• No.33,35th St., Opp JFA Showroom, Ashok Nagar,Chennai -600 083.
  • +91 9791048379, +91 9894089379
  • vasanthamemorial@gmail.com
Menu

Cancer Awareness

Introduction

It is estimated that at any point of time 3% that is 3.3 crore Indians have cancer. At centers all over the country, 80-90 % of patients seen with cancer are in advanced stages. Of the remaining 10%, half of them receive adequate treatment. With cure rate of cancers averaging at 40%, effectively only 2% of cancer affected get cured in India.

Of the eighty lakh new cases of cancer occurring in India every year , 40% of are tobacco related and in 30% diet & lifestyle have played a major role . Tackling these two aspects can eliminate nearly 70% of Cancers seen in India. Awareness is the thus most important step to enable us to conquer cancer.   It can prevent cancers and ease early detection

We from the trust are happy that we have effective steps in creating awareness and quantity wise this is the largest work of the trust. We developed several tools, conducted workshops, took up specific campaigns and tried to reach across the length & breadth of the country.

  1. Handout: These handouts  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 other versions were in English and Gujarati
  3. Power Point Presentation: .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 Thus there was a general cancer talk, a talk on ill effects of tobacco, Breast cancer awareness talk , cancer in women , Cancer in youth , cancer free tomorrow campaign and so on.
  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 which have shown cancer affected people. 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: Both silicon models and 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 virtually on a one on one basis
  7. Posters:Warnings signs of common cancers, breast cancer and messages on perils of tobacco use were prepared and stuck at places where people tend to gather.
  8. 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 to Practicing Doctors: Experts in the field from well known institutions were invited to address the local practitioners and sensitize them on the basic facts about cancer and recent developments in the field on an annual basis. This included Dr. Mammen Chandy, CMC Vellore &  Dr. V. Shanta, Cancer Institute Adyar,

Medical students: During the course of MBBS the subject of cancer is dealt with during course, in each semester some aspect is taught. But there is NO consolidated course which gives essentials and practical aspects.  To bring about this one day courses were organized at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical college, Mumbai & Government Medical College ,Perundurai near Erode for the final year students. Oncologists from prominent institutions taught the basic aspects of several cancers and also touched upon palliative care.

lay-manLay 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 where over one week, experts from different fields spent an hour each and taught about one cancer in a simple language with very little use of medical terms. At the end of the course they had an exam and those who cleared this were absorbed as volunteer educator. When we launched our Vasantham – awareness at Grass roots projects these men & women went to impart education to villagers in the Annur taluk near Coimbatore.

The success of this program encouraged us to hold more such course and soon it became an annual affair in Chennai & Mumbai. The subsequent courses also provided an exclusive one hour time for discussion with a panel of experts – medical, surgical & radiation oncologists –  wherein the delegates could clarify their doubts. These courses evoked excellent responses.

Breast Cancer Workshops. Breast cancer being the commonest cancer in India after tobacco related ones, a great degree of emphasis was laid by us to create awareness about this disease amongst women.  We found women clearly wanted these sessions to be conducted by women. 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.

vasa2Though 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.  During the daylong session the doctors detailed all aspects if breast cancer and in afternoon women were split in some small groups and taught breast self exam with a hand held model. Subsequently the ladies had a theory & practical exam and those who cleared became breast cancer educators. Such courses were then held twice or thrice a year. From 2002 to 2008 these women educators’ volunteer force taught basics of breast to thousands of women.

Slowly it was felt that the campaign had to be more intense and women had to be taught literally one on one. In Oct 2008 a group of 25 volunteers were trained & gave birth to our Pudhuvasantham project.  A standardized talk was prepared where they were given instructions to what they should do in the 15 minutes they spend with the lady. Breast models were made and these ladies were trained to impart breast self exam on these models.

Detection of Oral cancers: Oral cancers have a definite and long premalignant state and are totally asymptomatic during this stage. One of the premalignant conditions, oral submucous fibrosis can be reversed to normalcy. To aid their detection, volunteers & school children were trained to pick up these lesions over 9 steps. Both these groups learnt it enthusiastically and conduct these programs periodically and send suspected ones to our cancer detection camps.

