7.9 lakh new patients are diagnosed with Cancer in India annually - a staggering 100 new patients every hour! 1 in every 10 Indians runs the risk of getting Cancer before the age of 75 GLOBOCAN 2012 estimates predict a substantial increase - to 19.3 million new Cancer cases per year by globally 2025.
Talk to a random person in India and ask her about the precautions that she takes to save herself from the common cold or flu, and she will list out a series of measures from the washing of hands to the boosting of immunity. However, ask the same person about how she protects herself from Cancer, and you will draw a blank. Despite Cancer being among the ten leading causes of deaths in India, it is still considered by many people as a ‘remote’ disease that probably will not strike them. Even those who are aware of its implications, do little in their daily lives to minimise the risks of contracting the disease. It has become very important to educate people about how they can prevent Cancer. “Undoubtedly there is a massive void in its awareness, even among the relatively educated masses. Even today the majority of cases that come to the hospitals are already in the last stages or at crucial stages, even for those cancers that can easily be treated if detected early. With greater awareness, people will be more serious about screening and monitoring. Lack of awareness makes life not just difficult for the patient but also for their families and the physicians treating them,” says Dr Indu Bansal, Consultant, Oncology, Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon.
Cancer is a group of abnormal cells. They are often referred to as ‘mad cells’, ‘wayward cells’ or ‘crazy cells’. Cancer occurs when normal cells turn crazy, defy Nature’s ways of propagation and multiply rapidly, altering the normal functioning of the body. If this process goes unchecked, it has the capacity to migrate to any part of the body. “Cancers like Mouth Cancer and Lung Cancer should be detected early and can be prevented by lifestyle modifications; however trends are showing an exponential rise in the same. Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer can also be detected through simple and cost effective tests like an ultrasound/mammography and a PAP Smear,” adds Dr Bansal. According to WHO, around one third of Cancer deaths occur due to five leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and alcohol use. Naturally, dealing with these risk factors can radically reduce the incidence of the disease. It is also important to protect from UV radiation by always wearing sunscreen. The incidence of Cancer can further be reduced if infections like HBV and HPV - associated with Liver and Cervical Cancers respectively - are controlled through vaccinations. As per WHO, the five most common sites of Cancer in men are: Lung, Prostate, Colorectum, Stomach and Liver; while in women they are: Breast, Colorectum, Lung, Cervix and Stomach. While cancers are caused by the malfunction of the genes that control cell growth (resulting in indiscriminate multiplication of the cells in the affected part of the body), the genetic abnormalities are mostly a result of mutations that occur in the genes due to a series of environmental factors. Here is what we can do to mitigate our chances of contracting Cancer:
Eat healthy: People having more meat are more susceptible to Cancer (though being a vegetarian doesn’t guarantee the absence of risk). Make sure that you consume an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables.
Give up bad habits: Quitting smoking and excessive drinking can prevent Lung and Liver Cancers to a large degree.
Get your body in shape: Excessive weight does not just increase the risk of Cancer, but also makes you more prone to diabetes, heart disease and arthritis of the knees. So, get yourself into the right Body Mass Index.
Exercise: Lack of physical exercise is the reason for a range of lifestyle diseases, including Cancer, in both overweight as well as thin people.
Vaccination & Screening: Vaccinate yourself against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). At the same time, get yourself regularly screened for Cancer, to enable timely detection and treatment.
• Thickening or lump in breast or elsewhere
• Obvious change in wart or mole
• A sore that does not heal
• Sudden and unexplained weight loss or fever
• Change in bowel or bladder habits
• Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
• Nagging cough or hoarseness of voice
• Unusual bleeding or discharge
• Unexplained anemia