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Cancer is going up in India

Nowadays, cancer has become common, with more than 1,300 persons succumbing to this disease every day. It has become one of the major causes of death occurring in the country due to communicable and life-style ailments, followed by tuberculosis. Cancer spectre haunts the nation we urgently need crusaders. The iconic disease of our time comes without warning, attacks those who abuse their body and those who don’t, those who have cancer in the family and those who don’t. And the numbers are rising. India has always felt good about its cancer statistics, compared to the West. Death rates are falling in the West, while “70 per cent of cancer deaths are reported in the developing world, India ranks fifth in this. Some parts of the country have the world’s highest cancer rates. However, it’s not just the numbers. New studies indicate alarming new patterns that foretell a coming cancer tsunami. Are we losing the war on cancer?

In India, growth in cancer could be traced to many factors including consumption of animal protein including paneer (cottage cheese). The study conducted on two sets of rats infected with aflatoxin and one set was fed soya protein and other milk protein casein. Rats fed on soya protein survived after 2 years while all rats fed casein died within 2 years. Cancer has doubled its grip over the world in the last 20 years and struck deep roots in India, from 800,000 lives in 2001 to 3.3 million now, says the World Health Organization (WHO). India is far from winning the war. India has some of the world’s highest incidences of cancer: Cervical, gall bladder, oral and pharynx, which are also the most common. Seventy per cent lives are snuffed out in the first year in India, due to late detection. Eighty per cent patients consult doctors at a stage when recovery is rare. Seventy one per cent of deaths occur in the productive age band of 30-69 in India; 50 per cent deaths are above 70 in US.15 per cent patients are children and young adults in India, compared to the global average of 0.5 per cent.

As per data of the National Cancer Registry Programme of the India Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the estimated mortality rate due to cancer saw an increase of six per cent approximately between 2012 and 2014. Celebrity cancer patients are busy spreading the word: Don’t miss those cues. Lisa Ray had gone for a routine blood test in 2009 just because she was “tired of being tired all the time”. Yuvraj Singh went through “months of denial” before being diagnosed in 2011.The biggest problem behind the rising numbers is that most Indians don’t suspect they may have cancer. This exceptionally poor ‘suspicion index’ leads to delay in diagnosis followed by treatment. For anything that continues over three weeks-a lump, an episode of bleeding, an ulcer, a cough – one needs to check for cancer.

There has been close to 5 lakh deaths due to cancer in the country in 2014.Total of 4,91,598 people died in 2014 out of 28,20,179 cases, while in 2013 it was 4,78,180 deaths out of 29,34,314 cases reported and in 2012, around 4,65,169 people lost their lives due to the disease when the number of cases stood at 30,16,628. Large number of ageing population, unhealthy lifestyles, use of tobacco and tobacco products, unhealthy diets, lack of diagnostic facilities, etc. are some of the factors that can be attributed to the increase in the number of cancer deaths.

The government has approved a scheme in 2013-14 for enhancing the specialised consultative care for cancer in the country and guidelines for strengthening of the facilities were circulated to the states in January 2014. Tuberculosis caused the second highest number of deaths in the country with 63,265 casualties in 2011, 61,887 in 2012 and 57,095 in 2013, as per records of the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme. The government, under the programme, provides free of cost diagnosis and treatment facilities including anti-TB drugs to patients. There are 13,000 microscopy centres in the country and more than six lakh directly observed treatment centres.

People are not much aware of the cancer. They take it as death threat and most of them die out of panic situations. This is an abnormal growth of body cells. Each one of us is born with a potential for cancer. When the programming of a cell or a group of cells is affected, growth may become uncontrolled. Some of the factors that can alter the code are chronic irritation, tobacco, smoke and dust, radioactive substances, age, sex, race and heredity. While, one cannot control many of these factors, we need to be aware of the ones we can control of. Prevention is definitely better than treatment of cancer.

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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