Cancer: A Growing Menace For India & How early detection helps

Cancer: A Growing Menace For India

On February 4th, World Cancer Day, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) provided voice and thanks to the nurses, physicians, researchers, volunteers, campaigners, and other oncology caregivers from around the world, as well as government departments, who have served through the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.

In the face of the pandemic, the cancer warriors had shown exceptional courage and tenacity this year. Many initiatives call for free cancer screenings, fundraisers, awareness walks and rides, and civic lectures to establish successful World Cancer Day awareness. However, Cancer prevention plans conducted in a virtual or hybrid environment to substitute in-person gatherings were no longer be possible.

Growing Cancer Cases in India 

The ICMR  (Indian Council of Medical Research) and the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research, Bengaluru, have published a new cancer study that confirms the dramatic rise in India’s cancer cases, predicting that it will rise by another 12% in the next five years.

According to the National Cancer Registry Programme Survey 2020, men will have a cancer incidence of 763,575 in 2025, while women will have a cancer incidence of 806,218 in 2025. The study further calls attention to oral, lung, and colorectal cancers to be the most prevalent cancers among men.

Early Cancer Detection 

Another primary explanation for the sudden increase in cancer cases is the availability of an increasing number of cancer screening centres in Tier 2 and Tier 3 regions. Early cancer detection tests improve the odds of beating the disease.

A survey by the WHO states that India had an estimated 1.16 million new cancer cases in 2018, with one in every ten Indians experiencing cancer at any point in their lives and one in every 15 dying from the disease.

Socioeconomic Causes of Cancer 

The WHO report further stated that in India, a high prevalence of tobacco-related head and neck cancers, especially oral cancer in men and cervical cancer in women, predominate; both cancer types are linked to lower socioeconomic status. The prevalence of cancers such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer linked to overweight and obesity, lack of physical activity, and sedentary habits is also on the rise.  These cancers are more prevalent among  people from the higher socioeconomic status of society.

It has been estimated that about 5% to 10% of cancer cases are inherited. The remainder results from genetic variations that arise from incidents that occurred over a person’s life, normal ageing, and exposure to environmental influences like cigarettes, smoke, and radiation.

Tobacco-related cancers account for 35% – 50% of all cancers in men and 17 % of cancers in women. Primary treatment is possible for these cancers, and they can be managed to a large extent.

Steps for Cancer Prevention

  • Consume a good variety of fruits and vegetables and legumes, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Engage in physical workouts daily.
  • Obesity should be avoided. Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Adopt balanced sexual behaviours.
  • Tobacco consumption, like cigars and smokeless tobacco, should be avoided.
  • Consume alcohol in moderation.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B and HPV
  • Yoga and meditation can help in reducing stress-related cancer risk
  • Avoid or restrict your exposure to identified carcinogens in the atmosphere.
  • Keep on the lookout for early signs.
  • Get screened for cancer and regular health checkups. Make it a part of your health routine.  

Warning Signs of Cancer 

  • A new mass in the breast or variations in the breast
  • A change in stomach or bladder habits 
  • A sore that won’t go away
  • Unusual leakage or discharge from any of the body openings /orifice
  • Abnormal weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Trouble in swallowing
  • A visible development in a wart or mole
  • A recurrent cough or hoarseness of the voice

Fighting the Cancer Menace in India

A multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment and cancer detection test is critical, and it is imperative for all Regional Cancer Centers to enable this. To establish the most appropriate care, the presence of a qualified surgeon and a Clinical Oncologist is mandatory.

Given the high prevalence of advanced epithelial cancers in India, radiotherapy remains the mainstay of treatment. With the long wait times and distances that patients must walk to reach these medical centres, there is an urgent need to enable access to timely and effective treatment.

Patients in need of palliative and curative therapy must be identified at the beginning of the treatment schedule. Palliation may be accomplished with the least amount of machine time.

For cancer chemotherapy, an essential drug list must be prepared, and chemotherapy programs for common cancers must be made available in all centres. The Regional Cancer Facilities must be equipped with specialized equipment for high-intensity chemotherapy for the treatment of leukaemia and other cancers where chemotherapy is the mainline treatment. 

In recent years, many organizations have introduced new generation screening devices to combat late diagnosis. These devices use emerging technologies ranging from artificial intelligence, machine learning to thermal imaging and immunoassays with a common objective: To make screening more available and affordable to the general public in the country.