Approximately 11 lakh new cases of Cancer are diagnosed every year in India and around 40% patients die because of the same. One third of all cancers are preventable as these are related to tobacco, alcohol, viruses and life style changes. However despite knowing the rules of the game, we continue to consistently default. The concept of consulting a doctor when you start experiences the early signs and symptoms is yet to be accepted. 70% of the cases that consult us first are way past the early detection and timely treatment phase.
The main cause is Tobacco & Alcohol:
Tobacco plays a major role in Head and Neck Cancer and Lung Cancer. Tobacco causes repetitive injury to the mucosal lining and molecular changes in the cells, leading to white and red patches in the oral cavity. These lesions can transform into cancer if causative factors are not stopped. Similarly recurrent dental injury to mucosa can lead to premalignant or malignant changes if not taken care of. Oral cavity cancer is a classic example of preventable cancer.
Most of the time carcinogenesis occurs in a predictable manner. These include metaplasia, dysplasia, carcinoma in situ and finally carcinoma. These are related to accumulation of mutations in the cells genetic material. Till certain steps, process is reversible if causative factors are removed from the environment.
Today premixed tobacco product like gutkha is universally available and anyone has access to it. Children of ages as low as 11-12 years are getting used to these products. Gutkha causes submucous fibrosis apart from precancerous and cancerous changes in the oral cavity. These patients present with oral cancer in their thirties.
Alcohol causes cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, etc. These cancers can be prevented by making people aware about the ill effects of tobacco and alcohol. Similarly, HPV vaccine can prevent cervical cancer if taken before starting sexual activities.
Self counseling is the key to prevention:
We have to adopt healthy lifestyles which includes exercises, nutritious diet, fruits, vegetables, avoiding junk foods and obesity. We can prevent cancer and decrease the incidence. We can also detect cancer in the early stages by raising awareness and education about the disease, pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action. We should unite in the fight against cancer and make it our goal to touch as many lives with the spirit of prevention.