Lata explained how timely detection of cervical cancer had contained the impact on Devi, a young mother in Chobiya, a village in Uttar Pradesh. I was glued to my laptop screen at this end while healthcare professionals from remote villages peered into their phones at the other. Discussions ranged from screening protocols, to prevailing cultural norms, to prevention programs and competency of healthcare workers. It was apparent that the challenge was large, underestimated and growing. It is hard to prevent what we cannot see, it is difficult to be timely when a symptom is already late.
Rohan, the mentor leading the call, stressed on the need for Hindi translation of screening processes, regular camps, role of community in convincing women to get screened and regular training for ASHA. I wondered why was it a struggle to sustain simple routines and habits for cancer screening?
India celebrates more than 50 diverse festivals every year. My family celebrates at least ten. Each festival is a bundle of timeless routines and habits that are shared by millions and are passed down generations. They include elaborate food recipes, dress designs, home decoration practices, religious ceremonies and engaging folklores for children to name a few. I am certain that Devi celebrates Karwa Chauth. Every January, she looks up the lunisolar Indian calendar to memorise the date. Would Devi memorise the date for her next cervical screening? Would she even remember an event that needs to happen once in 3 years? Karwa Chauth is an annual routine to pray for the wellbeing of her husband. How can I help her form a routine that could save her life?