This year we celebrate our 75th year of independence. When we pause for a moment and look over our shoulders, we can be proud of what we have achieved as a collective society in these three quarters of a century, especially in healthcare.
Cancer care has grown leaps and bounds in this time and has moved from being nearly non-existent in 1940s to being at par with the world’s best in the current era. Gone are the days when the well-heeled would need to travel to the western countries to get cancer treatment. Today, latest drugs are made available in India almost as soon as they are approved in the US or Europe. In fact, when it comes to surgery for cancer, India has become the leading destination for international patients to come and get their surgery done as we are able to deliver surgical outcomes similar to world standards at a fraction of western costs.
Inspite of all this progress, even now the word cancer carries a social stigma with it. We are unable to break the shackles around it. We need to free ourselves to conquer cancer.
Freedom from Ignorance
Cancer feeds on ignorance and grows on misinformation. People still don’t want to talk about it and steer away from any discussion about cancer. This leads to people trying to avoid discussing their complaints resulting in late diagnosis. This is more commonly seen with women as they tend to hide their problems related to lumps of breast or issuesrelated to menstrual bleeding. This leads to losing the opportunity to diagnose and detect breast or gynaecological cancers at an early stage, which are incidentally the most common cancers among women in India.
We need to create a guilt free environment where problems can be shared easily. We need to educate the masses how cancer can present and how much difference it makes in detecting disease early. We need to explain that choosing to ignore your complaints or closing theeyes to the obvious is not going to solve the problem.
Freedom of Fear of Biopsy
Diagnosis of cancer is made by a taking a piece of tissue from the suspected area which in scientific terms is known as biopsy. Public, in large, have this fear that by getting a biopsy done will lead to faster spread of tumour. To avoid a biopsy, they keep roaming around changing doctors and taking some or other unindicated medicine. This again delays the diagnosis and eventually treatment of cancer.
Biopsy is the only way by which a cancer physician can confirm that this is a cancer or not. Many a time biopsy is also required to understand what type of cancer is it so that we can decide the best way of treatment. This also allows targeted treatment so that side effects can be minimised. Biopsies are generally safe and may carry a minimal amount of risk of bleeding. Your cancer physician is the best guide about it.
Freedom from fear of Cancer Surgery
Most of patients who come to us for treatment usually want to avoid surgery. All of them are looking for a painless, risk free, cheap alternative which can remove cancer from its roots. However, as the saying goes, if there is no pain there is no gain.
Surgery is the only treatment which can ensure that your disease is completely removed out of your body.In fact, surgery is offered only if the surgeon feels that they will be able to remove the whole disease from the body. Nowadays, minimal access surgery in form of laparoscopic and robotic surgery is also available to reduce the hospital stay, reduce pain and make surgery more precise. Better reconstruction like microvascular anastomosis and 3D printed implants allow better cosmesis and functionality and make surgery more acceptable.
Freedom from fear of stage of cancer
Every patient and their family that comes to me always ask about the stage of cancer. All of us have learnt from movies that stage 4 is the last stage of cancer and that there is no treatment for this.
It is agreed that there are four stages of cancer but I usually don’t call stage 4 as the last stage. There is very good treatment available even for stage 4 cancers. Infact, stage 4 patients continue to live for long but on some or other form of medication.
We may have achieved freedom but we need to free our minds also from cancer. Keep yourselves informed and pay attention to your body. Do not ignore any early signs of cancer. Right treatment at the right time by the right doctor can cure cancer.
Dr Shubham Garg
Fortis Hospital, Noida