A word that brings shudders to most of us. A disease we hope not to experience in our life time. A condition that threatens to damage physical and mental status like an avalanche. CANCER.
Today (4th February) is world cancer day. A day marked to raise awareness about the disease, encourage its treatment, prevention and cure. This day was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to support the goals of the World Cancer Declaration, written in 2008. The primary goal of this day is to reduce the number of illness and death related to cancer by 2020.
What do we actually know about the disease?
Cancer – What does it mean ?
Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems (source: National Cancer Institute)
There are more than 100 different types of cancer and are named after the organ from which they start like Lung cancer, Stomach cancer, Colon cancer etc.
Cell is the basic unit of life. Everyday cells die and they are replaced by new cells. In some cases, this process goes wrong. Cells do not die when required and new cells keep generating without control. These extra cells form a mass of tissue called tumor.
There can be two types of tumor in human body
- Benign – These are not harmful and do not spread in the body. They can be easily removed and do not reoccur
- Malignant – They are cancerous tumors and easily spread across the body. They reoccur even after removal and are harmful
What causes cancer?
There are several reasons linked to this disease with around 90-95% attributed to environmental factors and 5% to genetics.
- Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer causing 22 percent of global cancer deaths and 71 percent of global lung cancer deaths
- Exposure to certain chemicals like Benzene regularly is associated with cancer development.
- Lack of regular exercise, unhealthy life style and food habits are major factors influencing the disease
- Exposure to different radiations, infections cause cancer
- Excluding all this, heredity can also be a cause
How do we stay safe?
Cancer is a largely preventable disease. Making small changes in lifestyle, preventing usage of tobacco and other drugs, eating healthy, staying fit are all ways to prevent cancer.
Though not all factors are controllable and there is no one way to make sure you are cancer free, it is the duty of every individual to do everything possible and controllable to stay safe. More that 30% of cancer deaths could have been prevented by these small individual changes.
Based on the stage of cancer and its intensity, treatments vary from surgery to chemotherapy and palliative care. Along with treatment, psychological support is what helps fight the disease. There are a lot of people around the world who have fought cancer successfully and lead a normal healthy life. It is important to take regular advice from doctors and follow them to effectively evade this disease.
What does the future hold?
Every minute, every day, researchers all over the world are trying to find out effective cures for different types of cancer. New drugs are being tried and developed even as you read this. From being completely helpless, we have come a long way in cancer cure. Let us do our part, be healthy, lead a better lifestyle and hope for a safe and cancer free life in the future.
As they say, cancer cure is difficult, but not hopeless!