* story of santwana saha


By SANTWANA SAHA, former Head of the Department of History, Narsingdi Government College & A Breast Cancer Survivor in Bangladesh. She is also one of the speakers on Breast Cancer Awareness for the participants of Adhunika Bangladesh Society on October 2009 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by abnormal proliferation of cells, usually in a random disorderly manner. Through the uncontrolled growth of these malignant cells tumors are usually formed. Malignant cells tend to spread from their site of origin by traveling through the blood stream or lymphatic system.

There are many types of cancer, which are mainly related to life style. Breast cancer is related to obesity, sedentary habits, late first pregnancy, use of hormones increase the risk of breast cancer. Physical activity protects against breast cancer. Life style modification helps to lower the risk of cancer. Awareness and health education is a must to bring down the rising incidence of cancer.

A close watch should be kept on the quality as well as the quantity of right food from the childhood. Vegetables & fruits should be included in diet as they are full of vitamins. Whole grains should be part of diet and processed meal, red meat should be avoided as much as possible. Any high calorie food increases the risk of obesity and should be avoided. Breast feeding is a must to avoid breast cancer.

Dr. Richard Love, a breast Oncologist and professor at the Ohio State University, USA. recently visited Bangladesh to discuss a pioneering clinical trial and to offer Bangladeshi breast cancer sufferers hormonal treatment for the disease.

Every year in Bangladesh, approximately 35,000 women develop breast cancer, many of whom never seek treatment. Ninety percent of the estimated 30,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer die from it, according to the International Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Although the majority of breast lumps are not cancerous & require minimal treatment, but some breast lumps require immediate attention. According to Dr. Love & Dr. Ashish Mukherjee, Oncologist & Director of NETAJI SUBASH CHANDRA BOSE RESEARCH INSTITUTE in KOLKATA, prompt diagnosis & immediate treatment of breast cancer provides the best chance of long term survival.

There are many reasons why women in Bangladesh do not seek treatment for breast lumps. Women are not knowing, where to find help when they discover a breast lump. Modern treatment options are not available in their communities, and travel to the nearest treatment site is often expensive and time consuming. Women also fear of rejection by their friends and families if they are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Fortunately, now in Bangladesh, treatment options including hormonal therapy are growing for women suffering from breast cancer. Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a number of new treatment options depending on factors such as the type of breast cancer they have, their age at diagnosis, & other existing medical conditions. Dr. Love’s clinical trial at present provides free treatment costs, cost of medicines & follow up care. But the question is how many rural women can reach Dr. Love’s clinical facilities? So in Bangladesh we need lots of camping to aware the rural women. Illiteracy is also the main cause to fight cancer in Bangladesh.

For long years, doctors believe chemotherapy and radiotherapy is the only way to fight cancer. But now John Hopkins tells, there is an alternative way to eliminate cancer, which are as follows:
(1) Every person has cancer cells in the body. There cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion.
(2) When the person’s immune system is strong, the cancer cells will be destroyed & prevented from multiplying & forming tumors
(3) When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies.
These could be due to genetic, environmental, food & life style factors.
(4) To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet & including supplements will strengthen the immune system.
(5) Chemotherapy destroys the rapidly growing cancer cells but cause organ damage like liver, kidney, heart, lungs etc.
(6) Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns scars and damages healthy cells tissues and organs.

WHAT CANCER CELLS FEED ON?(a) Sugar, table salt is a cancer feeder. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but very small amount. Sea salt is better alternative.
(b) Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro- intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. Better to drink unsweetened soy milk.
(c) Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat based diet is acidic, best to eat fish & little chicken.
(d) Avoid coffee, tea and chocolate which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative to fight cancer. Best to drink purified water or filtered water.
(e) Cancer is a disease of the mind, body and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior to be a survivor. Anger, unforgiving and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax & enjoy life.
(f) Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means to destroy cancer cells.
Fighting cancer is like fighting a war. It’s war where one cannot see the enemy face to face, it’s an enemy that inhabits within one’s body. Fighting an invisible force is the hardest war imaginable.

CASE HISTORY OF MYSELF:The causes that are diagnosed for breast cancer are not applicable for me. In my both maternal & paternal family side, no body has breast cancer. More or less all female members from mother side are a bit obese. It is beyond my imagination that I will be diagnosed as breast cancer patient at the age of sixty.
We eat fish, lentil & vegetables mostly, and once in a week we have only vegetables & lentil in the menu. My only daughter was breast fed for three years as I had plenty of milk still then. She never goes to sleep without sucking the nipple even when she was in a Nursery class. But I was wrongly diagnosed by the doctors of Bangladesh & they prescribed Premarin tablet in the year 2002 & I continued the tablet up to 2008 with some gap in between. I had done hysterectomy in the year 1991 due to heavy bleeding for fibroid at the age of 43. At that time my Gynaecologist did not prescribed any hormonal tablet. God Knows His best what is the real cause of my breast cancer.

