New Delhi: If the scenario of Arun Jately, the Union Finance Minister of India convalescing in US, Manohar Pariker, ‘tube in the nose’ flaunting Chief Minister of Goa and many other public figures in the cancer crosshairs sends a shiver down the spine, the swelling number of cancer survivors on the other hand inspires hope that the dreaded disease can be defeated given the fighting spirit of a warrior.
World Cancer Day (February4) marks a time when the world alternates between fear and hope, what with incidences of cancer spiking at a frightening pace and a team of scientists at a biotech company in Israel claiming will have a cure for all cancer in just a year’s time. In the mean time, cancer has reached the neighbourhood of every household. Today, every single individual is a potential cancer fighter; everyone nearly is exposed to the risk of cancer. Cancer experts fear time is not afar when every household will have at least one cancer patient.
Talking to Medicare News, Dr G. K. Rath, Chief of Rotary Cancer Centre at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said, ‘Unlike diabetes and high blood pressure, cancer is both preventable and curable. I know hundreds of cancer survivors. 60 percent cancer can be prevented simply by shunning tobacco use and vaccination against viral infections like HPV and HepB that can cause cancer. Out of the total incidence in India, 40% cancer is thanks to tobacco use. In Punjab, no one is in the tobacco habit, so there is no oral cancer found there.’
Dr Rath further said, ‘Spike in cancer cases should be a matter of great concern. About 45 years ago was a time when cancer was not even among top ten killer diseases but now it is second most common cause of death after cardiac ailments.’
Dr. Kanika Sharma, senior consultant, radiation oncology at Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, says, ‘India is the second largest country by population and there are fair chances of underreporting and deficiencies in screening. Also, majority of Indian population live in the rural area where healthcare facilities are not as developed as urban areas. Insufficient medical facilities can be a reason for under-reporting. A report also pointed out that actual cancer incidence can be between 150 and 200 per 1 lac population, which still is quite low in comparison to the West.’
Dr Meenu Walia, Director, Medical Oncology and Haematology, Max Super speciality Hospital Patparganj, said, ‘ The situation is really very alarming. Given the frightening pace with which cancer cases are surfacing, likelihood of every household in India having cancer patient is looming large. Only way to fight this scourge is be aware of the disease. Today, a number of effective treatment sis available which result in complete cure. A large number of cancer survivors bears witness to the fact that cancer can effectively be defeated.’
Dr Dinesh Singh, Director, Radiation Oncology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vaishali, said, ‘cancer is becoming a common occurrence. In 1989, when I became a qualified cancer specialist, there were only 3 government hospitals in Delhi-NCR where cancer would be treated. The incidences were few and far between. Today, there are 33 private hospitals in Delhi-NCR in addition to government hospitals where cancer patients are being treated and there is dearth of patients; they are always full. You heard about cancer remotely related to you. Today caner is in own house, among relatives or friends. But the silver lining is that latest treatment options are very effective and numbers of survivors are getting larger and larger.’
Dr Dinesh Singh further said, ‘If tobacco and alcohol abuse could be stemmed, 50% cancer can be prevented. Bhutan is the single country in the world which is completely tobacco free. The outcome speaks a volume. There are no oral cancer cases out there.’
Dr Gaurav Thukral, COO & Critical Care Specialist, HealthCare atHOME says, “Cancer management has improved drastically in past few years. Latest technologies have made it possible to screen breast and cervical cancers at home. Also, most part of the treatment, which includes chemotherapy, post-surgical care, hydration therapy, and paliative care can also be availed at home. Cancer care at home has directly benefited the patients from tier-2 and tier-3 cities who were completely dependent on the tier-1 hospitals for care. Advanced technology, improved awareness, healthcare facilities at home have played aleading role in bringing down the mortality especially in breast and cervical cancer patients.’
Men are 25% more commonly affected by cancer throughout the world. However, India shows completely opposite trends, where women are more commonly affected. No clear explanation has been presented by anyone for these opposite trends. The picture becomes more confusing with the fact that despite lower incidence men has a higher death rate due to cancer. In India, Lip and oral cavity cancers top the chart for men whereas breast and cervical cancers top the chart for women.