Feb. 4th – WORLD CANCER DAY 2021
Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. Lakhs of people die, and lakhs of people get affected by cancer every year. However, our lack of support in creating awareness about cancer should not become the cause for a person among us to become a victim of this dreaded disease.
For the last 20 years, World Cancer Day is observed across the globe on February 4, to make our community aware of cancer and ways to fight it. This initiative that was taken by Union of International Cancer Control has become a global phenomenon.
In Coimbatore, we have several hospitals, NGOs, educational institutions and even volunteers & individuals coming forward to address people about cancer and create awareness on this day.
The Covai Mail spoke with Dr.Madhulika Vijayakumar, Radiation Oncologist and Dr.Pandian Baskar Rao, Medical Oncologist from PSG Hospitals and raised questions related to cancer and the common folk.
The keyword to success is Prevention and Early Detection
– Dr.Madhulika Vijayakumar.
Can cancer occur even in babies?
Cancer can come at any age. From babies at 3-6 months to elderly people at 90 years of age, all have risks of getting cancer. On the other hand, this disease is more prominent among people of 40-50 years of age. But be assured, as we age, our cancer risk also grows.
What are the causes of cancer?
There are number of different things that cause cancer. We sort them into two major categories – Modifiable Factors & Non-Modifiable Factors.
As the name suggests, the Modifiable factors are manageable. It includes lifestyle habits, behavioral factors, consuming nutritious foods and following a healthy diet. It is safe to not give in to alcohol and tobacco.
Also, people should not develop the habit of getting addicted to comfort food and fast food. These will lead to obesity; and this exceeds to even create risks of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and much more.
Employees who are exposed to pollutants in their work, especially carcinogens like asbestos, radon, arsenic, chromium, silica, beryllium, nickel, cadmium and diesel exhaust should be wary of them. Decreasing our exposure to pollutions like these, and also to environmental pollution will greatly lower our cancer risks.
Factors that are not in our control
Non-modifiable factors include hereditary genes, gender and age. We don’t just inherit wealth from our parents and ancestors, we receive their genes too. If any of them had cancer and battled it, there are chances for their sons and daughters to inherit it.
Being a female is a risk factor for developing breast cancer and cervical cancer. Being a male is a risk factor for developing prostate cancer.
And finally, our age. As years go by, we lose our strength and immunity, thus making us become more vulnerable to infections and risks.
What are the warning signs of cancer?
If there is any disturbance in your body’s functions for more than 3 weeks, you must seek medical help. If there is a change in bowel movement, continuous vomiting, diarrhea, constipation in spite of medication; heavy cough with voice change; sudden change in size and color of mole; unexplained weight loss; repeated fever; wound taking extra time to heal and abnormal menstrual bleeding, then it is high time that you sought medical help.
Does cancer occur more in women than men?
Women are different from men. The cancers that occur in them are of different type. The risk of a woman getting affected by breast cancer or cervical cancer is high, and hence it is thought that women get more cancer risks than men but on the other hand, men outnumber women in our population.
Males with tobacco related habit have higher chances of getting oral cavity cancer, esophageal cancer, lung cancer etc.
Message to public:
Prevention and Early detection are the keywords to success. To optimally prevent an encounter with cancer, we should be wary of the modifiable risk factors and act accordingly. For early detection, people should come forward for screening, especially women.
Some may think, ”I don’t have any symptoms or health issue, why should I, then go for screening!” There is a misunderstanding here. Screening is for regular, healthy people who don’t have any symptoms. Diagnosis is what that is done for patients.
Any woman in their 40s, especially the elderly should undergo a mammogram test. They should undergo clinical breast examination at least once in a year. Married women should also under go pap smear test to ascertain their risk of cervical cancer.
At PSG Hospitals, we offer these tests free of cost every Thursday. We appeal to every women to make use of this opportunity. The theme of this year’s World Cancer Day is ’I Am and I Will’. Our every action in fighting cancer counts. You may be a person who is safe from cancer; you can still educate someone about cancer, create awareness about it to at least one person you know. Only when the learned share their knowledge with the less fortunate, a society that is free of cancer burden can rise.
Best treatments for cancer are available right here!
– Dr. Pandian Baskar Rao
Does occurrence of cancer assure death?
This is a myth. This was the case in 1960s when there was no greater scientific research and advancements. Today the field of medicine has developed to higher levels (like incorporating Artificial Intelligence in treatment modalities) so cancer does not mean death!
Actually, under certain conditions, cancers are curable. For this, the patient needs to approach a doctor without ignoring any abnormal symptoms they find in their body. If they do that and arrive at early stages of cancer, then cancer is easily manageable.
Stage – I & II of cancers are 90-100% curable. Stage – III & IV are not completely curable but manageable. These patients’ quality of life can be improved.
The Treatments available for cancer
Radiotherapy and Medical Oncology have developed phenomenally. Today we have targeted radio therapy, where only the cancerous cells are targeted and destroyed, thereby limiting the side-effects.
This targeted way of treatment is also available in medical oncology. The medicines for cancer will only seek the cancerous cells and destroy them, and not affect any normal cells in the body. This maximizes the benefits for patients and minimizes the side-effects.
But people should know that when they arrive with early stages of cancer, surgery options are also available. If they delay, then the possibility of surgery gets decreased and they will have to go for radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Is quality of life possible for common people?
We have heard of popular actors, celebrities and sports stars surviving cancer and leading a happy and quality life. That has become possible for them because they take care of their health and body very much.
They immediately approach a specialist when they feel their health integrity is compromised.
The common people delay in deciding to consult a doctor when they find any abnormalities in their body due to family burden, work pressure, financial constraints etc. Because of their hesitation, ignorance and delayed consultation, they arrive with serious stages of cancer. This makes their survival very difficult and the treatment to be less beneficial for them.
If any abnormality in a person’s body remains for more than 3 weeks, he/she must immediately consult a reputed hospital or a doctor. Doing this will certainly help in early detection. This will lead to better treatment results and quality of life.
For the people coming from poorer sections of society, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme is a boon. Empanelled Hospitals offer the same quality cancer treatment through this scheme to patients.
Should we have to visit Tier 1 cities for best treatment?
Earlier, the medical infrastructure to treat cancer in Coimbatore was low. People used to think that they should go to Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai or New York and London for the treatment.
Coimbatore has developed to a much greater level today. The best treatments for cancer are available in this city itself. A poor family need not go to any other district or State and wait for treatment. Here at PSG Hospitals, we have all the best treatments for cancer. We are a Trust-run hospital, and we extend greater support to the poor in many ways.
Message to Public:
As an oncologist, I would urge all to consume healthy food, involve in physical activity daily, find positive ways to lower their stress and take adequate rest so that all can be hale and hearty.