Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual international campaign observed in October, plays a crucial role in promoting awareness and understanding about breast cancer, a disease that affects people across the globe, including the Indian population. Breast cancer, as a term, carries a heavy emotional burden for those diagnosed, and in India, the cultural context adds unique challenges to this emotional journey.
In an exlusive conversation with Zee News English, Ms. Dinika Anand, Mental Health And Behavioural Sciences, Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry Department, BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital talks about the emotional journey of a breast cancer diagnosis and how to navigate it.
Understanding the Diagnosis
“The word ‘cancer’ evokes fear and anxiety, but in today’s medical landscape, it is essential to separate preconceived notions from the individual diagnosis. Medical advancements have transformed the way we deal with cancer. In India, awareness about the available treatment options and early detection can be a life-saver, says Ms Dinika.
Identity and Self-Worth
A cancer diagnosis forces individuals to renegotiate their sense of self. Self-esteem and self-worth are closely tied to physical well-being, making this journey emotionally complex. “In India, societal narratives around female beauty and body image can intensify this challenge. The pressure to conform to these norms can be overwhelming for women facing breast cancer,” adds the expert.
Gender and Role Expectations
Indian society often conditions women to be caregivers rather than care receivers. A breast cancer diagnosis necessitates a shift in roles, which can be emotionally taxing. This transition can be further complicated by cultural expectations, making it vital to navigate this space with sensitivity and support.
In India, there is a well-intentioned tendency to normalize cancer and emphasize beauty and well-being. However, this may sometimes overshadow the emotional journey individuals need to take at their own pace. Emotional support and counseling should be readily accessible to help individuals process their feelings and navigate their journey.
Breast cancer awareness campaigns frequently focus on women, often reinforcing stereotypes associated with the disease. In India, awareness should extend to men as well. Men also face the emotional burden of breast cancer, and patriarchal gender constructs can make it challenging for them to access care and support. A broader understanding of the disease must encompass all affected individuals, irrespective of gender.
Ms. Dinika concludes, “Then, if you’re talking about breast cancer awareness month, we have to talk about the men and their experience because by It is several more layers of lack of awareness, lack of understanding, patriarchal gender constructs being very, very significant blockades and intrusive forces in allowing genuine access to care and support for the men who received this diagnosis because when you see breast cancer you see the image that comes to your mind is pink ribbons, women, pre surgery, post-surgery being celebrated in all their glory. What about the men? That is also the emotional journey of a breast cancer diagnosis.”