The shift of priority from conducting screening camps to creating awareness about cancer began in the year 1998. It was after a shocking incident when we found the nurse Who assisted in our camps had actually hidden her cancer for a very long time and when she was ready to disclose it was in a very advanced state. We began with the Breast cancer awareness program in the October 1998 and over the next year and half we reached knowledge about all commonly occurring cancers to the people.
In quantity, in coverage of geographic areas, in reaching depths in the community and in the spectrum of age groups this has been our largest work. At the same time it is the one which has met the largest number of challenges. Mind you it is not easy to educate a person about a disease that he /she thinks that it will never occur in them .If the less literate runaway because of the fear associated with it , the literates think they already know about the stuff. But in reality even in 2018 both the groups present quite in advanced states at most of the times to their doctors.
In our 2 decades of work in this aspect , we have seen only small change , nevertheless, that it has begun, makes us happy. In the last couple of years we find takers for this program comparatively more easily .Women have shown more eagerness compared to men and they have been more accessible. Children are very receptive and our talks in schools evoke great responses.
All our programs also give information about ways to prevent cancer and of course enlist the warning signs. A big stress is given to the former, specially to children, and we hope it will be soon that cancer will be never.
knowledge is health
1.Handout: These were made in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi, Marathi ,Gujarati & English and contained basic facts on common cancers.
2.Books: Books covered the essential features of the common cancers seen in India. The Tamil version is the most popular. The English version was translated by Mrs. Meenakshi Selvaraj to lucid Tamil. A Gujarati version was also printed.
3.Power Point Presentations: In all of these risk factors, clinical presentation and preventive measures were touched upon. Several types of presentations were made to suit the type of audiences.
4.Short Films: Three films were made. One was a 100 second film which depicted how a teenager falls into the tobacco trap and gets cancer. The second was the success story of child with blood cancer. The third film was titled as “A Civilized Clown” which gave details about five common types of cancer and is interspersed with clips from popular Tamil films. These films were very useful in rural settings and it gathered large audiences. These were also shown in public places like Bus depots & railway stations.
5.Breast Self exam video: An explicit film which shows the breast self exam was borrowed from a Canadian cancer society and with permission dubbed in Tamil. This proved very useful during the awareness sessions.
6.Breast models: Indigenously made models using cotton wool were made to teach breast self exam. Simulated nodules in different size and location were placed there. It is a very important tool for our Pudhuvasantham project wherein breast self exam is taught on a one on one basis.
7.The Cancer Chronicle: For about 12 years the trust ran a monthly magazine which carried information about cancers, advances in diagnosis & treatment and all related aspects to 10,000 households all over India.
To train the trainers, a multi pronged approach was employed.
Continuing Medical Education Practicing Doctors: were addressed annually by cancer specialists to sensitize them as well update on the latest in the feild .
Medical students: A couple of times students a full day course on cancer was conducted for the final year MBBS students. Poor responses made us discontinue this.
Lay men: Like it was done for medical students, lay persons i.e people with no medical background, were also educated about the basics of several cancers. The first one was held in May 2003 at Coimbatore had a good response and some participants became our educators in our Vasantham & other projects. In years after 2014 those attending these courses were predominantly nursing students and we changed the course to “care of patients during chemotherapy” It was a half day course and it attracted both nurses and other care providers and was held annually at our centre in Chennai.
Breast Cancer Workshops. . In 1998 we conducted the first workshop for breast cancer for doctor across specialties who were ladies. These doctors went into the community to educate women for the next 4 years. Though doctors conducted these sessions in full sincerity and with no added benefits, many women’s groups perceived that these doctors gave these talks to recruit patients. To overcome this we started training volunteers and held our first workshop in Oct 2002. . Such courses were then held twice or thrice a year. Women trained at these workshops became our community educators.
This talk enlists the common risk factors for cancer, the presenting features, the diagnosis and treatment of cancers and finally ways & means to prevent cancer. This usually lasts for 45 minutes to one hour and is given to audiences wherein there are men and women. At the end the men are sent out women are shown breast self exam video. Such talks have been given at innumerable places at a variety of establishments likes offices, banks, factories, residential complexes, villages etc These talks have been the backbone of our awareness programs and over time we have branched out to take sessions such as ‘cancer in women “ , “Breast cancer” , “Cancer in the young “ etc.
The list is of these talks is enormous and is impossible to list it here, only details of the last year is being given. In Mumbai 26 talks have been held and 1465 persons have been covered. The details are in the adjacent table.
