Cancer: Pain and Hope

Dr Amitava Acharyya, CNS Correspondent, India
I was at a loss for words, when an educated lady from Pune asked me: “No smoking, no drinking, no pan, no guthka; and yet he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died within 3 months. Please tell me the reasons of lung cancer?” Obviously, this query came from a person, who had lost a near one to  lung cancer.

Scientists are still not able to find linkages of different types of cancers with different causative factors. Science is unable to give an absolute solution of prevention of this disease. Healthcare providers can offer nothing more than sympathy to patients in the advanced stages of cancer. The environment, climate, as well as daily lifestyles are changing rapidly. Lung cancer and oral cancer are more common among Indian males, while   Indian females are mostly afflicted with cervical, breast and colorectal cancer. Many of us know that smokeless and smoking tobacco is the causative factor for lung and oral cancer. But it is now proven that tobacco  consumption can also lead to cancer of the throat, pancreas, urinary bladder, kidney and cervical cancer. 85% of lung cancer and 40% all type of cancers can be prevented just by cessation of tobacco smoking. 

Alcohol intake is the cause of oral, throat and also liver cancer. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C also are leading causative factors of liver cancer. Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops, are thought to have linkages with liver cancer. In India, the cancer statistics of 2014 reveals that Uttar Pradesh (an economically backward state) has the largest number of cancer patients in India. The government of India had approved in 2013-14 a scheme for enhancing the tertiary care cancer facilities in the country. Under a government scheme, launched in 2013-2014, for enhancing the tertiary care cancer facilities in the country the government will assist 20 state cancer institutes and 50 tertiary care cancer centres in different parts of the country.

A recent report published by the state government of India’s northern state of Punjab, says that Punjab, which is the country’s breadbasket, also faces a huge burden of cancer, perhaps due to contaminated water from rapid industrialization and excessive use of chemical fertilizers for high-yielding crops. There are 90 cancer patients per 100,000 people compared to the national average of 80. Dr Patricia Rivera, from the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) in a webinar organized by CNS had said that lung cancer is responsible for 1 among 5 deaths of cancer patients in the world.

In the same webinar, Dr Tara Singh Bam, Regional Advisor (tobacco control), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), emphasized to initiate tobacco consumption prevention strategies, especially  for adolescent groups, with view to control cancer and other tobacco related diseases. He asked to raise political willingness to help deal with this problem. “We can. I can.” is the new theme of World Cancer Day for 2016-18. It is a call to individuals, families and communities to take action to reduce the burden of cancer. All of us need to be aware of the risk and causative factors and preventive measures for control of cancer, as well as how to access proper treatment. Proper awareness and correct information can go a long way in reducing the burden of cancer. Each one of us will have to fight this battle in our own way.

Dr Amitava Acharyya, Citizen News Service - CNS
March 3, 2016