Dr. Nilesh Lokeshwar
Medical Oncologist, Global Hospitals, Mumbai
The theme for the World Cancer Day this year is to raise awareness and debunking the 4 myths about cancer:
We dont need to talk about cancer
Cancer… there are no signs and symptoms
There is nothing I can do about cancer
I dont have the right to cancer care
Currently, 7.6 million people die from cancer worldwide every year, out of which, 4 million people die prematurely (aged 30 to 69 years).
Unless urgent action is taken to raise awareness about the disease and to develop practical strategies to address cancer, by 2025, this is projected to increase to an alarming 6 million premature cancer deaths per year. Prevention is the most cost effective long term strategy for the control of cancer. Tobacco use is the most common risk factor for cancer and is linked to 70% of cancer related deaths. Tobacco is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer.
Inspite of its deleterious effects on health tobacco use is widespread in our society especially among the youth. The society and government has to implement initiative to put in place effective means to combat the tobacco epidemic through education, awareness and legislation. There is poor awareness about cancer including risk factors, early detection, diagnosis and treatment.
Cancer still remains a taboo in our society and patients fear stigma and discrimination in society. This prevents them from seeking right help at the right time and at the right place. There is a misconception in our country that cancer is always hereditary and can be contagious. These myths needs to be dispelled by appropriate education and counseling. Lung cancer is the commonest cause of cancer related death in males and breast cancer in females.
Tobacco related cancers which include lung cancer, head and neck cancer and urinary bladder cancer constitute 38% of all cancers in males and 25% of all cancers in females. In males lung cancer has the highest incidence followed by digestive tract cancers and head and neck cancers. In females the commonest cancer is breast cancer followed by cervix and ovary. According to 2011 statistics, breast cancer accounts for 30% of all cancers in women in Mumbai. Based on results from a recent study 1 in 28 women develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
This is higher in urban areas being 1 in 22 in a lifetime compared to rural areas where this risk is relatively much lower being 1 in 60 women developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is curable if detected early, this statement especially applies to cancers that can be detected early by screening methods such as breast cancer and cervical cancer. Early detection leads to diagnosis and appropriate treatment and a higher cure rate. This would be feasible through educating public and family physicians regarding signs and symptoms which can be due to cancer and when to seek opinion of cancer specialists. Its through awareness about the disease that we will be able to defeat it.