“SAVE THE WOMEN”CAMPAIGN. “Healthy women, Healthy families”
After my own diagnosis and surgeries, I am keen to get the subject of female related cancers, such as breast cancer and cervical cancer, out in the open to make other Asian women aware of their cancers and warning signs.
In South Asian society talking openly about breasts and cervix is often considered taboo as they are such a private part of the body. As a result, many females suffer in silence and many, loses their lives.
I aim to raise awareness in the South Asian community that breast cancer and cervical cancers are disease like any other disease and there is nothing to be ashamed of. I was criticised for coming out open about her cancer, but the whole purpose of her coming out open was to raise awareness about the disease. I openly and loudly state that “the cancer is not a stigma. It is an illness like any other illness, and many cancers are curable”. There are far too many South Asian females who hide their cancers due to stigma attached to it, and eventually loses their lives. No life should be lost due to perceived social stigma associated with the illness.
On 26thMarch 2018, on the occasion of my birthday, I have launched a campaign “Save The Women”to raise public awareness of cancers in South Asian females. Whilst resting on bed, following my recent surgery, my mind was on an emotional embankment, reading and hearing about number of lives lost due to lack of understanding of cancers and social stigma attached to it, specially in South Asian families. This lead me in to launching this campaign. There can't be better day than my birthday to speak up for something so vital. My statement on launching the campaign is that, “I am not defeated by my cancer, I am going just through short term tribulation, yet to come out stronger, wiser and positive at the other side”.
I am diagnosed in my 40s and there are other two young mothers known to me are also diagnosed. Common factor in all these three females is that we did not have the lump but yet had the cancer. This became the wakeup call for me to do something about it. Encouraging breast and cervical awareness amongst South Asian women remains a challenge.
Historically, South Asian women were considered to be at a very low risk of breast cancer compared with white women. As per BBC news published in 2013, between 2000-2004, South Asian women were found to have a 45% cent lower rate of breast cancer compared with white women. But by the 2005-2009 period, rates of breast cancer among South Asian women had increased significantly and had risen to be 8% higher than white women, whose rates had not changed significantly.
A number of UK women from South Asian backgrounds who have cancer, hide it because of a perceived stigma about the disease, the BBC has learned. One woman chose to "suffer on [her] own" through chemotherapy for fear of her family's reaction, and questioned whether God was punishing her. Experts said others were seeking help too late, causing preventable deaths. In one case a woman sought treatment only when her breast was rotten. She later died as the cancer had spread. Some women go to the extent of not even having treatment because, if they had treatment, people would know as they'd lose their hair,". Some fears it might affect their children because no-one would want to marry them.
As per the article published by BBC, in 2014, research from Bridgewater NHS found Asian women between 15 and 64 years old had a significantly reduced survival rate for breast cancer of three years.
The stigma surrounding cancer in South Asian communities spans different forms of the disease. One women told BBC that there was a reluctance for women to go for a smear test because they did not want to be "defiled" or be considered "no longer pure".
Some experts are concerned that women are suffering unnecessarily.
Significant number of South Asian women are more likely to be from poor, deprived backgrounds, meaning their levels of awareness of cancer are likely to be lower.
“Save the Women”campaign is equally important as “Save Girl, Educate Girl”campaign and I aim to continue work on both the campaigns equally.
I have taken solace in considering God’s greater plan for me and making her the medium to raise much needed awareness.