Incidence of Cancer is alarmingly increasing across the globe, more so in developing countries like India. Ten lakh new Cancer cases are diagnosed every year in India alone. Prevention is better than Cure. Eighty-five percent of Cancers are potentially preventable!
To prevent cancer, we need to know the causes of cancer. It is surprising to know that eighty-five percent of the cancers are caused by our life styles! i.e., Diet and Physical activity – 35% ; Tobacco use 30%; Environmental and occupational factors 10%; sexual factors 7% and alcohol abuse 3%.
If we can modify our Life styles we can potentially prevent 85% of the Cancers! Diet: low calorie, low fat, high fibre (veg), plenty of fruits, daily physical exercise, no tobacco in any form, moderate alcohol, the safe sexual practice would protect you from developing several cancers.
Vaccination too can prevent cancer! HPV vaccination can prevent almost 90% of Cervical Cancer and HbsAg Vaccination can prevent Virus induced Liver Cancer.
Screening – Diagnosing Cancer early when you do not have any symptoms. It is like diagnosing hidden cancer in pre-cancerous stage or early stage.
Screening at regular intervals would help to detect cancer in the early stage. Majority of the cancers can be diagnosed on routine simple screening methods. In people who have a history in their family, it is more important to undergo screening at regular intervals. Eg: Ca. Breast, Ca. Colon, Ca. Kidney, Leukemia, Retinoblastoma etc.
In Children, routine screening is not recommended. However, the Paediatrician is expected to carefully examine the Child when they come for any reason like Vaccination, fever etc. He should look for early signs and symptoms of childhood cancers like Leukemia, Retinoblastoma (Eye tumors), Wilm’s Tumor (Kidney tumor), Neuro blastoma, Bone Sarcomas etc.
In adults screening is recommended as it help to detect precanceous lesions and early cancers and significantly reduces cancer related deaths. For example, introduction of Pap smear Screening in general population would reduce the Cervical Cancer rates by 60-90% within 3 yrs of implementation.
Screening Guidelines in Adults
Head & Neck Cancers – (Male & Female) – Clinical examination annually after 30 yrs. Earlier in Pan chewer and smoker (20 yrs).
Cancer Cervix (Female) – PAP Smear 3 yrs after the onset of sexual life and every 3 yrs. More frequently if any abnormal findings.
Breast Self Examination (Female) – Every month from the age of 20 yrs ; Physical Exam every 3 yrs from 20 yrs age and every year after 40 yrs.
Mammogram (Female) – Base line at 35 yrs; every 2 yrs after 40 yrs ; every year after 50 yrs.
Sigmoidoscopy (Male & Female) – Every year after the age of 50 yrs.
Digital Rectal Exam (Male & Female) – Every year after the age of 50 yrs.
Stool for Occult Blood – Every year after the age of 50 yrs.
Health Counselling & Check up – Over 20 yrs every 3 yrs; Over 40 yrs every year.
However, you need to see the doctor if you notice the following. You should also understand that these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have cancer.
Warning Signs & Symptoms in Children
Repeated attacks of fever; evening rise of temperature; tiredness; prolonged bleeding from gums or after injury; joint swelling; protrusion of abdomen etc.
Warning Signs & Symptoms in Adults
Sourness or Ulcers in the mouth that does not heal; difficulty in swallowing; hoarseness of voice; change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhoea); blood in the urine or stools; Bleeding from Vagina; thickening or lump in the breast or else where; change in wart or mole; Nagging Cough for more than 2 weeks.
Finally, if one is diagnosed with Cancer. Do not worry! Cancer is very much Curable! Timely intervention immensely helps in treating and curing Cancer. Recent Innovations in the treatment of Cancer like – Image Guided Radiotherapy, Proton therapy, Targeted therapy, Immunotherapy, minimal Invasive Robotic surgeries have simplified the treatment of Cancer with minimal side effects and high cure rates.