How can we tackle the issue of Breast cancer in India ?


In my last post I wrote about the looming challenge that breast cancer poses for the Indian women. If you have not read that piece please click here for the link.

To find answers to these questions i started looking at the various components of the Healthcare ecosystem to see what they were doing to tackle the issue.

As always I start with the Government.

The Government in India has achieved several significant milestones in the healthcare space. They eradicated small pox in the 70’s and finally eradicated polio recently. Currently the Govt is on a war footing to tackle Measles. But when it comes to breast cancer the government has done little. With around 130,000 cases per year the number is far lower than the ones from other diseases like Tuberculosis and hence the general lack of interest in that area.

Most of the Government efforts have gone around providing diagnostic equipment and helping set up radiotherapy centers. India today has 300 full fledged radiotherapy centers. While the WHO guidance is to have one center per  million people. In addition the state governments do run campaigns and have one off events. There has been a lot of talk on the Public – Private partnerships, but nothing has come out of it. Currently certain state governments have been more active. One such example is Punjab which has shown more interest in cancer detection.

The Healthcare Insurance industry in India has not been active in this area either. With many corporate programs, the Insurance firms have a great opportunity to create products just for women but till now there has been nothing concrete that has been done.

But the Medical Devices industry has been active and are on the fore front of the work against breast cancer.

According to Rekha R the marketing manager for Oncology, Philips Healthcare, medical devices firms have been active in this area. The Philips Healthcare strategy is based on three key fronts.  On the first leg they have the Philips Innovation Center (PIC) that works on technology to reduce the exposure to radiotherapy. As the only way to detect the condition is to use self examination followed by a mammogram, the PIC tends to work with technology like Microdose Mammography. In pursuit of this facet Philips acquired the Swedish firm Sectra that has the technology to reduce scatter and reduce the scan time.

The second pillar rests on generating this awareness among general practitioners and other specialists. They are made aware that there is technology can reduce risk which scanning for cancer and they should recommend patients to be aware of the technology available for preventive screening.

The third pillar is around educating women. In the end self examination is the first step and there is no way that any steps can be taken against breast cancer without the women becoming aware of the self examination methods and their need to do the same.

Also Philips invests a lot of effort in continuing medical education for  doctors and also hold technical webinars for them. there are also programs called ‘Catch them young ‘ which trains freshly graduated doctors.

In the next issue of this series I will talk about a unique program called Asha Jyoti and also reflect on the work done by the Pharmaceutical sector in this area.


As always comments and suggestions are welcome.


Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

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