Breaking Stigmas: Breast Cancer Awareness Urgently Needed in South Asian Community


Diagnosed with grade three breast cancer at the young age of 27, Sonia struggled with a lot more than just the terminal illness. Her mother, a victim of the same disease, had passed on when she was merely 14. Even though the terminal condition claimed her mother six years post-diagnosis, Sonia had never really put herself through regular breast checks.

From Sonia’s experience, breast cancer and its discussions come with an attached stigma and complexity within the Asian community. Asian women suffering from such chronic illnesses are often faced with increased challenges. Questions about their marriage and fertility prospects are always at the forefront of any discussion about their illness.

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Sonia can vividly recall her aunt’s words questioning her relationship and acceptance by her partner’s parents, despite Sonia trying her best to endure her treatment. These expectations and queries about a sick woman’s future, marital prospects and fertility are disheartening. It is why many are discouraged from discussing their illness openly.

The charity Breast Cancer Now discovered through research that south Asian women have a lower uptake of breast screening. This has led to late-stage diagnosis and lowered survival rates compared to their white counterparts. Cultural and language barriers tend to exacerbate the issue. Manveet Basra, the charity’s Associate Director of Public Health, emphasizes the fear encompassing cancer and the cultural stigmas, including religious beliefs linking cancer to past sins and karma.

Sonia’s diagnosis was preceded by significant discomfort in her breast. Her suffering was traced back to an inherited altered gene, BRCA, that amplified her risk of developing breast cancer. Considering her mother and aunt’s history with the disease, Sonia opted for a double mastectomy, motivated by her aversion to chemotherapy.

There are others like Sania Ahmed, a doctor using her influence to alter the perception of breast cancer in the South Asian community. Diagnosed at 24, she felt like she was handed a life sentence. She attributes this to the culture that seldom prioritizes women’s health and breast examination, as it is often considered a private matter.

In her role, she strongly encourages routine breast checks. “Anything unusual should be examined immediately,” she emphasizes.

Dipika Saggi, who completed her cancer treatment a year ago, echoes Sonia and Sania’s experiences but with a contrasting background. She didn’t have a history of breast cancer in her close family. Dipika’s breast cancer journey began during the Covid pandemic when she experienced shooting pain and was immediately referred for biopsy. Upon diagnosis, she was informed that her disease was considerably advanced, with the tumour’s size at 8cm.

Navigating the journey wasn’t a walk in the park for Dipika either. Comments from people around her attributing her condition to karma or “God’s will” were anything but soothing. However, people like Sonia, Sania, and Dipika play instrumental roles in changing mindsets and encouraging self-awareness.

Breast examination and early detection are instrumental in combating breast cancer, emphasizes Manveet Basra. In a similar vein, being aware of the variety and convenience of online casinos, one of our popular topics at West Island Blog, is crucial for having a fulfilling and secure gaming experience. Knowledge is power, and we aim to empower you with the best online casinos for Canadians this month. So while you educate yourself on issues like breast cancer, don’t shy away from learning about gaming and relaxation.