General cancer talks

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 last for 45 minutes to one hour and 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. At times we have taken a factory in total and covered the employees in entirety over a day or over a week. Eastman & Centwin companies at Tirupur, Ambatttur Clothing company at Chennai , Ultramarine pigments at Ranipet are a few examples A few times a group of offices in the entire state , for example in 2004 we took post offices all over Tamil Nadu, Coimbatore police in 2005 & Chennai Police in 2007.

general-cancer-talkGenerally they elicit good responses and the employers are also happy that a goodwill gesture has been done for their employees. Profuse thanks are expressed at the end of talks. Around Mumbai these talks lead to Cancer screening camps at the venue at a future dates. At the same time some of the attendees feel totally annoyed at our presence and refuse to congregate for the sessions even after a management directive. And one group of industries where we are totally shunned and not even allowed an entry are the software companies..

The strong need & the huge healthy response that we have received has enabled us to overcome these minor hitches and we continue to beat our drums of awareness in tempo & tune.

Breast Cancer awareness

A shocking incident in mid 1998 led us to prioritize awareness over screening camps. The nurse who usually accompanied us for screening camps for nearly 2 years hid her cancer till it burst open & soaked her uniform with blood. In October that year we began our breast cancer awareness campaign.

brest-cancer-awarenessWith 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 for reasons mentioned earlier the mandate of educating women was taken up trained lady volunteers. These women showed great enthusiasm and audience was able to relate to them immediately. We were able to cover big factories and large offices and also send to them residential complexes.

We now started going to outstation sites and even remote areas in hill stations. The Annur taluk project from June 2003 to 2004 covered 96 villages and educated thousands of women. The village women learnt the self-exam technique so well that they posed a challenge to the abilities of doctors at the local public health centres. It was really very encouraging.

Whilst our reach, depth and quantum was improving; we noticed something else. Despite these sessions being all women ones, a sizeable number of ladies would be shy to watch the breast self exam video or hold a model to learn breast self exam. At some places mature women would giggle like school girls when the film or model was shown. And  many a time at the end of the session when the speaker was about to leave, women would line up in long queues and clarify a dozen doubts or asked to be taught breast self exam ! In short each lady wanted the same stuff taught individually to her! This led us to launch our Pudhuvasantham project.

The Pudhuvasantham Project  involved in talking to small group of women ( less than 5 ) or preferably talking to ladies on a one to one basis.  A group of 25 women were trained for this. They were given standardized content and the session was condensed to 15 minutes which included a separate 5 minute demo on breast self exam. At the end of the session, the educated lady had to demonstrate to the educator breast self exam on the model and also answer 10 questions (covered the minimum info that they had to remember) . The mistakes both in technique of breast self exam and the 10 questions were corrected.

These trained volunteers set out enthusiastically in the field and held talks wherever they could find a woman to listen. From their maid to vegetable vendor to their co passenger in bus or train to members of women’s organizations to women‘s self help groups in villages, every lady found in their visual field was taught earnestly. In about 2 years’ time this group had reached out 37,000 women. This was a phenomenal number!

Sadly the enthusiasm started waning off and the same tempo could not be maintained and number dropped to tens and hundreds. There was a strong need for this mode of education and it had to be kept going.

puthuvasanthamTo make this possible, we from the Trust, for the first time in its history, thought of employing educators for this project. In July 2015 we held a series of workshops and trained a dozen ladies for this project. By the end of the month this group set out into the field with the same enthusiasm as the volunteers. In 14 month time this group covered 20,000 plus women! Mrs. Shanthi .C, from Chennai is the leader in the mission. She alone has educated 7714 women in one year’s time which averages to nearly 20 women every day.  This is a great achievement and to appreciate we awarded her with an award ‘Vasantha Uttam – foremost worker “ in August 2016.

Workshops to recruit educators for Pudhuvasantham Project were also held at Coimbatore, Mumbai & Dindigul. Of these the greatest haul is from Dindigul , near Madurai, 14 women have been selected from this town and they began action in September and in a month’s time they have covered 350 women.

