Everybody waits for October to paint everything pink. “But cancer doesn’t care what month it is. We can’t focus on cancer only in October,” says PDG Kishor Kedia, D 3030, who is the Project Coordinator of RC Amravati Midtown’s mammography van run by Panjab Rao Deshmukh Medical College. Women unable to access breast cancer screenings in rural villages of Maharashtra, now have the screening at their doorstep.
The initiative was inaugurated by former President of India Pratibha Patil at Raigad in Pune. Within the first month of hitting the road, about 3,000 rural women have been screened. The van, imported from the UK, is self-contained and in addition to the latest digital mammography equipment, has a waiting area and a private dressing room. “First aid and in special cases minor surgeries and deliveries can also be done inside the van,” he adds.
“Prevention and early detection are a woman’s best chance against cancer,” says Dr Deepali, medical head of the van that travels from village to village with the goal “to detect potential cancer risk through screening and provide important health education to rural residents.”
In order to register for a mammogram, women are informed via WhatsApp and word of mouth. In few places where connectivity is low, small nursing homes or schools are contacted to spread the message. The van is stationed at a village from 9am to 5pm and close to 100 women are screened in a day. “Most women are unaware about the test; after they are told about it, they realise this isn’t a blood test.” Some women back off at the last minute because they are shy to change their clothes in the van and are uncomfortable with the examination even though it is done by a female doctor.
If tested positive, the patients are contacted in private and referred for further treatment to the Shirdi Trust, that has a tie up with the club, where treatment and surgery is performed free of cost.
As DG in 2013–14, Kedia’s goal was to undertake and complete women-related programmes. Apart from his personal contribution of ₹1 million, the rest of the money came from Rotarians of RC Amravati Midtown. “We are very excited about the opportunity to bring mammography directly to rural women. No matter what their circumstances, whether it’s lack of money or proper transportation to reach the medical centres, we are trying to make sure all women in our region have access to this lifesaving screening,” he says.