You CAN get cancer off your system
The incidence of cancer is on the rise. The dread and despair this disease evokes, along with other factors, create a resistance to early detection. The theme for this year's World Cancer Awareness Day, which falls today, is `cancer can be cured'. LEELA MENON looks into the facts behind this claim.
CANCER IS curable is a message that needs to go into society, especially now when the incidence of cancer is on the rise. The dread which possibilities of cancer evokes, the despair which the incidence invokes, combine to create a resistance to early detection, with dangerous symptoms getting either deliberately or ignorantly ignored, with the disease crossing the curable stage into third or last stage.
What is urgently needed is the will and mindset to confront and control situations. Compared to diabetes, cancer is curable, assert doctors, but it is cancer that induces panic, not diabetes.
World Cancer Awareness Day falls on November 7, which is also the birthday of Madam Curie who invented radium, which is affecting cures in cancer victims.
This year, this day is being celebrated as the Day of the Cancer-Cured by the Regional Cancer Centre, in an effort to spread the message that cancer is curable.
According to available statistics there are at least one to 1.2 lakhs cancer incidence in Kerala alone at a particular time. It could be eight lakhs to one million in India. The Regional Cancer Centre alone registers at least 50,000 new cases every year. In Ernakulam district there are 10,000 cases at any point of time and 3,000 new cases annually. Kerala registers between 10,000 to 12,000 deaths a year. The most common cancer in the urban male is mouth cancer, manifesting in tobacco users. Tobacco does not mean smoking alone, it also includes chewing of tobacco and one-third of cancer is currently attributed to tobacco use. "We are buying death," remarks noted Oncologist Dr. Mohan Nair, adding, "mouth cancer is curable if they come to us in the early stages but such cases reach us in advanced stages."
That smoking can also cause cardio-vascular problems is either ignored or defied.
What are the symptoms, which a person should guard against? "Obesity is one. There is a strong tie between cancer and overweight," says Dr. Nair. Lifestyle has a major role to play in the incidence of cancer, like a high average diet and the absence of exercise. The alternative, of course, is a less energy-fat diet. Breast cancer, colon cancer, gastro-intestinal, prostrates, endometrial... all these are related to lifestyle. In fact, 40 to 50 per cent of cancer incidence is due to change in our lifestyle, while around five per cent are said to be related to occupational hazards, according to doctors.
That psychology has a major role to play in curing cancer is now well recognised. Our mindset affects the immune system of the body. Positive signals help the immune system to combat the disease and our thinking moulds the immune system. Positive attitude has good impact on the neuro transmitters and it can scare away the disease.
Oncologists stress the need for early detection, because two-third of cancer cases get cured if detected sufficiently early. Around 35 per cent of cases arrive in hospitals in advanced stages and it can only be treated and controlled, not permanently cured. Total cure is possible only if detection is sufficiently early.
There is escapism in the people. If there is a lump in the body the person ignores it as he or she is scared of the possibility of cancer if he goes to a doctor. Ignorance is often bliss in the beginning and death in the end. This thinking mode is prevalent even among the educated. Cancer still courts social stigma and people tend to magnify the possible impact, both social and psychological, on the family. Forgetting that leaving it to fate can become fatal. And people prefer to be in denial.
If detected early, the rate of cure in carcinoma of the uterus, lymphoma, leukaemia in children etc. is 40 to 50 per cent. And most urban hospitals now have adequate detection facilities. Examination of stools, gyenic examination, endoscopy, mammographic evaluation of the breast etc. aid early detection, oncologists stress.
Most obvious and ignored symptoms are lumps, which are fast-growing or not responding to treatment, ulcer on skin or mucus membrane, or the internal skin of genitalia or oral cavity, dry cough which change its characteristic from a smokers cough, sputum or stools streaked with blood etc.
Even a change in the appearance of moles, like itching or colour change or bleeding is a possible symptom, say doctors.
Difficulty in swallowing solid or liquid, vomiting, loss of weight, change in bowel habits, like constipation alternating with diarrhoea, change in bladder habits like increased frequency, intermittent fever etc also need a walk to the doctor's consulting room.
Other possible signals include unexplained loss of weight, and vaginal or coital bleeding which women are shy to talk about but which could be a manifestation of cervical cancer. "It is always better to eliminate possibilities. And doctors should also be aware of this possibility in a patient instead of shrugging it off as just hypochondria," warn oncologists.
The Regional Cancer Centre is inviting cured cancer patients to the RCC on November 7, to share their experiences and to impart courage and solace to the afflicted currently under treatment in various hospitals. And to inspire them to fight by gaining confidence from the cured. Testimonies from the cured, can of course, be inspiring for those still under the cloud.
"We expect at least 200 cured patients to come to the RCC on that day. Half of them are children cured of leukaemia. There are women cured of breast, cervical and uterus cancer and men cured of oral cancer. This is a message that needs to spread," said Dr.Krishnan Nair, Director, RCC.
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