Cancer, the world's second most dangerous disease, has been a very prominent factor in global deaths. In recent decades of developments, Cancer has been a very dreadful illness with very little awareness about its symptoms and prevention. Around 9.6 million people died around the world in 2018 due to cancer. In India, there are around 63% of non-communicable diseases deaths every year. Cancer tops the chart, affecting 9% of the mortality rate in India. Among the Indian population, men diagnosed with cancer were 679,421 in 2020, and women diagnosed with cancer were 712,758 respectively. Studies show that there will be an estimated 12% increase in cancer diagnosis by 2025. But before looking deep into the statistics, let us understand what is cancer.
Cancer, as WHO defines it, is a large group of diseases that can grow in any organ or tissue in the body with an uncontrollable number of abnormal cells. The cells go beyond their usual boundaries and indulge with adjoining tissues causing metastasis which eventually leads to death. Cancer can be caused by various reasons, genetics is the first, and external factors in our lifestyle are the second. The cancer spreads so fast that it kills other cells and eventually leads to organ failures. Cancer has some common symptoms which may help you recognize the disease before it gets on to the next stage.
- Feeling exhausted
- Lump or thickening uncertain parts of your body
- Unintentional weight changes (loss or gain)
- Skin pigmentation and clotting include yellowing, darkening, sores in your skin, or changes in existing moles
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Trouble in breathing and constant cough
- Difficulty in swallowing or Hoarseness
- Indigestion and Discomfort post-eating.
- Unexplained joint pains, fevers, and night sweats
- Unexpected bleeding
Consulting a doctor is very important if any of the above symptoms are persistent in your body.
Cancer can be very uncertain and can happen to anyone. There is no specific evidence of who is strictly prone to cancer but studies suggest that gene mutation is the biggest reason to get the symptoms of the disease. Gene mutations allow the cell to divide at a rapid speed. This gene mutation can be caused inherently or can be caused after you are born due to many external factors such as smoking, radiation, viruses, cancer-causing chemicals, obesity, hormones, inflammation, and lack of exercise. Known risk factors that can make the body cells prone to building cancer can be-
- Age- Cancer can take many years to develop so it usually happens after the age of 65. Although it is not an age exclusive disease so it can happen at any age.
- Habits- Your daily habits play a major role in making your body cancer-prone. Smoking and drinking beyond limits are the first habits.
- Family History- It is possible that you can get mutated genes that make you prone to cancer but it is not always that a person with family cancer inheritance gets diagnosed with it.
- Health conditions- Some chronic illnesses such as ulceration colitis can be one reason that your gene gets mutated.
- Your environment- Even though you might not smoke, passive smoking can also contribute to making cancerous mutations.
Cancer is a large group of different types of cancerous diseases. They are:
- Breast Cancer- In India, at least 14% of women suffer from breast cancer. Symptoms are lumps and uneven changes in size and color of the nipple and breast.
- Prostate Cancer- In India, prostate cancer is the second largest cancer among men. Symptoms are uneven functionality like erectile dysfunction, excessive urination, etc.
- Skin Cancer- Skin cancer contributes 1-2% to the mortality rate in India. It is increasing drastically. Symptoms are red, brown, or translucent bumps in the skin.
- Lung Cancer- Lung cancer contributes around 8% of the cancer perimeter in India. It is majorly caused by Tobacco and pan. Symptoms are coughing, lack of appetite, hoarseness, and more.
- Leukemia- Contributes 9.5% in men and 5.5% in women in India. Symptoms are pale skin tone, fever, bone or joint pain, etc.
- Lymphoma- Though it contributes very little in India, lymphoma is also increasing its way up in cancer diseases. The symptoms for lymph nodes in your neck, itchiness on the skin, fatigue, etc.
- Colo-rectal Cancer- It is the seventh-largest cause of Cancer in India. Symptoms are constipation, diarrhea, changes in stool color and more.
- Stomach Cancer- Stomach cancer in over 9% of patients. Symptoms include feeling bloated after eating, fatigue, persistent stomach aches, etc.
- Liver Cancer- Liver cancer contributes less but it is very important to treat as it is the most fast-growing cancer. Symptoms are losing weight and appetite, upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, etc.
- Thyroid Cancer- Thyroid is a fast increasing cancer among women. Its symptoms are neck or facial pain, difficulty in swallowing, cough unrelated to cold, etc.
Even though there are many increased campaigns running for cancer awareness, some myths and perceptions are still prevalent in India. Cancer patients very easily believe that cancer is a death sentence before even being treated. Cancer is a disease that can be treated in early diagnosis very efficiently. Another myth is that cancer is contagious. Cancer is a non-communicable disease. Another myth is about the outlook towards the disease into curing it. There is no scientific evidence to date that suggests that change in behavior can help recover a patient. Another very strong myth in India is that herbal treatments can cure cancer, it does not. Scientific studies suggest that a few herbs may help them recover but not entirely.
What can be the prevention strategies?
WHO suggests that 30%-50% of cancer deaths can be avoided with proper preventive measures. As mentioned above, lifestyle and habits play a very major role in causing cancerous diseases, following prevention can make a lot of difference:
- Avoiding tobacco and smoking
- Maintaining a normal BMI.
- Eating a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables.
- Keep your body active by exercising on a daily basis.
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
- Practicing safe sex.
- Getting proper vaccinations and many more.
There are many developments being made in the treatments all around the world and it has been proven very effective. There are three major treatments; Chemotherapy, Surgery and Radiotherapy. But for them to be 100% effective, early detection is very important which is why Cancer Awareness Day is so special. Making our loved ones and community aware, we can decrease the mortality rate caused by cancer and stop the future deaths caused due to it.
Let us unite and fight against it.