It’s time people stopped living in the illusion that they can’t be afflicted with cancer. Cancer is climbing the Indian graph due to rapid lifestyle changes, adding nearly a million new cases every year.
While cancer of the breast and cervix are most common among women, men suffer from neck, throat and prostate cancer.
“We have one million new cancer cases coming up every year in India. In the last decade, lifestyle related causes have increased our susceptibility to the disease — it’s now time to drop the attitude – ‘how me’,” P.K. Julka, professor of clinical oncology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here, told IANS.
“Tobacco consumption is increasing; so there is a rise in lung, neck and throat cancer. Among women, late marriage, early menarche and late menopause are some of the causes of breast cancer. Women are exposed to the female hormone at an early age and that increases the risk of breast cancer,” Julka explained.
According to Julka, breast cancer has overtaken cervical cancer to become the leading type of cancer in Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Bhopal, Ahmedabad and Kolkata.
In India, the number of new breast cancer cases is about 115,000 per year and this is expected to rise to 250,000 new cases per year by 2015.
“If we closely look at the lifestyle of patients coming to us these days, we get to see that there is hardly any physical exercise, the pollution levels are high, food habits are not healthy, sexual habits have changed, and people have lost connect with what we used to call healthy living,” Kishore Singh, director and professor, head of department of radiotherapy at the Loknayak Hospital, told IANS.
While the ministry of health has a National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) and a National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) that maps the prevalence of the disease, experts feel the fight against cancer is still too far from reaching the goals of awareness and prevention.
“There is serious research missing in cancer tracking that will help us get more accurate figures. Unlike HIV-AIDS, we do not have a strong national policy for cancer that focusses on prevention, disease management and rehabilitation,” said R. Ranga Rao, director, medical oncology, BLK Cancer Centre.
Under the NCCP, there are currently 28 regional cancer centres country-wide that are tertiary cancer care centres, providing all facilities of diagnosis and treatment.
Experts believe that once the disease is notified by the government, the picture of cancer prevalence could be clearer and help in drafting a proper policy at a time when cancer is already in the ministry limelight as a non-communicable disease.
“If the cancer case is compulsorily reported, we will know the true burden of the disease, how many people are affected and the type of cancer plaguing the population,” Julka says, adding that the “decision may come soon”.
Experts say the country should not fall weak on awareness and prevention methods for cancer of any type.
“When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, he or she goes into shock. If we have a little knowledge about screening methods, awareness about causes and report to the doctor even on observing the slightest of change in physicality, then we can at least diagnose the disease early,” Singh said.
Also read: War on Cancer