Diagnosing cancer is hard and dreadful. It inculcates more fear than death. A recent study conducted among middle-aged adults in 21 countries from 5 continents unveiled that death from cancer is now more common than those from cardiovascular disease. According to World Health Organisation(WHO), cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018 and the burden is estimated to have risen to 18.1 million new cases. In 2030 deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue to rise to over 13.1 million.
India has around 2.25 million cases with over 1 lakh new cases being registered every year. In 2018, the disease led to nearly 7 lakh deaths. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) estimates that the country is likely to register over 17 lakh new cases and report over 8 lakh deaths by 2020.
Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. It can affect almost any part of the body. This abnormal growth is harmful because it doesn’t just replace healthy cells in organs, but also causes changes in our body’s biochemistry that can lead to weight loss and a compromised immune system, thereby leading to death.
There are over 200 different types of cancers, some of them are lung and breast cancer, colorectal (the large intestine) cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer. The major factors that cause cancer are inherited the predisposition(genetics), environmental or toxic exposure and random chance. Usually, cancer is a lifestyle disease.
Among the top 5 cancers in India like cancers of lungs, oral cavity, uterine cervix and large intestine have strong lifestyle risks. People who use tobacco products, smoke cigarettes, pipe, hookah or chew gutka etc. have much higher chances of getting lung or oral cavity cancers. Practising unsafe sex has a strong association with cancer of the uterine cervix.
Cancer that is diagnosed at an early stage increases the chances of successful treatment. One should give priority to health. If you feel or spot something unusual in the body, consult the doctor. In most cases, it won’t be cancer, but if it is, finding it early can make a real difference.
Early diagnosis and screening are two major factors of early detection of cancer. Recognising possible warning signs of cancer and taking prompt action leads to early diagnosis. For instance, some early signs of cancer include lumps, sores that fail to heal, abnormal bleeding, persistent indigestion and chronic hoarseness are particularly related to cancers of the skin, mouth, breast, cervix, colon & rectum and larynx.
Screening refers to the use of simple tests across a healthy population in order to identify individuals who have the disease but do not yet have symptoms. Examples include breast cancer screening using mammography and cervical cancer screening using cytology screening methods, including pap smears.
A significant proportion of cancers can be cured, by surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, especially if they are detected early. Many cancers are preventable by controlling the modifiable risk factors such as tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
A diet high in unprocessed cereals, fruits and vegetables and less animal protein have shown reduced rates in many cancers, especially cancer of the large intestine. Similarly, exercising regularly is linked with significantly lower risk (by 12-24 per cent) of many cancers, including cancers of the large intestine, breast and uterus.
Presently in India, Cancer is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. When a person is diagnosed with cancer everything in his/her life turned upside down. At that time the person undergoes two levels of feelings. Emotionally they suddenly forced to come to terms with mortality and Practically they have to make decisions about treatment options, food, medicines, how to deal with family members and other people. Dealing with these situations may not be easy for a person who has diagnosing and undergoing treatment with cancer.
What can you do
1. Accept your feelings & talk honestly about how you feel with someone close to you(family or friends)
2. Discuss and plan with family members about the cost of treatment.
3. Focus on each day and expect both good & bad days.
4. Keep a gratitude journal or a diary and write at the end of each day about things that can be grateful even for small things like being able to enjoy a tasty dish.
5. Do meditation or prayer, chant mantra
6. Engage with work and leisure activities as much as you can.
7. Accept the changes in your physical appearance and advice from image experts about clothing, makeup, wigs and hairpieces that may help you feel more comfortable and attractive.
8. Read, watch or hear inspirational stories of cancer survivors and do interact with such people.
9. Surround with positive people only as some are not sure what to say when they learn you have cancer.
10. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly and do follow up as per the instructions of a doctor
The emotions and moods of a cancer patient can change from day today. They may feel good one day and horrible in another day. Talk to the doctor if the person is more concerned about sadness or low moods. Some may need extra mental support. The patient and the family members should accept that it is normal and gradually most people are able to adjust to moving forward with their lives. Modern medicine and treatment helps millions of cancer patients not only to live longer but also to make them live better.
Let us give more strength and support to make them feel best and have them the best quality of life.