It's Time We Address Heightened Risk Of Breast Cancer In Young Women: Dr Richa Jagtap

In an interview with SheThePeople, Dr Richa Jagtap helps us comprehend the vital importance of early detection, significance of self-breast examination, need to break inhibitions surrounding this process, and heightened risk of severe breast cancer in young women.

Oshi Saxena
New Update
Dr Richa Jagtap

Dr Richa Jagtap

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a global movement that shines a spotlight on the most prevalent cancer affecting women, and even men, draws to a close on October 31. This month-long campaign has been instrumental in raising awareness, fostering education, and igniting crucial discussions about breast cancer, emphasising that it isn't just limited to a month; it's a year-round mission. 


In an exclusive interview with SheThePeople, Dr Richa Jagtap, Co-Medical Director and consultant Reproductive Medicine at ART Fertility Clinics, uncovers the vital importance of early detection, the significance of self-breast examination, the need to break inhibitions surrounding this process, and the heightened risk of severe breast cancer in young women.

Breast Cancer: A Pervasive Global Concern

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer, transcending geographic and gender boundaries. While it predominantly affects women, a little-known fact is that men can also fall victim to this disease. Approximately 2,650 men in the USA are diagnosed with breast cancer annually. 

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer all over the world, and it affects women and men. Early diagnosis is crucial because it can lead to remarkable results in terms of prognosis and well-being.

In the United States alone, an estimated 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. In India, the incidence of breast cancer is on a worrisome rise. The Indian Council of Medical Research predicts that the number of breast cancer cases will reach a staggering 250,000 by 2030. A harrowing 35.9% surge in breast cancer patients was witnessed over seven years, escalating from 2,657 cases to 3,611.  

As a consequence of the magnitude of this issue, the Ipsos Global Health Service Monitor 2023 reveals that a significant 59% of the Indian population is concerned about cancer.


The statistics are both revealing and alarming. Among these recent statistics in AIIMS study, what stands out is that 30% of breast cancer instances are discovered in women under the age of 40.

This underscores the urgency of early detection and the need for young women to be proactive in examining their own bodies. But Dr Jagtap recognizes that overcoming inhibitions surrounding self-breast examinations is easier said than done.

Breaking The Prejudice: Self-Breast Examination

In an age when self-help is a mantra, Dr Jagtap emphasises the importance of self-breast examination. She recognises that busy lives and multiple responsibilities make it challenging for young women to visit doctors regularly. Hence, she advocates for the simplicity and effectiveness of self-breast examinations, which can be done just before or after a shower. 

The importance of self-examination cannot be overlooked. It takes only five minutes of your time, and the peace of mind it brings is immeasurable. Inhibitions have to be broken, comfort has to be brought in, and ease of understanding has to come into people's mindset.

The Severity In Young Women


The severity of breast cancer is a concern when it comes to young women. A late diagnosis can result in more aggressive forms of breast cancer. Dr Jagtap shares a heartbreaking example of a young woman diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, a situation that could have been different with early detection.

The problem happens when a very young person who gets breast cancer is diagnosed late," she points out. It's a stark reminder of the urgency of early detection and the potential consequences of neglecting self-breast examinations.

Survival rates for breast cancer in India vary by stage. The 5-year overall survival rate is reported to be 95% for stage I patients, 92% for stage II, 70% for stage III, and likely lower for stage IV patients

Fertility And Hope For The Future

Dr Jagtap doesn't just focus on the disease but also offers hope. She highlights the importance of early diagnosis in breast cancer, with 70–80% of early-diagnosis patients recovering and regaining their health. This recovery often leads to dreams of motherhood for many women.

For women who fear chemotherapy might hinder their dreams of motherhood, Dr Jagtap shares a ray of hope. She explains, "the option of preserving oocytes or eggs before undergoing chemotherapy, ensuring that once they recover, they can utilize their preserved eggs to fulfill their dreams of having a family". 


Overcoming Emotional Distress

The emotional distress that accompanies a breast cancer diagnosis is immeasurable. The confusion and turmoil that assail women when they receive such news are overwhelming. Dr Jagtap emphasizes the role of healthcare professionals in providing clear, compassionate explanations and the importance of involving counsellors in managing emotional stress. 

We cannot imagine the kind of emotional distress that a woman goes through when she understands that she has been diagnosed with cancer. She has to deal with daily life while carrying the burden of a cancer diagnosis.

Body Image and Womanhood

Dr Jagtap reminds us that even in the face of mastectomy or other treatments that affect a woman's body image, the essence of womanhood remains. It's crucial to dispel societal notions of what a woman should look like.  A woman is not defined solely by her appearance but also by her strength, her survival instinct, and her ability to bring new life into the world. A cancer diagnosis doesn't strip away the core of what makes a woman who she is.

Understanding that after all this, she will still be very much a woman even if she has to undergo removal of her breast tissue or mastectomy.

Spreading Awareness in Rural Areas

The battle against breast cancer is not limited to urban areas. Dr Jagtap suggests a novel approach: "Anganwadi workers and women in rural hospitals can serve as messengers to spread awareness about breast cancer. Simple pamphlets in the local language can be distributed, but the power of spoken word remains unparalleled."

Education, delivered through trusted local channels, can reach deep into rural areas. These workers can communicate the importance of self-examination, dispel myths, and encourage women to take charge of their health.

It's a call to action, not just for individuals but for communities and governments. The ammunition against cancer lies in our hands, waiting to be gathered and wielded collectively.

Preventing The Passing Of The BRCA Gene

Certain genetic mutations, like BRCA1 and BRCA2, greatly increase the risk of breast cancer. Dr Jagtap underlines the importance of testing for these genes, especially if there's a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. "Knowing whether you carry this gene can be a crucial step in preventing its passage to the next generation. For those at risk, there are even ways to ensure that future generations are not burdened with this genetic predisposition. It's a message of empowerment and control over one's health."

Why 'He For Her' Is Crucial For Women In Their Battle

Dr Jagtap believes that the battle against breast cancer is not a one-sided affair, "Men have a pivotal role to play. Just as 'She for Her' stands strong, 'He for Her' can be a powerful force. Men can support the women in their lives by encouraging regular check-ups, self-examinations, and a holistic approach to health."

Breast Cancer Awareness Month's message emphasises knowing your body, getting regular check-ups, breaking the barriers of inhibition, overcoming the stigma, and ensuring that every individual has the support and information needed to navigate this journey. 

Suggested reading: Feminist Approach to Cancer Care: Saving 800,000 Lives Worldwide

breast cancer Dr Richa Jagtap Breast Cancer Awareness Month