Cancer, often dubbed as the ’emperor of all maladies’, is one of the leading causes of death globally. Among all prevalent types of cancer, breast cancer continues to account for the largest share of cancer cases globally.
The prevalence of breast cancer in India has sharply increased, primarily as a result of demographic changes and lifestyle modifications. A study found that the overall survival rate for breast cancer is 95% for stage I patients, 92% for stage II patients, 70% for stage III patients, and just 21% for stage IV patients.
According to the WHO, early detection is the key to improving patient survival. In fact in countries like the US and UK, the early stage screening program has led to 30-40% reduction in the mortality rate of breast cancer patients.
However, 60% of breast cancer patients in India are diagnosed only at an advanced stage (stages III and IV), which impacts both healthcare outcomes and the financial burden on patients.
Currently, mammography is the gold standard for screening breast cancer patients. However, it is ineffective for women with dense breasts – which is a dominant trait in the Indian subcontinent. This often results in false positives and over-diagnosis. Moreover, there is a lack of adequate mammography machines and trained manpower which limits widespread cancer screening across the country.
Innovative tools like the one developed by Niramai, a Bengaluru based deeptech startup, shows promise in addressing these limitations. Thermalytix, its proprietary product, is a low cost, portable & radiation-free AI based engine that objectively analyses images to detect thermal signatures for abnormalities. Many clinical studies have demonstrated their superior performance and as a result, Thermalytix has been approved by both the CE and FDA as an adjunct tool for breast cancer screening.
In one of their multicentric clinical investigations for instance, the sensitivity and specificity of their solutions were comparable to mammography while the accuracy being greater for participants with dense breast tissue – making them ideal for women from the Indian subcontinent.
This non-invasive technology has the potential to be socially and culturally more acceptable in countries like India and would therefore, accelerate mass screening of breast cancer in India.
ACT For Health is assisting Niramai in conducting a breast cancer screening in Andhra Pradesh with the goal of enhancing early stage cancer detection and treatment. This program will help 5,000 women in the state and create useful data to aid the replication of such programs across the country.