World Cancer Day: To defeat it, you need to understand it.

February 5, 2019 Cancer Hub 15522 Views


World Cancer Day:

“I’m sorry, but you have cancer.” No one in their right mind would like to hear this dreaded line and the dreaded C-word, yet, believe it or not, half of us will hear these words sliding out of the lips of someone ( probably dressed in white-coat with a stethoscope around his or her neck) in our lifetime. That’s right. One out of two people alive on this planet will be diagnosed with cancer someday from now. That’s why, this World Cancer day, lets explore and learn more about this much dreaded disease.

How did cancer become so common?

Why would most men from the big cities be at risk of dying from lung cancer?

How did something like lung cancer become–to quote Dr. Suresh Advani’s words–“an epidemic.

Before asking how we can help half of our population who would be walking this dire path, we should ask ourselves how in the world did our society end up on this road to hell.

One answer to this question is: Our life expectancy increased. More and more people are being diagnosed with cancer today, not because our health system is failing, it is because more and more of our friends with opposable thumbs have started crossing the 60 and 70 years mark. Cancer, for the most part, is the disease of the old age. It’s the disease of the old cells who have had enough of the pollution, radiation, and other cosmic factors and are saying that enough is enough. So, we can safely say that our health system hasn’t failed us. In fact, thanks to all the improvements made in the field of medicine and surgery, more and more people are beating cancer. Five-year cancer survival rates are at an all-time high.

So, if our health system is not failing us, then what is? It’s our unhealthy habit and ignorance. While most of our population is now well fed, a very few are well nourished. Instead of eating nutrients that can keep the cancer cells at bay, we are now feeding ourselves processed food, GMOs and fat-free diet. We smoke cigarettes even though we know that they can degrade our lungs. We chew tobacco while knowing it causes throat cancer. Instead of fruit juice, we prefer artificially carbonated beverages. We ignore a chronic cough, abdomen pain, large black spots on the skin, and lump under the breast. This is our biggest mistake. We take our bodies for granted.

But how do you differentiate a mole from skin cancer? The answer is simple. By being aware of the symptoms.

Although all the symptoms stated below may be present for non-cancer conditions, one should still seek the advice of a family physician for their symptoms. If symptoms persist even after two to three weeks of treatment, patients should visit an oncologist for further evaluation for diagnosis.

Symptoms of Cancer

Head and Neck Tumor:

  • Non-healing ulcer or growth in the oral cavity.
  • Swelling in the neck.
  • Change in voice.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Delayed healing after dental extraction

Liver Cancer:

  • Pain and/or lump in the right upper abdomen.
  • Jaundice.
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Back pain

Esophageal cancer:

  • Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Pain during swallowing.
  • Regurgitation of food.
  • Back pain.

Breast Cancer:

  • Lump in the armpit
  • Lump in the breast
  • Recent onset change in size, shape or texture of one breast as compared to another breast.
  • Recent onset nipple retraction or bloodstained nipple discharge.

Lung cancer:

  • Cough.
  • Blood stained sputum.
  • Breathlessness.

Cervical cancer:

  • Postmenopausal bleeding per vagina.
  • White, foul-smelling discharge from the vagina.
  • Post-coital bleeding.
  • Persistent low backache.

Colorectal cancer:

  • Change in bowel habits (constipation, diarrhea).
  • Blood in stools.
  • Pain while passing stools.
  • Unexplained weight loss or low hemoglobin levels in the blood.
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one.

Skin Melanoma

  • A sore that doesn’t heal.
  • A mole that is changing color, shape, and size.
  • Scaly, crusty appearing lesions.
  • Pink, white, or flesh-colored lumps that appear dome-like.

Our body is made up of billions of cells who die and get replaced each day. These are so intricately designed by the hand of nature that you could hardly fathom their complexity. We don’t know how life came about, but we do know it all started with a strand of a DNA molecule: The building block of life. The thing that allowed evolution. It is present in every cell of our body and is always under attack by the external and other internal forces. A single, successful mutation in one of our billion DNAs could prove fatal. A single mutation could turn a part of us against us. So, it doesn’t matter how strong you look, your body is fragile, and that’s how you should treat it.

Take Away

Cancer can be defeated and the sooner you detect it, the higher the probability of success. That is the objective of World Cancer Day, to educate people about cancer so that they can get treated at the earliest possible. If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is advisable to consult an Oncologist close to you.

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