The project has now attracted the sponsorship from Chicago & Boston Chapters of Association for India’s Development. With their support we from the trust aim to educate one lakh women in the next 3 years !

This campaign began with the World No tobacco Day program on 31st May 2000 and thereafter there was no looking back. A series of talks were held a week preceding the Day and on that day a special show on local TV Channel in Coimbatore was held and handouts distributed at the busy Gandhipuram Bus stand.  Similar programs continued on & around the World No tobacco Day thereafter. This apart  Anti tobacco campaign was held  the round the year and had several modes

camping-in-schoolCampaign in Schools :

Short talks on ill effects of tobacco use began in schools in June 2000 and children from several schools were addressed. Students from Sixth standard upwards were addressed and later our focus was on the students from 6th to 8th Std. We learnt that children started using as early as 6th std & by the time they reach higher secondary it has already become a habit. We had to catch before it had become a habit. In the initial years we also 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.

Simultaneously we started painting competitions at each school where we had addressed them on the topic. This was a mode of reinforcement of the message & the children painted what they had leant. An interschool contests was also held annually.

com-schollA couple of years later from all the paintings the children had painted a set of 40 were selected. Each painting had pointed one aspect of the dangers of tobacco use and if one goes through all of them, the entire thing what we say in our talks was said. From 2002 & 2004 in addition to our talks, we displayed this set at several schools in Coimbatore & Mumbai. During the day, children would come class by class to see the paintings and our volunteers stood there to clarify their doubts. 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 :

all-other-placeLike 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. Some would promise to quit and some to decrease the quantity; but it was generally felt that these men have accepted the risks but are unwilling to quit. In some construction companies the employers organized screening camps after our talks. And when a few were found to have premalignant condition or frank cancer, it sort of alarmed the rest .

At Colleges college

The usual talks failed to attract the young men and women in the colleges. They remained mum during the entire talk and wouldn’t interact even when provoked. “I know it all , I care a damn “ was the attitude. This made us change the approach. We then began holding debates, advertisement contests etc on this topic and during moderation sent in the correct messages. And now the crowd opened up!

Tobacco and dietary factors constitute two thirds of the risk factors and over a period of 2 – 3 decades cause cancers. What begins in childhood manifests as cancers in middle and old ages! In the year 2008 we decided that our talks to children in school would not restrict to dangers of tobacco use but also include obesity and lack of exercise.

A new presentation was made which included the basic biology of cancer, ill effects of tobacco and role of diet and exercise in cancer and ways & means to prevent cancer in them and their folks. Each year the presentation contained a popular event, person or film which the children could immediately relate to. For example the film , Jungle Book , was used to explain the biology of cancer this year, last year it was Kaaka Muttai , and the year before it was Malala.cancer-free-tomorrow-campaign

The cancer Free tomorrow campaign began in June 2008 and covered 45 – 80 schools each year in Chennai, Mumbai  & Coimbatore put together. This year, 2016, we have already covered 69 schools reaching 24000 plus students and over the years this score has reached over 600 schools covering several lakh students.  In some years this campaign continued in other towns & cities also.

The response is simply superb ! The sparkle in the children’s eyes saying convincingly that they understood the stuff, the roaring yes to shoo off a smoker or the chorus consent to say no to chips packet for the school lunch says all that is needed. Finally when the speaker gets to leave a long line of students awaits him/ her to shake hands to say thanks!  What more ….

World Cancer Day – Paint contest

In a measure to emphasize the need to make tomorrow cancer free, a paint contest is organized toworld-cancer-day-painting mark the World Cancer day , 4th February. It is held at Chennai, Coimbatore & Mumbai on the nearest Sunday to 4th Feb. Each school is permitted to send 9 entries, 3 in each , primary , middle school & Secondary . The theme is Cancer Free Tomorrow but each year a specific aspect is also chosen. This year it was : clean air to make cancer free “ the last year ,eat “right” to prevent cancer .

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 this 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.

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. And first talk was given under a large Pipal tree. The team that went often to the villages was – Mr.Sethuraman , Mrs. Meenakshi Selvaraj, Ms. Hemambika & Dr .Ramanathan

vasantha-awareness-at-grass-rootOur 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 for 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.

