Silent killer claims lives as India waits and watches
To increase awareness, the theme for “World Cancer Day” celebrated on February 04, 2014 this year is “Reduce stigma and dispel myths about cancer”.
More than 11 lakh people are diagnosed with cancer in India every year. About 6 lakh patients die due to the disease annually which is the second biggest cause of death in the country after heart disease. Hepatic cancer thus becomes a white elephant that everyone knows about, but nobody speaks of.
Liver cancer is emerging as one of the fastest spreading cancers in India. India sees about 3-5 cases of liver Cancer per 1,00,000 people which translates to 30,000 – 50,000 new cases per year. It is however, likely to be grossly under-reported as India does not have any population based data due to the absence of systematic cancer registry in the country. Considering the incidence of Hepatitis B here, the number of liver cancer patients definitely does not reflecting the real picture.
Besides the main culprits Hepatitis B or C, alcohol is considered a major contributor to primary liver cancer. Diabetes too is a major risk factor with diabetics being at least two and a half times more vulnerable to developing chronic liver disease (CLD) that can progress to Liver Cancer. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is also an emerging concern.
Most patients with liver cancer present when it is too late to offer any curative treatment. However when diagnosed early, there are treatment options available. Early detection always helps in better treatment outcome. High-risk category people should get screened regularly, and see a liver specialist if cancer is diagnosed. Patients with cirrhosis of liver are at high risk and should also be regularly screened for cancer.
Since the theme for this year’s World Liver Day is “Debunking the Myths”, says Dr. Hemant Vadeyar, HPB & Liver Transplant Surgeon, Global Hospitals Mumbai:
Myth 1: Liver cancer is the end of the world
Reality: Liver cancer mostly develops in patients with cirrhosis of liver and occasionally in patients without underlying cirrhosis. Occasionally, patients may present with jaundice, but many patients are diagnosed incidentally when they have an ultrasound scan for other symptoms.
Myth 2: There is no available treatment for Liver Cancer
Reality: Surgical procedures remain the option that offers the foremost success rates against such pathologies for patients that survive in the long run. In patients who are not suitable for surgical treatment, other options such as transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE), radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or chemotherapy are available. However, all these treatments are palliative in nature.
Myth 3: Liver surgery is not possible
Reality: Many patients and even many doctors are also not aware that the most effective treatment for liver cancer is surgery. Surgery can be either in the form of a liver resection or a liver transplant. These procedures are a major undertaking and require special expertise. Lack of awareness about the benefits of these procedures amongst the general population.