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‘Healthy Lifestyle, Diet Keys to Prevent Cancer’

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Cancer is one of the fatal diseases engulfing a large number of Indians every year. The disease is more prevalent among women than men. Healthy lifestyle, diet, and proper exercise can minimise the risk of cancer, says Dr Anshuman Kumar, Director, Surgical Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, New Delhi, in an interview with Mukul Kumar Mishra of Elets News Network (ENN).

Q Cancer in India is the second biggest killer after heart disease and responsible for thousands of deaths annually. As an expert, how do you analyse such a state of affairs?

Since many years, cancer has been absorbing millions of Indians every year wherein more than 50 percent cases are diagnosed in women. At such a rate, India will become ‘Global Cancer Capital’ by 2020 if adequate measures are not applied. Breast and cervical cancers are most common among Indian women while oral and prostate cancers are mainly found in Indian men. Tobacco alone is responsible for more than 10 types of cancers along with drugs and alcohol.

Other most alarming factors are poor lifestyle, lack of physical activity, use of synthetic products, and adulterated food consumption.

Q Dharamshila Narayana, north India’s first Cancer Hospital, has been serving patients with state-of-the-art technology. What latest technologies and innovations are being used by the hospital to diagnose and prevent cancer?

Dharamshila Cancer Foundation and Research Centre is first cancer hospital in North India. It has been serving patients for 25 years with an objective to provide affordable cancer care. No technology can prevent cancer except a healthy lifestyle. However, to diagnose cancer, awareness and diagnostic camps are hosted to detect few of the most common types of cancer i.e breast, cervix, mouth and prostate.

Few conventional tests include Tumour marker, Serum PSA for prostate cancer, Sono-Mammography for breast, Pap-smear for cervical and Clinical examination and biopsies for Oral cancers.

Q A section of experts believes that detection of cancer at late stage is a major problem. Tell us about some symptoms which indicate the onset of the disease.

Yes, lack of detection of cancer at an early stage is an issue and it is due to insufficient awareness about cancer in India. However, any unusual symptoms can be a manifestation of early stages of cancer like non- healing ulcers, chronic coughs, lumps or atypical swelling anywhere in the body especially in breasts, abnormal bleeding, unusual bowel symptoms, indigestion, persistent acidity, and mole or pigmentation that itches or bleeds.

Q In advanced cancer stages, chemotherapy is suggested. What tests are being recommended at the initial stage to discover if some abnormal growth is occurring due to cancerous cell?

Chemotherapy is a mode of treatment with the use of drugs. It is recommended depending on the type of cancer, the stage of cancer, the patient’s age, previous cancer treatment history and other health issues such as cardiac, liver or nephrological diseases. More often, it is combined as Neoadjuvant or Adjuvant Therapy i.e. pre and post surgery or radiation therapy, respectively.

Q How do you view the role of regular health checkups, exercise and awareness to keep the fatal disease at bay?

Most people believe that cancer is largely a genetic disease while fact of the matter is only about nine percent of all the cancer patients, inherit mutated cancerous genes. This implies that for the remaining 91 percent, lifestyle choices are majorly responsible.

A healthy, nutritious, balanced, and organic diet, are the most essential factors in cancer prevention along with avoiding packed and processed food. Plant sources and green vegetables have been found with components that protect the body’s cells from mutating whereas heating processed meat products at high temperatures have been found to trigger the formation of carcinogenic compounds known as heterocyclic amines. Chemical pesticides, water and soil pollutants like lead and arsenic, consumption of plastic packed food items, practicing unsafe sex and use of hormonal pills can stimulate growth of cancer cells.

However, modification of daily habits and lifestyle choices such as exercising, staying physically active, and maintaining healthy weight can strengthen body’s immunity against fatal diseases. In addition, avoiding cigarettes and other tobacco products play a very important role in cancer prevention. Moreover, awareness, regular health checkups and regular self-screening can help in early detection and in turn cure of such life threatening diseases at the right stage.

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