In India, one woman dies of cervical cancer every 8 minutes. For every 2 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one woman dies of it. As many as 2,500 persons die every day due to tobacco-related diseases in India. Tobacco (smoked and smokeless) use accounted for more than 3 lakh deaths (approx) in men and women in 2018. As the numbers seem frightening, it is the time for every individual to know their responsibilities in prevention of cancer.
Understanding early signs, clearing myths and misconceptions are keys for early diagnosis of cancer. Prevention of unhealthy lifestyles lowers risk of cancer. Not every type of cancer is preventable but we do know we can prevent many cancers through lifestyle choices alone. According to the World Health Organization, at least one third of common cancers are preventable through a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active. Smoking is linked to 71% of lung cancer deaths, and accounts for at least 22% of all cancer deaths. Use of tobacco has been found to cause around 15 different types of cancer including oral cancers, lung, liver, stomach, bowel and ovarian cancers, as well as some types of leukaemia (cancers of the blood). Quitting at any age can make a huge difference, increasing your life expectancy and improving quality of life.
Alcohol is strongly linked with an increased risk of several cancers. By reducing and limiting how much you drink, you can reduce your risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bowel and breast, and may also reduce the risk of liver and bowel cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight and making physical activity part of your everyday life and avoiding unhealthy dietary habits can reduce risk of many cancers. Chronic infections (commonly caused by viruses) are estimated to cause approximately 16% of all cancers globally. Some of the most common forms of cancers such as liver, cervical and stomach cancers are associated with infections with the hepatitis B virus(HBV), the human papillomavirus (HPV), and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori virus (H, pylori), respectively.
Today, there are safe and effective vaccines against HBV and HPV, which can help to protect against the infection-related cancers of liver and cervical cancers. As individuals we can take responsibility for our health, including getting vaccinated and reminding others to get vaccinated, maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, avoiding alcohol, tobacco and excessive/prolonged sun exposure.
Not all cancers show early signs and symptoms. However, many cancers can and doshow signs, that something isn’t quite right. These include breast, cervical,colorectal, skin, oral, and some childhood cancers. That’s important to know because finding cancer early almost always makes it easier to treat or evencure. This means improved chances of survival and quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer. As an individual, we can teach ourselves, the people we love about the common signs and symptoms.
Wide access to cancer care at affordable cost is essential and available. Approximately 70% of cancer deaths occur in developing countries, which are the most ill-equipped to cope with the cancer burden. India being a developing country is apart and unique from rest of the developing nations. We have several government schemes available for poor and needy to give them world class facilities like advanced cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy at no cost.
Working together towards common goals allows us to share skills, knowledge, perspectives and networks so that we are in the best position to drive action on all fronts at every level. We need strategic collaborations that involve civil society, companies, cities, international organisations and agencies, research and academic institutions to help expand awareness and support, convert political will into action and deliver comprehensive and cohesive solutions. Even 100th century starts from a single run. Revolution always starts from an Individual. Remember, "I am the change and I will be."