In Chennai it was more of breast cancer talks and the highlight this year was the ‘cancer in Women “talks at the Madras High court on 12th & 13th of March. 500 plus women attended these sessions and the women also enrolled for the Pudhuvasantham program.
Anti tobacco Campaign
This campaign began with the World No tobacco Day program on 31st May 2000 and thereafter there was no looking back. It was held the round the year and covered offices, factories, construction sites and of course schools.
Campaign in Schools
It began with short talks on ill effects of tobacco use in schools in June 2000, later poster exhibitions, painting competitions were added to reinforce the message. From the year 2008 this transformed to the ‘cancer Free tomorrow campaign “and added the role of diet & lifestyle to it. In the initial years we faced a lot of resistance from all girls’ schools. The principals chided us saying that we will spoil their girls. A Lot of convincing , making them known that the risk of passive smoking equals that active smoking and bringing to their knowledge that girls could persuade the men around them – father , brother, uncle , grandpa – to quit , got us entry into such schools.
A set of 40 posters were made from the drawings made by students at our anti tobacco campaign painting contests. From 2002 & 2004 in addition to our talks, we displayed this set at several schools in Coimbatore & Mumbai.
In 2006 we had a project called “ Add colour to Cancer” wherein children from 90 schools in Coimbatore painted Diwali and New year greeting cards depicting a message on the ill effects of tobacco. Each of these campaign evoked good response.
At other places
Like in schools, talks on ill effects of tobacco use were held at several offices, factories, etc. Men would sit through the talk and understand all what is told but at the end they will express their inability to quit the use. These talks have a large number of takers at Mumbai especially the construction companies. Marathon Realty has these programs every year for several years now.
The usual talks failed to attract the young men and women in the colleges. We had to hold debate sessions, skit competitions , advertisement contests and the like to engage them. They were quite ready to stage street plays for us and we did have them perform for them at several places..
Saying it to tobacco producers
During our coverage of Annur taluk in Coimbatore district with cancer awareness we had an opportunity to encounter farmers who grow tobacco. In one particular village we even faced a gherao. Last year the Mumbai chapter was invited to give talks on ill effects of tobacco to employees of Godfrey & Philip, leading manufacturers of cigarettes!
This is one of our flagship programs and the campaign which has met great success and reached children by the millions. In the year 2008 we expanded the anti tobacco campaign to include the role of diet & life style in causing cancer and also added a list of early signals for cancer. Our target group was children from 6th – 8th standards, an age group that is still open to ideas. From our experience secondary school children already have fixed ideas, a sizeable have used tobacco and most think they know everything.
A new presentation was made which included the basic biology of cancer, the role of tobacco m diet and exercise in causing cancer and ways & means to prevent cancer in them and their folks. Each year the presentation was altered to include an event or instance or a film which had attracted children’s attention. It found immediate takers and the response swelled with the passing of each year.
In the past couple of years it has picked extremely well in Mumbai and is sort of subdued in Chennai. This year in Mumbai it was conducted in 34 schools covering 15260 children. This year 5 new schools also opened the doors for us . Sessions were conducted in Palghar schools also. In Chennai it covered about 10 schools alone this year but the response was excellent.
The campaign also reached other places in Tamil Nadu and in states where the trust went for cancer awareness. For example it was there in Coimbatore, Darjeeling ,Uttarakhand ,Dindugul ,Kodaikanal , thanjavur etc. This year it was also held in Palghar . In the last decade it has reached over 700 plus schools covering several lakh students. What is heartening is that many schools call us year after year to conduct this campaign.
In a measure to reinforce what we have taught them in our cancer Free tomorrow campaign , we conduct a paint contest on the same theme on 4th February, the World Cancer Day . It is held at Chennai,
Coimbatore & Mumbai on the nearest Sunday to 4th Feb. Each year a particular aspect of the cancer free tomorrow campaign is selected as them .Last year it was the role of diet!
There is good response to this on the spot poster painting contest at all three cities. The contest is judged by a panel of famous painters & cartoonists and last year onwards we have also included an environmentalist in the panel. While the children paint their parents are given a talk about aspects in cancer prevention. And before & after the paint contest reinforcements are given on the ways & means to make tomorrow cancer free. 20 – 60 schools , depending upon the city, send children to this contest.
Last year Mumbai held it at 2 places, Chembur & Vikhroli and had 14 & 11 schools participate in this respectively and gathered a total of 250 students to paint . In Chennai, 308 children from 30 odd schools participated and made some stunning posters.
NSS units of several colleges From Coimbatore like Government polytechnic, CIT , PSG Arts, Sakthi Engineering and VLB polytechnic invited us for creating awareness along with their rural camps.
