,” says Raje. “They must never ignore their own health. Love yourself and protect your family from the trauma of cancer.”

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