Sunday, March 26, 2023

Understanding Cancer

On 04 Feb, 2023, Seniors Today hosted their weekly Health Live Webinar with Dr Prasad Pande. He spoke on Issues concerning Cancer Detection, Treatment and Care in view of World Cancer Day.


About Dr Prasad Pande

Dr Pandey is a Laparoscopic gastrointestinal and liver and pancreas surgeon. He has worked with the G B Pant Hospital, New Delhi and the Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai. He was trained with Stall-words of Gastrointestinal surgery in India. He has more than a decade of experience  in pancreatic and upper gastrointestinal surgery.

He has written numerous articles that are published in international peer review journals and has delivered talks in international conferences. 

The incidence of cancer is increasing with every passing day and that is a matter of concern. The number of patients being diagnosed with cancer are rising and so are the number of types of cancers that are being diagnosed. 

As a disease, cancer is not a single entity, there are multiple organs in the human body and each organ has its own set of different types of cancers but one thing that is common to all cancers is that it is a menace to the health of the patient and that’s is a huge burden- mentally, physically, emotionally and financially. 

“Prevention is better than cure” and “a stitch in time saves nine” are two proverbs that do hold and stand true in the case of cancer and cancer patients. 

You can to a certain extent prevent cancer by changing your diet and lifestyle. 

But in case you are unfortunate enough and are suffering from any kind/ type of cancer which can be developing, it is better to diagnose it in time so you can receive the best possible treatment before the situation slips out of our hands. 

With the kind of exposure we have to the potential carcinogens in the form of air pollutants, food adulteration, and the amount of genetic mutation that we have seen- has led to a rise in the number of cancers and their types. 

We are now fortunately at a stage where healthcare has advanced to a point where we can detect and diagnose cancer at an early stage and intervene with appropriate treatment to such an extent that the patient has a near normal life expectancy. 

Cancer is no longer a death sentence; provided it is detected early. 

The motto/ theme for this year’s Cancer Day is- “Close the Care Gap”.

With senior citizens, who suffer from other co-morbidities and diseases, not only makes them more susceptible to cancer but also makes the treatment of cancer more difficult. 

Every year 45 Lakh people are diagnosed with colon cancer, worldwide. And colon cancer is not even the most common cancer in the world; so yes, the number of patients who are being diagnosed with cancer are increasing every year. 

But there are two aspects to it-

  1. The number of patients suffering from cancer are increasing 
  2. This is a slightly more encouraging aspect- Our healthcare system, screening protocols, investigations, diagnostic techniques are also improving- which means that we are now able to diagnose more patients with cancer at an early stage and we are able to treat them. 

Approximately 50 years ago, when all these imaging and diagnostic techniques were not readily available, we used to have a lot of patients who died of unknown causes. And yes, cancer was one of the common causes for it. We are now able to detect, diagnose and treat. 

The numbers have increased because our ability to diagnose has also increased. 

However, the increase in the number of cancer patients has also increased due to some other external factors such as- environmental factors- water and air pollution, multiple genetic mutations that have now come into play which were not there, say 50 years ago. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, processed food intake. All of this has contributed to the rise in the number of cancer patients. 

Most common cancers are those of the oral cavity, breast, lungs.

There is a difference in the incidence of cancers and their prevalence in the male and female population. 

Breast cancer is of a higher incidence in the female population, followed by lung cancer. 

Likewise, lung and prostate cancers are found more commonly in men. 

In males, oral cancer is the most common followed by lung cancer. 

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer- in both males and females. 

The number of these cases are increasing worldwide. There are few cancers which show geographical preponderance. Such as- gallbladder cancer is more common in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in India.

There is a lack of awareness in the general population about cancer. But there is also a gap of care in patients with cancer- which we aim at reducing. 

The journey of a patient from his home to his family doctor to a specialist – is shorter than what it was 20 years ago. But we need to keep striving to make it shorter. 

In a third world country like India, with an exploding population, it is very difficult to get every patient the necessary and more importantly timely diagnosis and treatment. This leads to patients reaching the hospitals at a later stage where a definitive and curative treatment might not be a possibility for the patient. Thus, in such patients the aim is to control the tumour and increase their lifespan. 

It is a long way to go, but there are increasing facilities for diagnosis, treatment and care for cancer patients. 

Dr Noor Gill
Dr Noor Gill, MBBS, deciphers the space between heartbeats, figuratively and literally. Powered by frequent long naps and caffeine, she believes that “knowledge without giving back to society is meaningless” and works to make caring cool again.

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