Annually, World Cancer Day is observed on February 4th with an aim to save millions of lives through education, creating awareness towards prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. Over the years we have seen numerous advancements in the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer as well as the factors that contribute to the decline of the disease. But the number of new cases diagnosed each year continues to increase globally, especially in India. Based on the cancer registry data report by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, it is estimated that 800,000 new cancer cases in India every year.
The National Cancer Registry Programme Report 2020(NCPR) released of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Centre for Disease Informatics & Research (NCDIR), Bengaluru, estimates that in 2020 cancer cases in the country will be at 13.9 lakhs and likely to increase to 15.7 lakhs by 2025.
Looking at the current trends, raising awareness towards cancer prevention is paramount. As the theme of World Cancer Day is “Close The Care Gap”, ETHealthworld brings some of the frequently asked questions related to cancer.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases. Its other terms are malignant tumours and neoplasms. The primary cause of death from cancer is metastases. It is a condition in which the cancer cells break from the main tumour and enter the bloodstream. As per the WHO fact sheet, different types of external factors that cause tumour cells are:
-Physical carcinogens like UV and ionizing radiation
-Chemical carcinogens like asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, alcohol, aflatoxin, and arsenic
-Biological carcinogens like infections from certain viruses, bacteria, or parasites.
Which are the risk factors for cancer?
A risk factor is anything that might increase a person’s chance of getting a disease, which may or may not cause the disease but it can make the body less resistant to it. Tobacco, alcohol consumption, family health history, HPV, and obesity are some of the risk factors for cancer. Also, environmental exposures like pesticides, fertilizers, and power lines are particularly observed in childhood cancer.
Which are the most common cancers in India?
Cancer can occur in any living cell in the body. The NCRP reports that cancer of the lungs, mouth, stomach, and oesophagus was the most common among men. Tobacco causes 35 to 50 per cent of all cancers in men and about 17 per cent of cancers in women. Cancer of the breast and cervix uteri were the most common cancers among females. Gynecologic cancers (including breast cancer) accounted for over half (51 per cent) of all cancers. In the case of childhood cancer, leukaemia was the most common diagnosis of cancer found both in 0-14 years and in the 0-19 age group.
How can Cancer be prevented and controlled?
As per WHO, early diagnosis of cancer generally increases the chances for successful treatment by focusing on detecting symptomatic patients as early as possible. Being aware of the symptoms, access to clinical and diagnostics services, and timely referral to treatment can help in better diagnosis. Primary prevention can reduce the risk of cancer incidence. Fifty per cent of cancers in males are tobacco related, prevented by anti-tobacco programs. A proportion of cancers bowel, lung, prostate, and uterine cancer are considered to be related to dietary practices which can be decreased by a healthy diet rich in green and yellow vegetables and fruits, reducing alcohol intake , and maintaining healthy body weight. Screening programmes are also effective for some cancers but not for all. Age and risk factors are important when selecting patients.
What are the treatment modalities for cancer?
Following a cancer diagnosis, a proper selection of treatment regimens can help improve a patient’s chance of survival. Following are the treatment modalities of cancer
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted Therapy
- Palliative Care