15 months, 110 working days, 9455 persons educated from 96 villages

vasantham-awareness-at-grass-roots1In the initial 3 months there was a great reluctance for people to congregate & an indifference to whatever was taught.. But as months progressed the indifference turned into concern. Villagers listened quietly, watched the video film & came up with relevant queries. In June & July when they spotted our vehicle they would run away and from September onwards on seeing our vehicle they would queue up to escort it to their village for the cancer talks. This was welcome change and we frequented these villages 5 days a week.

The trust saw that the usage of tobacco was nearly 100% in villages & it started as early as 5 years of age, the mothers would initiate their usage in children to stave off hunger ! . At every village we went there was at least one person affected with cancer. And at each village one person would break down relating how miserably the affected guy died. They admitted their helplessness to quit tobacco. They sought help. The women who were taught breast self-exam practiced enthusiastically on the models. At the end the gathered requested for a screening camp.

In 15 months time, 14 panchayat unions comprising of more than 90 villages in the Annur taluk of Coimbatore district have been covered. In addition a couple of panchayats in Pollachi taluk of Coimbatore District and few villages in Perinaikenpalayam have also been covered.

For us reaching Hamlet by hamlet and virtually barging into them and giving basics about cancer was totally different experience but very rewarding. Many have started to quit to tobacco, women examined their breasts and some even went to health centres to get examined!

Awareness along with NSS camps

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 , Mar – July ,2007

The trust shifted its base to Chennai on 22nd Feb and the 1st talk was held at Cylinder lines factory at Porur on the 24th. The city, we must say, has been very receptive to this idea, and in matter of 150 days, the trust could complete a 100 talks. Of the 100 talks, 62 were held at venues were the trust knew no one. It had approached them as a stranger and the authorities cooperated well. Chennai Police, MTC ,CMDA ,CIPET are a few such organizations .

e-4-months-of-intense-awareness-chennaiThe audience never gave an impression that the session was imposed on them. At most venues the attendees were grateful beyond measure. Such positive feedback from the audiences, unseen in other cities, kept the speaker from the trust to continue his Endeavour.

Of course there were a few setbacks. At Cebros flats at Valsarvakkam , a complex of nearly 100 flats and more number of cars , less than 10 ladies assembled for the session . At MNS printers at Guindy, while the film on cancer was going on, a guy opened a sachet of tobacco and stationed a pinch between his lower lips and gums and gave a mocking smile. And the most difficult part was finding access into software companies. Fortunately these incidences occupied a narrow area in the entire spectrum.

Awareness programs in all its forms are dense in and around our 3 nodes : Chennai, Coimbatore & Mumbai. Every day for that waking hour somewhere someone is talking about cancer to some people. At any and every place people -roadside, street corner, Verandah of homes, community halls, school, colleges, offices, factories, clubs ,Television shows , radio shows , web casts, trade fairs, etc etc – awareness has been created according age ,socio –educational background or the amount of time available .

The number of Talks, demos, rallies , Stalls etc are in hundreds in each of the venues covering lakhs of people. It is impossible to list all of them or even giving brief details. Readers are request to go our website, www.vasanthamemorial.com , wherein action at each of nodes is given month wise & constantly updated.

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.

 Kodaikanal

We made 4 visits to this scenic hill station to create awareness about cancer. The first one was on 11th & 12 th Nov 2005 , the second one on 23rd Feb 2006 , the 3rd from 27th -29th June 2009 and last one on 4th & 5th August 2010. Of these the 3rd visit in June 2009 was the most successful one.  Over 20 sessions we reached 3330 School students and 557 adults with the basics of cancers. Sessions were held at schools, churches, village corners , at hospitals and clubs. Sisters lima & Anastasia had done an excellent homework kept us occupied for the entire 3 days.