4 months of Intense awareness @ Chennai
From 22nd Feb 2007 , in a matter of 150 days, the trust could complete a 100 talks. 62 were held at venues were the trust knew no one. Chennai Police, MTC ,CMDA ,CIPET were a few such organizations
With our batch of 10 trained doctors we approached women’s groups and conducted 24 talks in October 1998. The next October, in the year 1999 , a 100 talks were conducted by these doctors in one month and received a very good response , so much so that one Hospital in Coimbatore started a special breast clinic on a weekly basis . By the turn of the millennium Breast cancer awareness no longer remained an only October event, talks were held throughout the year.
From the year 2002 the mandate was taken by up trained volunteers who showed great enthusiasm and the audience was able to relate to them immediately. We were able to cover larger ground and have reached lakhs of women in the last 16 years. These are conducted on a regular basis at Chennai, Mumbai & other places. Enlisting them here would consume several pages and is not attempted. In sum these sessions have tremendous response and the impact is also seen as improved attendance to our screening camps and increased utilization of the free mammogram facility.
The Pudhuvasantham project aimed to drive home the basics about breast cancer and teach them breast self exam on a one on one basis. This was felt deeplynecessary as the decade old lecdems that we were conducting did not seem adequately effective.. Secondly women were shy to attend such programs and hardly looked at the visuals displayed at the presentation. It is then in Oct 2008 we embarked on this project with 25 lady volunteers who were trained to give a 15 minute program which included a 5 minute demo of Breast self exam on a hand model. Importantly at the end , women who attended were asked to fill questionnaire which covered the minimum information to be remembered by them.
There was a great response to this method. In the 30 months beginning Oct 2008 ,37,000 women were educated! This was a phenomenal number considering that it was one to one, 95 times out of hundred. The response was very good, but the momentum couldn’t be kept up as volunteer enthusiasm dampened over time. It slowed down but it continued.
In 2015 July for the first time in the history of trust we decided to enroll paid educators for this program. In Aug 2015 we had 12 ladies who were well trained to conductthis short session and they went to the field to create awareness. By March 2016 this group has covered close to 20,000 women around Chennai & Coimbatore.
This encouraged us to take it forward with help of paid educators and an appeal for support was put up to Association for India’s development . Its Chicago & Boston chapters pitched in support for the next 2 years . And from october 2016– 2018 we have reached to 80,000 women . Our total score in this project has reached to nearly 1, 40 ,000 women ! In the last year we have been consistently reaching 125 – 150 women every day of the calendar !
The project Pudhuvasntham was happening from several nodes in Tamil Nadu and at a couple of centres in Maharashtra. In 2008 – 2010 periods it was a quite happening in Coimbatore, in 2015 it picked up in Chennai and gave a huge momentum to our second mode. This enthused to open new nodes. A Workshop was conducted in Dindugul under the auspices of Shanthi Seva by Mrs. Meenakshi Selvaraj , our volunteer. From the 70 women , 22 qualified to be educators in this project. In the months to come more workshops were conducted and today a group of 11 women educators are conducting these sessions on a regular basis.
In the last one and half years these educators have reached to a huge number of women in Dindigul, 46411 women accounting for nearly 57 % of total women reached under this project in the last 2 years. These ladies are highly motivated and conduct these sessions on a daily basis. Interestingly they have formed small groups of 3 or 4 and this group reaches a village or a locality by 10 in the morning. Through the day they cover the area literally house by house.
In January 2018 more nodes were begun at Denkanikottai ,near Hosur and Ayikudi near Tenkasi. There was a lot initial enthusiasm but this speedily declined. At Mumbai & Sangmeshwar this project is moving t a slow but steady pace.
The lady educators are constantly reinforced with knowledge about breast cancer and workshops have been conducted on a half yearly basis. At the field these educators are asked a number of queries and we from the trust have trained them well to clarify these queries and most importantly give the correct answers. To the reader it may sound very simple but in reality this is quite a tough job. These women do not have any medical background and most of them haven’t gone to a college too. To implant in them a subject like cancer and its nuances is quite a task. We are happy that we have managed it reasonably well and the lady educators are quite thorough in their subject.
A question often asked, especially by the people who funded the project, is what has been its impact. A Greek proverb says that society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. Much is the same for this or any kind of awareness program. The impact takes several years or decades. This knowledge that they have gained will help them to pick up cancer early or even prevent it in the future, near or distant
Certain amount of impact is already visible. In the last couple of years we have seen many women seeking mammograms or breast examination. And in the last year we have had 3 women who had attended these sessions over the last 3 years come to our hospital in Chennai with breast cancer. Two of these women have had treatment at our hospital in Chennai, one of them totally sponsored, the other partially.