THE MOST HELPLESS MOMENT IN MY LIFE:In January 2008 one day while taking shower I suddenly noticed that my left breast was retracted. I was trembling in the bath room & ran out from the bathroom & shared the issue with my maid servant who is residing with us for last 21 years. My son & daughter are in USA. & my husband, in the office. I was depressed & started crying but my maid console me and also confused me.
Then at night I told my husband but he does not pay any heed to the matter. I passed one month without consulting doctor. Then on February 15th we had picnic with our all batch mates of Dhaka University. In the picnic site I shared the matter with one of best friend from school life. She advised me to do the mammography. But I was reluctant due to fear thinking if it is positive then how I will bear the shock? After returning from the picnic I told my husband that I feel pain in my left breast & something stretches me from inside. At last on 24th February my husband took me to a Associate Lady professor of Dhaka Medical College who is a surgeon & has done fellowship in Breast surgery & piles from India, but not oncologist. After screening by breast she discovered a lump & advised me to do the operation immediately & also asked me to do the FNAC. The Medical Laboratory gave the FNAC report on 26th February at 11 P.M. The shocking news was delivered to me by my nephew who is a doctor over telephone. It was diagnosed as Duct cell carcinoma, NOS, Grade I (Robinson’s cytological grading). It was like a thunder blow & whole world was vacant to me. The face of my two loving children, who are residing in USA, flashed before my eyes & I thought I will die and not able to see them again. From childhood I knew that if there is Cancer, there is no answer. Tears rolled down by my chicks & I was puzzled. It is said ill news runs apace. In the morning one by one my friends were coming to my house to see me . They all are very sympathetic to me & consoled me.

Then within three days I & my husband did our Indian visa, bought Air Ticket & arrange dollar & fly for KolKata for the treatment on 29th February 2008 in the evening flight. From the Air port we straight went to the NETAJI SUBASH CHANDRA BOSE CANCER RESEARCH INSTITUTE ( A Unit of Himadri Memorial Cancer Welfare Trust) in 16A park lane. Dr. Ashish Mukherjee Oncologist & Director of the Institute was informed about me by my elder sister who is a permanent resident of Kolkata and also a doctor. My younger brother was also waiting in the hospital gate for us. Dr. Mukherjee called us immediately to his chamber & after examining told me to take the admission on that very night. On 1st March first chemotherapy was given after doing all the tests again for confirmation. In this way after every 21 days I was given three chemotherapy & found that my lump has gone & nipple come out.

My daughter flies from USA to Kolkata after one Chemo & she stayed with me like an angel for two months along with his father. Dr. Mukherjee is a wonderful man & so much dedicated to his profession that I was really overwhelmed to see his behaviour with the patient. He gave me the choice to do the operation from Bombay but we decided to do it from NCRI.because of Dr. Mukherjee. Every day he comes to the hospital at 9A.M. & left the Institute at 10P.M. caring all the patient from floor to floor without any discomfort. All the renowned doctors from Bombay come to his institute to see the outdoor patients & to do the operation twice in a month. As a
result I was fortunate to consult Dr. Suresh H. Advani consultant oncologist of the Institute & one of the best in South East Asia. Dr. Sanjay Sharma consultant surgeon & oncologist did my mastectomy, after three chemo on 26th April 2008. After operation my loving daughter sat beside my bed side for 36 hours & spent sleepless night until I was able to stand. She did a wonderful job to make me alive again. My husband also did his best to bring me back to home alive. I had three more chemo after the operation. But my problem was I had to aspirate the sarosanguinous fluid up to 28th September 2008 as I am fatty. But thank God I don’t need to take radiotherapy as no viable residual carcinoma found in my biopsy report.

I got full co-operation from my friend’s side but those who are my blood connected dear ones showed unwillingness to provide necessary support which gave me unbearable shock. At present I am fine so I have no regret for those unwanted situation. I came back to Bangladesh on July 2008 after completing the whole course. Then again I went to Kolkata in November for consultation. In 2009 I went for check up for three times. Then in 2010 I went twice for check up in Kolkata & Dr. Mukherjee advised me in last November to go again after two years.

Here in Bangladesh if the patient is diagnosed that she has lump in the breast, doctors do the operation immediately to bring out the lump. But when biopsy report is negative they do the mastectomy. This method is not acceptable in the developed & developing countries as malignant cells spread from their site of origin very quickly. This is more painful & also expensive for the family. I came to know this matter after attending a breast cancer survivors’ conference in Bangladesh.

MY RECOMMENDATION FOR THE BANGLADESHI WOMEN(1) When any women see any sort of abnormalities in their breast they must go to the Oncologist for consultation.
(2) For remote rural women of Bangladesh, we must organize camping to grow awareness about the disease.
(3) Documentary film can be made & shown in the Television every day for 15 minutes.
(4) Many non-government organizations (NGO) are now working for care of Breast Cancer patients in Bangladesh. This is a good approach.
(5) Wealthy people should come forward & increase their participation in the society to solve the problem.
(6) Above all, Poverty & illiteracy is a great barrier to overcome the situation in Bangladesh as being a least developed country.


About this blog

Adhunika blog is launched with a mission to share knowledge among women from every walk of life. Sometime it would be in the form of sharing experience to find a feasible solution of a problem; sometime it would be in the form of professional consultation, which Adhunika group will arrange for its bloggers. Nevertheless, the intent of this blog always remains the same - to help and empower women through a common web-based platform....read more



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