Tirupur

The proximity from Coimbatore, generous contributions from hosiery Units and flow of a large number of patients from this town got us to this town many times since the year 2000. Prominent and less known factories invited us to conduct awareness programs for all their workers.  Some of the units were covered in entirety over a period. Patients’ relatives also pulled us to conduct a few programs around their residences. In one year we also covered a bunch of schools with our Anti – tobacco program. As recently as October 2016 , awareness programs were conducted in a college and a textile mill educating 75 students & 190 women respectively.

Trichy

Awareness sessions are being 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. On these days school children, women in working women hostels and nursing college students were addressed.

Gudalur, Kumbakonam,Mayiladuthurai

We visited this sector 3 times from 2009 to 2012 . First visit covered the students & teachers of G.S.Kalyanasundaram memorial school at gudalur & few groups in Kumbaonam. The second was visit was to address a lions club gathering at Kumbakonam .And the last trip was to create awareness amongst students, teachers & parents at G.S.K .memorial school at Kumbakonam

Erode, 17 & 18th 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.

Dindigul

Mrs. Meenakshi Selvaraj visited this town the first time in Aug 2009  to address students of st Anthony’s college. Thereafter she visited many times to give general cancer talks , talks on cancer on women and cancer free tomorrow talks in schools , colleges & convents. From    15 – 17th July 16 She conducted a 3 day workshop to train women for the Pudhuvasantham project. From 51 women 14 have been selected for the project

Pilgrim Awareness

Lakhs of people walk to the Shrine of Lord Murugan in Palani from all over Tamil Nadu from January to March every year. We have put up stalls in all  the 3 approaches , via udumalpet, via Dharapuram & via Dindigul , to Palani in different years- 2000, 01 & 02. These stalls would quench the thirst of the pilgrims and after they had done so & were resting we educated them on the basics of cancer. A television set would be running our films on cancer simultaneously.

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.

The response had a wide range from total indifference to overwhelming . At schools children were very receptive and in one school in Porbandar , the girls boldly accepted that they had begun to smoke. Women were shy at most places interacting very little with the speaker. At a cement factory near Pipavav port we learnt that of the 700 employees , 40 of them had oral submucous fibrosis , a few members could barely insert one finger into their mouths..  Rain tried its best to spoil sport, but people came gathering at all places even when sessions were held as late 10 pm. Our Book on cancer in Guajarati also found ready takers at many places. In sum the tour gave us a satisfaction that we did ignite the minds of the people here!

box

25th Jun 05- Bhavnagar 4 schools, 1 college, 2 factories & I bank
26th Jun 05- Pipavav,Jafferabd,Mahuva 1 port, 2 cement factories, I public meet
27thJun 05 – Mahuva 2 schools
28th Jun 05- Diu I school I public meet
29th Jun 05 -Veraval 2 schools, I factory, I public meet
30th jun 05 – Porbandar 2 schools

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 was organized by Mr.P.N.Hariharan.

Students from 6 schools in Adipur and Gandhidham were addressed. IFFCO colony women were educated on cancers in women.  Workers from Kandla & Adani port were talked to and a few more freight company workers were lectured. There were 2 public meetings on each evening which did not receive good response despite good turnout. And the final talk was at the Rotary club at Gandhidham were 25 people had assembled and amongst them were 4 cancer victors. The presence of victors caused intense interaction and the tour ended on a positive note.

Darjeeling , 16th – 19th Nov, 2009

tableFour 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 of 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.

We talked to over 2000 children from 9 schools in the 4 days spent there. Tobacco use widespread and children new of all forms of usage , they also knew dangers but when and how was not clear to them.  Most of them gave heavy nods when asked if they can help their relatives to quit tobacco use.  At the colleges there was mixed response. At Southfield college in Darjeeling , 200 young women showed great enthusiasm in learning and interacting with the speaker , while at North Point college students were totally indifferent to the proceedings. The sessions with women’s group evoked good response and most of them profusely thanked us for the education

Climbing down the hills we were wondering whether this short stint in a far away land was useful; that was when we met a co- passenger at Kolkata railway station. This young girl introduced us to her father and said to us that this vacation she is going make her father quit smoking. She was one the girls in a school at kurseong where we had given a talk. We got the answer and moved home merrily!

