New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines cancer as “the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells. It can affect almost any part of the body. The growths often invade surrounding tissue and can metastasize to distant sites.”
Even though one-third of all cancer cases are preventable, it is still very much prevalent. It is the leading cause of death worldwide and was responsible for 8.2 million deaths (22% of all NCD deaths) in 2012, as per WHO statistics.
Now, the global cancer death numbers have reached 8.8 million, out of which, India has unfortunately managed to retain its position as the largest contributor with the number of cancer deaths falling at 2.2 million per year. According to doctors, this is primarily because 70 percent of cancer patients consult a doctor at the terminal stage.
As the disease initially does not present itself, doctors said that rural India suffers the most as at least 70-80 per cent of patients do not even approach hospitals at the end stage.
"In the hinterland diagnosis is always late and if diagnosis is late then cancer related surgeries are done late. Cancers of the prostate, which is the second most common in India, do not lead to pain, the basic symptom of cancer, leading to late diagnosis," said SP Yadav, a urology surgeon and Managing Director of Gurgaon-based Puspanjali Hospital.
Yadav, who gets 40 prostate cancer cases every year, said in many cases people even in their late 50s and 60s do not approach hospitals despite suffering from prostate cancer for 7-8 years. The result is that the cancer get advanced.
According to doctors, at advanced stages only 30 per cent of the cases can be cured. However, they too have a chance of relapse.
"Those who approach in the first stage of cancer most often have 85 per cent chances of cure; in stage 2, there is 60 per cent chance of cure, stage 3 falls to 30 per cent and those who start treatment at stage 4 will not survive for more than 5 years," said Ramakant Deshpande, Onco Surgeon and Vice Chairman of Asian Cancer Institute.
"The increased number of patients who approach the doctor only after they reach advanced stages is based on the malignancy," said Deshpande, adding that cancers of oral cavity and lungs and prostate in males and cervix and breast in females account for over 50 per cent of all cancer deaths in India.
The doctors said women should avail of cervical cancer screenings like Pap smear Test which is a very cheap test and can be done at any hospital or nursing home.
The World Health Organisation says cancer is diagnosed in more than 14 million people worldwide each year, and kills approximately 8.8 million. Around two-third of the deaths are in low-middle income countries where diagnosis is inadequate and treatment late.
"Regarding Breast Cancer, all females who are above 40 years of age should undergo mammography test annually. As 60-70 per cent of cancers detected are sporadic it is always better to have periodic health checkups done," said Ajay Kolse, Consultant Radiation Oncologist at Mumbai's Holy Spirit Hospital.
On blood cancers, doctors said there are certain types of blood cancer that can be healed with specialized targeted therapy. With it those in stage 4 can survive for more than seven years as well.
"For Adenocarcinoma, genetic mutation or similar abnormalities there are a few other special techniques like using laser or robotics, this along with surgery helps the patient to survive with least change in their quality of life and this helps increase survival rate for prostate cancer or vocal cord cancer," said Kolse.
Adwait Gore, Oncologist at Zen Hospital, Mumbai, said: "Cancer is one of the top causes of death due to lifestyle, food habits, stress life and much more. One should not ignore things like lump even if they are not malignant."
"If cancer is detected in the early stages there is a very high chance of survival. One should be aware of any unusual changes they notice about their bodies. People should not ignore this symptom because of the cost for the treatment," said Gore.
(With IANS inputs)