Single word that is significantly more overwhelming than the death itself and gobbles up a person from within is Cancer. Consistently, around 800,000 new cancer patients get enlisted with the National Cancer Registry Program in India. About half a million deaths happen because of cancer and the situation is getting even worse day by day. World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled cancer as a ticking time bomb about to explode on the human race. This is of the major health issues in India at present. The biggest roadblock in our fight against cancer is IGNORANCE. Ignorance is at the level of masses and at the level of primary care doctors who are the first point of contact for the patient. Here are a few insights by Dr. Vikas Goswami, an oncologist, about 5 most common types of Cancers in India:
- Breast Cancer – It is the most well-known Cancer influencing women in India. Each woman is at a risk of breast cancer and it can happen at any age. Certain variables which increase the risk of breast cancer include taking hormone substitution treatment, taking certain types of contraception pills, not breastfeeding at all , early age of starting of menses and late menopause, drinking alcohol daily, being overweight (particularly after menopause), and not exercising. Besides this, family history can also lead to breast cancer. Any breast lump or abnormal discharge from nipple should not be ignored. The simplest test apart from breast examination is Mammography of the breast which is like an X-ray of the breast.
- Cervical Cancer – Cervix can be imagined as a gate for the uterus which opens in the vagina. According to WHO, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in ladies. Most common cause of cervical cancer is HPV virus which is a sexually transmitted infection. All high risk sexual practices (multiple partners/anal sex/ sex without condom) with a person having HPV increase the chance of HPV being transmitted. Common symptoms are abnormal vaginal bleeding esp. post-menopausal or post coital or pain during sex or foul smelling discharge. Simplest test to diagnose is an examination of the vagina by the doctor.
- Prostate Cancer – Prostate cancer is a walnut sized gland just below the urinary bladder. Primary function of this gland is to secrete fluid to nourish the sperms in the semen. This gland grows in size with age which is called as hypertrophy. This gland is very cancer prone esp. with increasing age. Common symptoms might incorporate frequent urination, hesitancy, blood in urination, sense of incomplete evacuation, fatigue and back ache. Screening is usually done by a blood test called serum PSA test and a DRE (digital rectal examination) by the doctor.
- Lung Cancer – Lung cancer is one of the most lethal and very common types of cancer in India. Common causes include tobacco consumption, urban pollution, chulha cooking in villages. This type of disease is marked by coughing up blood or weight loss or shortness of breath regularly, change in voice. Any chronic cough in chronic smoker should not be ignored. It can be seen on chest radio graph or CT scan of chest.
- Oral Cancer – Primary reason behind Oral cancer is excessive tobacco chewing or smoking which in India is more of a tradition than style statement. Any chronic ulcer in mouth or change in voice or difficulty in swallowing or any lump in neck should be suspected to be cancer especially in tobacco users. The first basic test is Oral cavity examination by your doctor.
Besides the above mentioned symptoms any unexplained prolonged fever or unintentional weight loss or a chronic sense of being unwell should also be reported to your doctor. Remember, cancer is curable provided it is detected early. The biggest first step in detecting this disease is awareness.