New Delhi: India continues to have a low survival rate for breast cancer, with only 66.1% women diagnosed with the disease between 2010 and 2014 surviving, a Lancet study found.

The US and Australia had survival rates as high as 90%, the study released on Wednesday said. “For women diagnosed during 2010-14, five-year survival for breast cancer is now 89.5% in Australia and 90.2% in the USA, but international differences remain very wide, with levels as low as 66.1% in India," according to the study titled Global surveillance of trends in cancer survival 2000-14 (CONCORD-3).

CONCORD-3 is a global programme for worldwide surveillance of cancer survival, led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The study analysed individual records for 37.5 million patients diagnosed with cancer during the 15-year period from the year 2000 to 2014. Data was provided by 322 population-based cancer registries in 71 countries and territories, 47 of which provided data with 100% population coverage.

“The major reason for low survival rates of breast cancer in India is that the awareness about cancer and its treatment is very low. The cases come to us at third or four stages where treatment is difficult. The normal screening of breast cancer in Indian women is very low. While in Western countries, breast cancer screening is normal routine in healthcare," said Ravi Mehrotra, director, National Institute of Cancer Prevention And Research.

The study included 18 cancers or groups of cancers including oesophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, lung, breast (women), cervix, ovary, prostate, and melanoma of the skin in adults, and brain tumours, leukaemias, and lymphomas in both adults and children.

According to the study, survival trends are generally increasing, even for some of the more lethal cancers. In some countries, survival has increased by up to 5% for cancers of the liver, pancreas, and lung. The study said that for most cancers, five-year net survival remains among the highest in the world in the US and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. For many cancers, Denmark is closing the survival gap with the other Nordic countries.

Cancer specialists attribute several reasons for a low survival rate in India. “In developed countries only 25% of patients diagnosed die due to breast cancer which means 70-80% are cured because they are diagnosed early. In India 50-60% of the patients diagnosed in any particular year die of breast cancer because of late diagnosis which is just double the cases in comparison to the west," said Ramesh Sarin, senior consultant-surgical oncology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi.

“The major reason is lack of awareness of early signs of breast cancer and screening methods, secondly non- availability of diagnostic centres and knowledgeable oncologists in tier two and tier three cities," Sarin said.

“After that unavailability of financial resources makes survival rates worse and this is true for all cancers in India. So patients come late, don’t have centres closer to their home towns and unaffordable treatments lead to higher no of deaths due to Breast Cancer," she added.

According to the Union health ministry, breast cancer ranks as the number one cancer among Indian females with rate as high as 25.8 per 100,000 women and mortality of 12.7 per 100,000 women.

According to estimates, at least 17,97,900 women in India may have breast cancer by 2020.

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