Pudhuvasantham is definitely a need & is a simple cost effective way of creating awareness about a cancer which is the most common type in India. We from the trust profusely thank our lady educators who have taken up this with such great enthusiasm. Association For India ‘s development we are happy gave us the necessary energizer for the last 2 years . We have to take it further, make it larger and cover as many women as possible. For this we need Funds & platforms aplenty.
To have this program in your neighbourhood contact : 7200414446
Vasantham was a project launched by us to reach awareness to villagers’ right at their door step. It began on 1st June 2003 at Karai Gounden palayam, Annur taluk ,Coimbatore district.
Our team of volunteers would typically reach a village around 6 – 6.30 pm in the evening and the first task would be to gather villagers. This was the most difficult aspect of the program, villagers would find a million reasons to not to assemble. Then we will put on films on cancer and few would get attracted seeing Kamalahassan on the screen. By the end of the film atleast 20 – 25 would have gathered to whom the male volunteer will give a general talk on Cancer. Later the women would be pulled to a verandah of a nearby house and educated on breast & cervix cancers.
In the initial 3 months there was a great reluctance for people to congregate & an indifference to whatever was taught. But as months progressed the difference turned into concern and villagers started congregating with ease enthusiasm. In 15 months time, 14 panchayat unions comprising of more than 90 villages in the Annur taluk of Coimbatore district were covered. In addition a couple of panchayats in Pollachi taluk of Coimbatore District and few villages in Perinaikenpalayam have also been covered.
All the forms of awareness listed above have done at several places near & far from our 3 nodes. A brief description of some of our visits are given below:
Ooty & Coonoor
In June 2005, 1100 people from the Madras Regimental center at Wellington were educated. This included recruits, junior commission officers and their wives. In addition stalls were put up at the annual Flower Show in Ooty and Fruit show in Coonoor to educate the visitors.
We made 4 visits to this scenic hill station to create awareness about cancer. The first one was in Nov 2005, the subsequent ones in 2006, 2009 & 2010. Of these the 3rd visit in June 2009 was the most successful one.
The proximity from Coimbatore enabled us to conduct awareness program in several hosiery factories and also in schools. .
Awareness sessions were periodically conducted in this city at several venues over the last 20 years. On two occasions intense campaign was conducted on single days. The first one was on 4th Nov and the second on 29th Nov 2009..
South Gujarat, 25th – 30th June, 2005
A weeklong long awareness campaign in the coastal towns of Saurahstra, from Bhavnagar in the east to Probandar in the west, was undertaken Mrs. Jayalakshmi Krishnan & Dr.Ramanathan. The tour was coordinated by Mr. P. N. Hariharan, Manager ,J.M.Baxi & Co ,Pipavav port. It was very much like an election campaign, we would be taken to waiting crowds in factories, offices, schools and public places. It was felt that Awareness about cancer was very low, usage of tobacco was rampant and socially acceptable especially of the chewing form; factory workers didn’t care much about occupational exposures and medical facilities in small towns was very poor.
Kutch yatra, 29th Sept – 1st Oct 2005
A chapter of our trust was operating in Gandhidham from 1993 – 99. When the massive quake struck in 2001 we were here again providing relief and we also provided a women’s ward at the Divine Life society hospital. This place and neigbhourhood was visited again for cancer awareness in late September 2005. Dr.Farah Jijina, Mrs. Kamala Srinivas & Mrs. Jayalakshmi Krishnan gave talks at several places which were organized by Mr.P.N.Hariharan.
Darjeeling , 16th – 19th Nov, 2009
Four of us, two from the Mumbai chapter and two from Chennai chapter visited the Darjeeling hills to create awareness about cancer in Nov 2009. Sisters Pushpa & Anasatasia from FMM convent, Santhome ,
Chennai & Father George ,Principal Salesian College ,Sonada, organized this entire program. Each day we were at a different place, Siliguri, Kurseong , Sonada & Darejeeling town. In 4 days we had sessions at 13 places which included schools, colleges & public meetings.
Uttarakhand , 16th April – 6th May , 2014.
The tour was primarily to inspect projects supported by Association of India’s Development (AID) through Himalayan Environmental Studies & Conservation (HESCO) in the state of Uttarakhand. It began with Dehradun and covered most of Garwhal region and ended with a visit to Badrinath. The visit also provided opportunity to create cancer awareness mainly to school children and women’s groups.
