“Dear sisters and brothers,
I am pleased to launch UBF HELP, the first of its kind National dedicated Breast Cancer & Benign Breast Disease Helpline in India.
I am told that UBF HELP is a free-of-cost helpline that aims to reach out to people from all sections of society across the country. I would like to congratulate Dr P. Raghu Ram and Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation for this wonderful initiative—a much-needed one in our country. Every good initiative needs to be backed by sound support system to make it effective. Therefore, I would also like to convey my appreciation to Step One for extending technical support in running the Helpline and the Association of Health Psychologists for providing the services of a network of Counsellors, as well.
A unique feature of the helpline is that it is led by a group of Breast Cancer 'conquerors'. Their efforts, as also their unwavering commitment towards spreading awareness about breast cancer are definitely praiseworthy. This is all the more commendable since they themselves have gone through the gruelling treatment of breast cancer. Apart from them, I learn that a team of trained counsellors will provide one-on-one confidential support to the callers. I think counselling is an inseparable part of the entire cancer treatment protocol or for that matter, that of any other life-threatening medical condition. Cancer, as we are aware, not only affects the physical health of a patient, but takes a big toll on the mental health too. During the unprecedented health crisis caused by the pandemic, the situation became challenging in multiple ways for both cancer specialists, as well as patients. It is in this context that the role of counsellors becomes critical. They can help in keeping the patients motivated to fight the illness spiritedly.
Another interesting feature, I am told, is that it would in fact be the first dedicated National Helpline in India that will address issues relating to breast cancer and non-cancer benign breast health issues as well, which constitute a source of tremendous anxiety among patients. I am happy that the helpline will cater to the concerns of the “worried well” who think they may have cancer, but in fact, have only non-cancer breast health issues.
I am told that the helpline will also have qualified dieticians to address the diet-related concerns of the patients. This is indeed a key component of cancer treatment as chemotherapy can cause loss of appetite and taste. Having the support of dieticians can ensure that the patients are aware of their nutritional needs.
As we know, effective communication is an important aspect of the treatment of any condition. I am happy to note that every facet of breast cancer and benign non-cancer breast health issues will be explained in a simple, easy to understand format which would be made available in the Helpline’s Resource Section of the website in English. More importantly, I learn that this will be done in 11 commonly spoken Indian languages—Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Oriya and Assamese. This is a commendable dimension of this initiative as it will enable people from all corners of the country to get a better understanding of breast cancer and benign non-cancer breast health issues in a language they are comfortable with.
Dear sisters and brothers,
According to WHO, across the world, every minute a woman succumbs to breast cancer—this alone is a reflection of the pervasive nature of the condition. Incidentally, breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, with around 2.3 million new cases being diagnosed each year and around 6.85 lakh women succumbing to it annually. An alarming fact is that for the first time since 2020, the incidence of breast cancer has overtaken lung cancer to become the commonest cancer worldwide.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer's GLOBOCAN 2018, in India breast cancer claims lives of 87,000 patients every year. Breast cancer has now surpassed cervical cancer to become the most common cancer affecting women in India.
Dear sisters and brothers,
Today, at least one-third of common cancers are preventable. Therefore, it is imperative that people are made aware of the early signs of cancer so that they can get immediate treatment and increase their chances of survival. I think help lines can play an important role in addressing the initial concerns of people experiencing health issues. Help lines can also help women get over the hesitation associated with breast health. Camps should also be organised to heighten awareness on the rising number of breast cancer cases and on breast health issues.
In many cases, families end up exhausting their life savings to meet the expenses during cancer treatment. There is an urgent need to bring down the cost of cancer treatment. To support the needy, the Government of India has come up with a pioneering universal healthcare initiative—Ayushman Bharat.
Recently, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Bhai Modi launched the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission. This will provide the framework for a digital health ecosystem wherein Indian citizens will be provided unique health Ids and digitised health records with identifiers for doctors and health facilities. Needless to say, this marks a revolutionary step in the history of India’s public health. I would like to urge everyone to come forward and enrol themselves to get benefited from this historic reform.
Dear sisters and brothers,
I am confident that the Helpline,“UBF HELP” would make a meaningful impact towards further improving the delivery of breast healthcare in India. In the fullness of time, I am hopeful that this Service would provide the much needed emotional assistance and empower women with evidence-based information relating to all aspects of breast health.
I would once again like to convey my appreciation to Dr Raghu Ram and Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation for this exemplary initiative and wish the entire team of UBF HELP all success.