- By: Miskeen Abid Yousuf
Cancer is a complex group of diseases with many possible causes. They are a result of uncontrolled cell division. When the genes are abnormal they are called oncogenes, more than 110 of these have been discovered. A single faulty cell may divide to form a clone of identical cells. Eventually irregular mass of relatively undifferentiated cells called a tumour is formed. These tumor cells can break away and spread to other parts of the body, particularly in the bloodstream or lymphatic system, causing secondary tumours or metastases. This process is called metastasis. Tumours that spread and eventually cause ill health and death are described as malignant and those which do not spread are described as benign.
Causes of Cancer
Researches have shown that there are basically four main causes of cancer. Knowing which a person can greatly enhance the chances of survival.
Weak Immune System – usually caused by a severe negative emotional shock (death in the family, divorce, family problems, financial setbacks, etc.) overworked and run down over an extended period of time, lack of rest, and improper nutrition that reinforces the immune system.
Toxins – such as dangerous chemicals (in the workplace, home or garden), microbes, parasites and fungus, etc.
Improper Diet – Regular consumption of refined sugar and refined oils, such as in fizzy (soft) drinks, chips (crisps), store bought pastries, deep fried foods, fast foods, food additives, etc
Oxygen Deprivation – Trans fats (margarine, refined vegetable oils) use in deep fried foods and processed foods actually suffocate the cells when ingested depriving the body of life giving oxygen.
It is believed that development towards malignant stage involves several steps and is usually caused by more than one factor operating over several years rather than a single one.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the general signs and symptoms of cancer are unexplained weight loss, fever, fatigue, pain, skin changes (hyperpigmentation, erythema etc), change in bowel habits (or bladder function), Unusual bleeding or discharge, thickening or lump in the breast or other parts of the body, indigestion or trouble swallowing
But it is to remember, having any of these does not mean that you have cancer — many other things cause these signs and symptoms, too.
Treatment works best when cancer is found early while it is still small and is less likely to have spread to other parts of the body. This often means a better chance for a cure.
There are various standard methods of treatment for cancer. When initially diagnosed with cancer, an oncologist recommends the best treatment plan based on the type of cancer, how far it has spread, and other important factors like age and general health of an individual.
In relation to cancer treatment, surgery is done to remove tumors or as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. It is often performed in conjunction with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to eliminate cancer cells. Radiation therapy is another type of cancer treatment which uses certain types of energy to shrink tumors or eliminate cancer cells. It works by damaging a cancer cell’s DNA, making it unable to multiply. Cancer cells are highly sensitive to radiation and typically die when treated. Nearby healthy cells can be damaged as well, but are resilient and are able to fully recover.
Cancer is the second most common disease in India responsible for maximum mortality with about 0.3 million deaths per year. This is owing to the poor availability of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Lung cancer is the most common cancer in our state, followed by Oesophageal cancer and stomach cancer respectively. However all types of cancers have been reported in our state including the cancers of skin, lungs, breast, rectum, prostate, liver, cervix, bladder, blood, mouth etc. The number of cancer cases in our state has increased manifold over the years which is of a great concern.
Cancer Control Strategies
Actually all of us have a few cancer cells within us. However only a very small percentage of cells in every person start to grow and cause problems as the body is usually able to rid itself of those cancerous cells before they do harm. It is only when more cancer cells are being created than the body can get rid of that the problem comes. Therefore the secret is to change your internal environment to one in which cancer cannot thrive but you can survive.
The various cancer control strategies are:-
Prevention (Protection against known carcinogens)
Tobacco is the most notorious agent for cancers, followed by alcohol in Indians. Radiations are silent and serious carcinogens that cause a number of cancers and, hence, the strategies that reduce the exposure of people to these notorious radiations should be fully practiced to reduce the incidence of cancers. Environmental pollution is also a serious issue and has become a challenge for all of us as it is responsible for the genesis of various types of cancers. Excessive fertilizers and pesticideuse during cultivation is another factor responsible in transporting various chemicals into our body via food and water causing various sorts of cancers. Farmers should be encouraged to use eco-friendly organic manures and biocides to reduce cancer incidences.
An increased fashion of fast food in our day to day life is also responsible for this havoc. We should adopt a healthy food habit to control different cancers. Therefore consumption of whole grains, vegetables and fruits antagonize the development of some cancers. The prevention strategies are crucial in cancer eradication. This approach offers a great public health concern and inexpensive long term method of cancer control.
Early diagnosis is the awareness (by the public or health professionals) of early signs and symptoms of cancer in order to facilitate diagnosis before the disease becomes advanced. This enables more effective and simpler therapy. It aims to identify individuals with an abnormality suggestive of a specific cancer. These individuals require further investigation, diagnosis and follow up.
Urgent action should be taken once diagnose is made.
The targets by 2020 include:-
Reduce tobacco and alcohol consumption globally
Hepatitis B and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination programmes all over the world to prevent liver and cervical cancer
Reducing emigration of health care providers with special cancer training
Ensuring the global availability of pain medication
Dispelling misconceptions related to cancer.
At the national and regional level the same approach should be included in adult education programme. Several state wide programmes should be made by the State Governments and Regional Cancer Centers (RCCs) for an early detection of different cancers in the state. Unfortunately, a little population is aware of cancer havoc.
At present there are no uniform standardized information programs, education and communication strategies for cancer prevention in our state, however, recently the Union Health Ministry has come up with a major plan in which individuals would be screened against the various types of cancers. For this limited diagnostic and treatment infrastructures in the country are the serious issues, which must be addressed on urgent basis. The government and other NGOs should come forward to initiate the above programs for controlling this havoc so that the present and future generations may lead a healthy life. Any disease can be healed – but not every person.
Author is a Researcher in Cancer Biology