Lung cancer and smoking are best friends

John Yengkhom, CNS Correspondent, Nagaland
A cancer is a growth in the body, which becomes large with time due to various reasons. It passes through a variety of stages from which either to recover or to die. Among the many cancers happening around the world is the deadly lung cancer; but the good news is that it can be prevented if we understand about its basic cause. According to the World Cancer Report 2014, many lakhs are affected with lung cancer every year. Out of them only few will survive. In India alone, it is considered as a major cancer type and there are specialized hospitals to treat such patients from all over the country including from neighbouring nations.

Patients spend enormous amounts of money to just recover--starting from the first stage of the disease—from its deadly grip. But only very few of them will survive for even 5 years.

According to experts, one reason for Indians getting such deadly diseases as lung cancer goes to our unhealthy food habits, coupled with lack of exercise and the polluted environment we live in. Then we also have a large population of people taking the deadly tobacco, and statistics proves that tobacco industry is a very lucrative industry in India. The sad part is that till today, the government provides hardly any safeguards to its citizens from the aggressive and fatal tactics of the tobacco/cigarette industry whose products are taking a huge toll of human life.

Coming to tobacco, I want to share about Northeast region of India, which has the highest incidence of cancer in the country. Incidentally, the 8 states of this region are the highest tobacco consuming states too, giving a boost to diseases like lung cancer and TB. In the state of Manipur, lung cancer tops the list in both men and women. As per a report of the Indian Council of Medical Research -Three Year Report of Population Based Cancer Registries 2009 2011’, lung cancer is the leading site among males, in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Tripura, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram. In females it is the leading site in Manipur and Mizoram. Lung cancer contributed to 67.9% and 72.8% of tobacco related cancers in Manipur State and Mizoram State respectively. Also East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya had the highest relative proportion of cancers associated with the use of tobacco for males and females at 69.3% and 43.0% respectively when compared to all other cancer sites.

Sadly enough, latest figures indicate that with 57% of its population being tobacco consumers, my state of Nagaland is the second highest consumer of tobacco products, after Mizoram, in the country. What is more frightening is the high incidence of tobacco use in very young children in this state-- about 28.3% of children in the age group of 5-13 years are smokeless tobacco users while 14.8% of them are into smoking. Also 37% of school students are into smoking while 41% of them are smokeless tobacco users.

I visited a local district hospital, where I found 10 patients of lung cancer. Three of them were women from as young as 18 years to above 50 years of age. The rest were men of different ages—the youngest being 20 years old—with having the left lung or the right lung infected with carcinoma. On enquiry, it seemed that the patients go to the hospital only as the last resort after every thing else fails and so are already in an advanced stage of the disease.

So very often it lack of awareness about cancer in the general population that leads to this grim scenario. It is ignorance about ill effects of tobacco and about the disease itself that lands people in a crisis of health. It is 

Only through the joint efforts of the government, civil society organizations and the communities that we can overpower this dangerous life disease. If we can move together there is every possibility to look forward to a young and healthy tomorrow with a smiling face so that we can live happily in our own homes and families.

John Yengkhom, Citizen News Service - CNS 
20 February 2015