We are extremely glad and content to have successfully facilitated (our first) breast cancer screening camp for a group of women in Thane, India in partnership with Niramai.
This is a personal note from the woman who not only took a proactive step toward her personal health but also talked her women's tribe into this and drove the campaign on the ground.
We are truly delighted to have such associates and hope to expand our community with like-minded individuals.
Read on to know how things panned out for this woman and her friends before and during Niramai's breast screening camp.
The die is cast
Around November 2021, one of my friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was out of the blue and shocking. I was wondering how the family was coping with the diagnosis. She has two young children.
My logical mind went into overdrive. I politely asked her how she came to know about it. Were there other such cases in her family history? What do the doctors advise? Was there something that she missed or could have done to prevent this?
She said that the die was cast. Her chemotherapy sessions have begun and hopefully, by mid-Feb or March, she will be out of the woods. The treatment is aggressive and exhausting.
In the next few months, I would often check on her. She was improving. I told her about my cousin who was also detected with breast cancer but now she is doing well, leading a normal life.
Somehow life came in the way and I was busy juggling a few things. One day, in April 2022, I came to know that she is going in and out of the hospital and was sick. After running a ton of tests, the doctors came to the conclusion that her cancer has metastasized! That is it had spread outside of its original site.
It was the first time, I told my cousin. She is an ObGyn and now a Functional Medicine Specialist who is an expert on Miyara (Dr. Shabnam Das Kar). I wanted some assurances. She sidestepped the query by saying it was outside her wheelhouse and then inquired if I was continuing with my regular physical breast examinations the way she had advised me years ago. I said yes.
Interaction with Miyara Women
A day later she called me and advised me to get a breast screening done.
“Mammography? I have never done it earlier. Do I need a prescription? Do they have specifically female technicians for that? Can I just go over to the scan center and get it done?”
She assured me that I won’t have to go anywhere. This is different. It is an AI-driven screening technology and it can be done at home. “The way technicians come to your place to draw blood samples for tests, a technician will do your screening at home.”
As a typical middle-class Indian my next question was how much will it cost? Mentally, I was thinking of ways of turning her down anticipating the price to be steep. I mean AI-driven, emerging MedTech can’t be affordable in a developing country, right?
Okay, I am in.
Before I could ask her any further questions, she connected me to these two remarkable individuals Dr. Sanjana Rao and Dr. Gayatri Muthukrishnan who are the co-founders of Miyara Women, a start-up that is advocating for women’s preventive health and wellness.
They sent me a few instructions and details of the screening. While going through the literature, a thought cropped up.
What if I organize a group screening to include my other friends staying in our housing complex?
I interacted with Miyara Women to gather the necessary information to create awareness among my friends and acquaintances. Here are the excerpts.
How is this a 'novel' screening?
Niramai Health Analytix is a Bangalore-based deep-tech startup that has developed this novel screening solution. The company states that “It is a software-based medical device to detect breast cancer at a much earlier stage than traditional methods or self-examination.”
The company’s name is thoughtful. Niramai in Sanskrit means free from illnesses. It is also an acronym - Non-Invasive Risk Assessment with Machine Intelligence. The core of this screening depends on a computer-aided diagnostic engine called Thermalytix.
The company claims that the screening detects anomalies as small as 4 mm compared to regular mammography which can detect from 2 cm onwards. Niramai does not claim that this is a substitute for mammography or clinical examination.
Related reading: Affordable, accessible breast cancer screening
This is how I persuaded others to get themselves screened
I prepared a small write-up for communication and highlighted the following:
Screening in the residential community (you do not have to go to any lab)
The total time needed would be 15 - 20 mins
This is a thermal screening so it is radiation-free
It is non-invasive. You are not injected with any dye. No one performs any surgical incision on you or is asked to take any medicine.
The screening is privacy sensitive. No one touches you or looks at you.
You can do it at home at your convenience.
It is pain-free.
It is affordable. (A monthly spa bill for highlighting your hair is way more than the cost of this screening)
Reports will be sent to you through email. You do not have to go anywhere to collect it.
Only one female technician will interact with you.
20 women including me signed up for the screening and got it done over
There could have been more but a curious mindset came forth. Some people declined by stating what if there is an adverse finding. I did not push them but here are my two cents.
If something is there, it is better that the screening highlights it giving us the time and the opportunity to fix it.
Just because you go ahead with the screening does not mean something negative will pop up. Similarly, if you did not get the screening does not mean you are healthy. At least with the help of Niramai’s screening, you will know your condition one way or the other.
Would you rather wake up one morning, feel a lump and then panic?
How was the actual screening experience?
Safe and Secure
My Observations and Opinion
Breast cancer can happen to anyone. It is random. The only way to fight this is by adopting preventive methods such as Niramai’s breast screening solution. In India often such screenings are paid for by the individual and not covered by insurance but this is an investment and not a cost.
If you are skeptical about AI and new-age Medtech, let me remind you that not too many years ago your wristwatch was just a watch and now it is a “smart” watch that monitors your vitals as you move about your day or sleep. Do I need to say more?
If you are staying in a residential complex, you can gather a group of women and plan a common screening session. Contact Miyara Women to help you plan it just the way they helped us.
I took the lead and enabled 19 others to get screened, you can do it too.
If you are inspired by this story and want to be proactive about your health, book your screening today
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About the author
Dr. Ipshita Basu Guha is a twin entrepreneur who is passionate about women's health and mental health in general. It is incredible that she not only took a step toward her personal health but also talked her women's tribe into this and drove the campaign on the ground.