Twelve years ago, Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) assigned Rajshree Shinde with a job – to stitch breast prosthesis. Little did Shinde know that her job of making artificial breasts sitting in that quiet, small room will make a big difference in lives of those women who have undergone mastectomy.
This initiative of CPAA to provide breast prosthesis to women for free has revived confidence of many women, especially those who belong to the economically-weaker section of the society. For them, silicone breast implants are unaffordable and breast prosthesis is the best alternative. This decade-old service of CPAA has not only touched many lives, but even removed stigma attached with breast cancer.
One of the many women who could dream of living their life normally post mastectomy is Bhagyashree More. This 54-year-old Naigaon resident was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent unilateral mastectomy in 2006.
“One night while I was eating dinner with my husband and daughter (11), I coughed and touched my chest, and I could feel the lump in my chest. I came to know that the lump was cancerous and I had third stage breast cancer. It left us in shock,” said Bhagyashree.
Bhagyashree was left traumatised after she underwent unilateral mastectomy, but her husband supported her and helped her.
“After the operation, doctors informed us about breast prosthesis and we approached CPAA. They provided us free breast prosthesis. Today, I am happy to see my wife smiling and regaining her confidence,” said Prakash More, Bhagyashree’s husband.
According to CPAA, 1 in every 30 women in urban India and 1 in 60 women in rural India suffer from breast cancer. Additionally, a recent study revealed that of 13, 564 cancer cases detected in Mumbai in 2014, 15.6% were breast cancer cases, making it the most prevalent cancer in the city.
It is to be noted that breast cancer is not only rising gradually, but more number of city’s young girls are falling prey to it. Those who are detected with breast cancer are increased the demand for breast prosthesis.
Anita Peter, executive director at CPAA, said, “There is a lot of stigma attached with breast cancer. It is a taboo if a woman loses her breast.”
Peter added that 7 to 8 women approach CPAA every month for breast prosthesis.
For Bhagyashree, breast prosthesis helped her regain her lost confidence and she is now comfortable stepping out of the house.
“Breast prosthesis helps them regain their confidence and makes them feel comfortable about their body,” added Peter.
Making of breast prosthesis
Breast prosthesis is made of cotton in different sizes as per the patients’ needs. Outer layer of prostheses is made with pure cotton cloth, which makes it ideal to be worn for long hours in any weather. It can be easily washed.
The prosthesis is inserted in the bra flap, are safe, hygienic, long-lasting and hassle-free. Women can start using them within weeks after the surgery.
“I have been making breast prosthesis for 12 years now. I have seen women are left traumatised after the mastectomy surgery, but prosthesis helps them live like before,” said Shinde, who works under the guidance Manju Gupta, Executive Director of CPAA.
Narrating the challenges of the job, she says, “A 65-year-old Parsi lady had undergone breast cancer surgery. As she was old, she had sagging breasts and it was challenging for us to make prosthesis according to her size, but it was made.”
The CPAA breast prosthesis are stocked by various hospitals in Mumbai, but can also be obtained directly from Manju Gupta, Executive Director and Rajshree Shinde, Prosthesis Department.
Address: The Rehabilitation Centre, Cancer Patients Aid Association, Anand Niketan, Dr E Moses Road, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai – 400 011.