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.23

The main inhabitants in this region are women, 70% of men have migrated to the plains for earning their livelihood. Life for these women is tough and is filled with endless chores from dawn to dusk. But they found time to listen to us when invited for the Breast cancer sessions.  To them everything what was told or demonstrated was totally new but they showed enthusiasm and did not shy away from picking up the breast model and learning the technique that too from a male demonstrator. At a few places a few women were initially given the talk and these ladies were then encouraged to give these talks in the Garhwali language. The response bettered!

The second type of talks was the cancer Free tomorrow campaign for school children.  A total of 11 sessions were held different schools at different parts of Uttarakhand. As always the response generated was excellent. At a Kulsari a few children were able to repeat the talk in its totality.

It was during one of these sessions that an idea cropped up to teach these children to pick up oral cancers & premalignant conditions. A set of 9 steps was shown and children taught.  They were quick to learn and demonstrated their abilities immediately and also promised that they educate the elders at home.gujarath

This apart general cancers talks to mixed gatherings were also given at a few places and actually gathered men more than women. Consumption of alcohol and tobacco use is a hundred percent and it was obvious that they were not ready to quit come what may. Anyways dangers were enlisted and the rest was in their hands.

One thing was very heartening to see in the 18 days spent here. There was no obesity amongst the locals !  One factor less! Overall it was a novel experience and our hopes are with children here.

Sangameshwar near Ratnagiri, Maharashtra

13 – 15th  march 2016 Volunteers from Mumbai chapter camped from 13 – 15th March and conducted several awareness programs covering men, women & children.  600 odd children from 3 schools were reached with cancer free tomorrow campaign and 5 sessions were for creating breast & general cancer awareness.

Pune

puneThe first visit was on 24th May 2013 wherein 200 persons were educated through 3 sessions. The second one was from 1st & 2nd May 16 . 5 sessions on cancer over two days was conducted by volunteers from Mumbai Chapter. The early morning session with Yoga group and the final one at a commercial complexes evoked memorable responses

Bangalore

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 & between 19 – 21 Dec 2005 at 5 banks and 2 companies covering 470 people. One more visit was on 29th May for the employees of Punjab National Bank.

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 visited :

  1. 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
  2. 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..
  3. Ranipet , 9th July 2005 : 330 children of 2 schools and about 880 employees of several companies were reached
  4. Mysore , 6th March 2005 : Members of the Tamil sangam addressed
  5. Mangalore : 4th May 2003 : awareness at Mangalore Tamil Sangam , 16th April 2005 : Employees & trainees at Mangalore Refineries were talked to .
  6. Srikakulam, 27th Jan 2007 : Volunteers of Association for India’s development organized awareness programs in the villages they had adopted
  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

Apart from these visits were also made to Madurai , Karaikal, Ahmedabad ,Nashik, Belgavi, karjat, Neral , Panvel and many more towns & villages to create awareness about cancer.

Many a times we have been asked by others and many more times we have asked ourselves , are our programs useful or not ! There is no exact parameter available by which we can judge the utility o f these programs. It is only the expression of thanks which keeps us going. There have been a few instances when people have actually come & thanked for us aiding them to pick cancers in them or their family members. There are guy who suddenly stand up in our public meetings , saying that they had quit tobacco after hearing us at another public meeting . And lastly a few have come and donated .

We have also tried objectively assessing the utility of our awareness programs. In year 1999 at Coimbatore we conducted about 100 talks in October. In March 2000 an evaluation was done through 20 questions about breast cancer. This questionnaire was given to 20 teachers each in 20 schools where we had done awareness and to 20 teachers each in 20 schools where we had not done awareness. On assessment the difference was striking. This paper was then presented at the World conference on Breast cancer in Victoria, Canada in the year 2002.  Similarly we analyzed the Pudhuvasantham forms  done from 2008 – 2009. It was found that 88% of the answers filled were correct.

Subjective & objective evidences have told us that we are on the right path. Proof or none , Awareness is needed and it will go on strongly from our side.

Acknowledgments

Our awareness programs would not have reached to those who needed but for the help of number of individuals, organizations & companies. We have already our expressed our gratitude to them individually, herein we would like to say our thanks once again to all of them collectively.