“It’s been over a year”, said the lady patient. I was shocked. I had asked her how long she had the lump in her breast. She was in her mid-sixties and was carrying the cancerous tumor in her breast for a year! She consulted me only when the tumor almost ripped out of her skin and the pain became unbearable. By the time she came to me for treatment, cancer had claimed most of her body. Fortunately, it had not gotten out of hand. If only she hadn't ignored the symptoms for a long time, she could have suffered less.

As an oncologist, I encounter such cases every now and then. A lot of people try to escape from screening tests out of fear - of getting diagnosed with cancer. It only worsens the situation, making treatment lengthy and more painful. Early detection, on the other hand, makes the treatment easy and speeds up recovery. A very important thing to remember - most cancers are PAINLESS AT THE BEGINNING. They get painful as they advance. Early cancers can be treated laparoscopically or robotically and the patients can recover phenomenally faster than open surgery.

Interestingly, I often come across the “overdoers”. These people suspect they have cancer even if they experience mild pain in the throat or notice nodes or lumps somewhere on their body. When women in their twenties come to me with a heap of mammography reports, I have to convince them that they don’t have breast cancer and it’s highly unlikely that they would get it in the near future. Smokers suffering from mouth sores come to me dreading oral cancer. Their fears are real. But, they need to stop smoking to reduce their risk. Only after I tell them that the symptoms and reports aren't even close to cancer at present, that they heave a sigh of relief.

However, prevention is better than cure. If you have a slightest of doubt, consult an oncologist and get the tests done right away. If you have a history of cancer in your family, consult an oncologist to see if you need genetic testing to assess the risk. Vaccines can prevent cervical and liver cancers. Advances in medical sciences have provided us ways to get rid of cancer before it gets to us. Let’s use them optimally and take a step towards a healthier tomorrow, together.