Awareness was provided to the Lakhs of people who walk to the Shrine of Lord Murugan in Palani from all over Tamil Nadu from January to March every year. We had put up stalls in all the 3 approaches , via udumalpet, viaDharapuram & via Dindigul , to Palani in different years-2000.
Our campaign here began in Aug 2009 when we went to address students of st Anthony’s college. In the coming years the campaign strengthened and today we have very active group conducting breast cancer awareness.
We visited this sector 3 times from 2009 to 2012. The campaign was mainly in the schools run by GKR foundation.
Sangameshwar near Ratnagiri, Maharashtra
Volunteers from Mumbai chapter camped from 13 – 15th March 2016 and conducted several awareness programs covering men, women & children. We also have a group conducting the pudhuvastham project here. In March 2017 our volunteers spent 3 days here and carried out an intensive campaign reaching people in government offices, factories, colleges and in villages. To 686 people from different social sections awareness was created. A screening camp for women was also squeezed in.
The first visit was on 24th May 2013 wherein 200 persons were educated through 3 sessions. The second one was from 1st & 2nd May 16 which had 5 sessions. More visits were made in April & Sept 2017 and over 4 sessions around 212 women were taught about cancers in women.
Several trips were made to this city and an attempt was even made to set up a centre here in 2005 but did not materialize. However awareness sessions were conducted in May 2005 & in Dec 2005 covering a total of 470 people.
Martalli, 21 -23 Sept 2012
This is a town situated in Veerappan territory at the Tamil Nadu – Karnataka border. Sisters of FMM convent who run a hospital invited us for talks here. Students from 5 schools in the area & one college were addressed. Meetings were also held after masses at 2 churches. On 21st evening our films on cancer were screened at the large church ground attracting a crowd in hundreds.
These visits have been for a just a day or two . At all these places all forms of cancer awareness was created . At times there was focus only cancers in women. Listed are a few of the many places Mysore , 6th March 2005 : Members of the Tamil sangam addressed visited:
1.mangalore: 4th May 2003 : awareness at Mangalore Tamil Sangam , 16th April 2005: employee & traines at Mangalore Refineries were talked to.
2.Mysore , 6th March 2005 : Members of the Tamil sangam addressed
3.Ranipet , 9th July 2005 : 330 children of 2 schools and about 880 employees of several companies were reached. 22nd April 17 : 300 women at Salim Shoes
4.Srikakulam, 27th Jan 2007 : Volunteers of Association for India’s development organized awareness programs in the villages they had adopted
5.Nagercovil, 12th June 2008 : During the day students from 3 schools, students from a polytechnic college, a couple of women’s groups were covered and finally there was an open session for public..
6.Thanjavur On 4th Nov 2009 , 1900 students and 50 teachers from Sacred Heart convent school were educated about cancer. Subsequently small trips were made to educate women’s groups on breast cancer.
7.Sivakasi, 7th Jan 2010 : 700 students of SFR college addressed in batches.
8.Sattur , 23.9.2009 : 600 students of Naidu memorial college educated.
9.Tiruvarur : On 31st Jan 2012 900 students & 45 staff at Rabiammal College addressed. On 2nd Mar 2012 : 550 students from 2 colleges educated.
10.Peramabalur ,6th Mar 2012 : 350 students of Thanthai Roever Colege educated.
11.Erode, 17& 18 Sept 16 : Dr.Ramanathan & Mrs. Sundari Vishwanthan conducted cancer awareness programs in 3 villages around kilampadi . Cancer Free tomorrow campaign was conducted at a school in Thindal.
12.Pen, Raigad dist, April 2017 : Awareness sessions followed by oral and Pap smears camps were conducted here
13.Palghar Dist, May 17: Women in Ambenagar & wadhna villages had breast cancer awareness program followed by Pap smear camp . 13th Apr 18 : 100 women from boisar village were addressed before the screening camp.
14.Tuticorin , 27& 28 Oct 17 : 11 sessions were conducted at the SPIC factory and women in the township were also addressed.
15.Daman ,2nd Dec 17 : 70 women & 180 men at temple packaging industries were addressed.
16.Sindkhed , Jalna , 22 Jan 18 : 230 people covered
17.Goa , 17 Feb 18 : 25 women & 200 men staff of Hindustan waste management were addressed .
18.Puttaparthi , 22 & 23 Mar 18 ; Over 7 sessions patient relatives, staff & visitors to the Sathya Sai General Hospital were talked to about breast cancer.
Apart from these visits were also made to Madurai , Karaikal, , Manargudi Ahmedabad ,Nashik, Belgavi, karjat, Neral , Panvel and many more towns & villages to create awareness about cancer.