Quit tobacco, control cancer

Chhatra Karki, CNS Correspondent, Nepal
It has been seen that most of the cancer patients in Nepal visit the hospital only when complexities increase and the disease enters into its final stage. According to the Department of Health of Nepal, about 80% of cancer patients consult a doctor for treatment when the disease is in an advanced stage. Getting regular health checkups and consulting the physician early on, is not usual for the Nepalese. This ensuing delay in diagnosis and treatment results in high treatment costs and low chances of recovery.

Even though cancer is a non-communicable complex disease, physicians say that chance of survival is high if it is diagnosed and treated in its early stages. Dr CB  Pun,  Executive Director of  Bharatpur Cancer  Hospital  says, "Most of the people do not go for annual whole body checkup. The general trend of looking for treatment only when the disease has spread its tentacles has made the problem ghastly." Changing  lifestyles  and various other factors, including tobacco use, are adding new patients of cancer every year. According to Dr. Pun, every year  30,000 new patients of cancer are added all over the country. Among them, only about 10,000 visit a hospital for treatment. According to Bharatpur Cancer Hospital, most of the cancer patients in Nepal suffer from cancer of lungs, breast, cervix and abdomen. Men mostly suffer from lung cancer, whereas women  mostly suffer from cancer of the cervix. 45% men and 55% women in Nepal suffer from some type of cancer. Illiteracy, lack of personal hygiene and no regular checkups, make the situation more complex. “Smoking, alcohol consumption, pesticides, obesity, unhealthy lifestyle and food habits etc. help to increase the number of cancer patients in Nepal," adds Dr. Pun.

"Since people in rural parts of Nepal do not have access to health services, they cannot get regular health check ups done on time," says Pun. Even in urban areas with sophisticated health systems and services, cancer patients come for treatment during final stages and thus successful treatment is very difficult to come by. According to World Health Organization (WHO), 8.8 million people worldwide died due to cancer in 2015. Out of them, 70% were from low and middle income countries. These countries do not have enough financial resources and health workers for effective treatment of cancer. Only 30% of  low and middle income countries have access to quality diagnosis and treatment of cancer. One out of 6 deaths in the world is due to cancer. 14 million new cancer patients are added annually worldwide and this figure is estimated to reach 21 million by 2030. Caution, early diagnosis/testing, and proper treatment  are necessary to control cancer. On the occasion of this year’s  World Cancer Day, WHO released a new directive, focusing on how lives of cancer patients can be saved. It emphasizes on diagnosis and treatment of the disease in its early stages. If nations implement these new directives, not only will treatment costs be cut down but mortality rates will also decline drastically.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 3 aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages includes the specific target to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) through prevention and treatment, by 2030. One of the key means of implementing this is by strengthening the implementation of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Countries, including Nepal, have expressed commitment towards achieving the SDGs . Experts claim that the controlling  tobacco  consumption can help to reduce cancer fatality. Tobacco use is a major, yet avoidable, risk for cancer and many other diseases globally. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah/sheesha, bidis as well as all forms of smokeless/chewing tobacco cause cancers. In fact 20% of all cancer related deaths are attributed to tobacco consumption. These products are playing havoc with the health of people and increasing cancer mortality rates, especially in countries with low and medium income, says Anne Jones, senior tobacco control expert with the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union).

Chhatra Karki, Citizen News Service - CNS
25 February, 2017