When we hear the name cancer, our immediate reaction is one of fear. This is mainly because the majority of our population associate 'cancer' with death. Cancer has almost become a synonym for death for many, but this is a very wrong fact. If caught early, cancer can be treated and cured easily, and even though advanced stage cancers are harder to cure, medical science has grown a lot over the last few decades that their life can be prolonged, along with a better quality of life. Nevertheless, it is always better to find cancer early and give ourselves a better chance of cure. To find cancer early, we should be aware of the disease, which is the prime reason that 7th November is recognized as the National Cancer Awareness Day by the Government of India.
November 7 came to be recognized as the National Cancer Awareness Day from 2014 when Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan implored the nation that "It is high time that we went into combative mode against this disease. The statement was made based on several recent statistics that showed that cancer cases and deaths in India are on a rapid rise for the past few decades. The reason for observing November 7 as the National Cancer Awareness Day is because it is the birthday of Madam Curie, respecting her contribution towards Cancer Treatment through the discovery of radium and polonium, which led to the development of nuclear energy and Radiotherapy for cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Cancer in India
The word 'cancer' is still a taboo in our country, while the country had an estimated 1.16 million new cancer cases in 2018. But even with such a high number of cancer cases, our country is yet to have an organized approach in its fight against cancer. Unlike developed countries like the USA, India still doesn't have an official surveyor statistics board to check the annual number of cancer cases and cancer-related deaths. In a report published by WHO in 2018, there are about 7,84,800 cancer deaths annually and about 2.26 million cancer patients in the country.
The major cause of worry regarding cancer in India is that two-thirds of the cancer cases reported are diagnosed at an advanced stage, which affects the patient's chances in two significant ways. First, diagnosing at an advanced stage reduces the patient's chance of cure or survival and will affect the quality of life after treatment. Secondly, the treatment of advanced-stage cancer costs a lot more than treating a first stage cancer. The main reason that most of the cancer cases are reported only in the advanced stage is due to significantly little awareness among the public regarding cancer symptoms and cancer in general. If people do the necessary screening at the onset of the earliest symptoms, more cases can be detected and treated at the early stages. But for this, the public needs to be aware of the general symptoms of cancer and how to screen for them. This is the primary aim of observing November 7th as National Cancer Awareness Day.
In India, it is estimated that one woman dies of Cervical Cancer every 8 minutes. While this is the case, Cervical Cancer is one of the easily treatable cancers when diagnosed early, and even have a simple diagnostic method called the Pap Smear. Regardless of these facts, Cervical Cancer still has such a high mortality rate because most of the population is unaware of its symptoms or keeps it hidden until it becomes aggravated.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of cancer among Indians. The number of deaths due to Tobacco use, both smoked and smokeless, is accounted to be 3,17,928 in 2018 only. Tobacco is studied to cause at least 14 different types of cancer. The major use of Tobacco is the reason for the high numbers of oral cancer, lung cancer, and stomach cancers. There are currently more than 164 million smokeless Tobacco users, 69 million smokers, and 42 million smokers and chewers in India. Due to these high numbers, 34-69% of all cancers in men are due to Tobacco use, while for women, it is 10-27%.
A definite geographical pattern can be found while analyzing the cancer cases throughout the country. A large number of tobacco-related cancers and Cervical Cancer in women are primarily found in people belonging to the lower socioeconomic status. Meanwhile, cancer types such as Breast Cancer and colorectal cancer, which are associated with obesity, overweight, and lower physical activity levels, are associated with those of higher economic status. A large number of esophageal, nasopharyngeal, and gastrointestinal cancers are found in people belonging to the North-Eastern states and in states like J&K and Himachal Pradesh, which point to the fact that their spicy food habits could be a major factor in the incidence of these cancer types.
Most Common Cancer Types in India
The most common cancers types in women in 2018 were:
- Breast Cancer – 162,500 cases
- Oral Cancer – 120,000 cases
- Cervical Cancer – 97,000 cases
- Lung Cancer – 68,000 cases
- Stomach Cancer – 57,000 cases
- Colorectal Cancer – 57,000 cases
Out of the 587,000 new cancer cases in women, these cancer types accounted for 49% of the total cancer cases.
The most common cancer types in men in 2018 were:
- Oral Cancer – 92,000 cases
- Lung Cancer – 49,000 cases
- Stomach Cancer – 39,000 cases
- Colorectal Cancer – 37,000 cases
- Oesophageal Cancer – 34,000 cases
Out of the 5,70,000 new cancer cases in men, these cancer types accounted for 45% of the total cases.
Need for Awareness
By studying these numbers, it becomes clear that the primary reason for the rise in cancer cases and the high number of cancer-related deaths is the lack of awareness. The majority of our population is unaware of the unhealthy lifestyles they follow, which holds them at great risk of getting cancer or other deadly diseases. Most of India's common cancer types can be either avoided or diagnosed at an early stage through proper awareness and screening. For example, the use of Tobacco is the primary cause of cancer in India. Adequate awareness of the harmful effects of Tobacco to the masses will help bring down these cancers. Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer are two of the most common types of cancer in women. Breast Cancer cases are rising at such a rapid pace that for every two women diagnosed with it in India, one woman dies of it. But both Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer be diagnosed at a very early stage through a Mammogram and Pap Smear, respectively. Also, if diagnosed at a more initial stage, both these cancers are easily curable.
Cancer treatment in India has seen immense advancements in recent years with the rise of Immunotherapy and other advanced treatment procedures. But we can improve the pace of our growth by investing more money in cancer research, something that massive cancer campaigns can only bring. To read a detailed article on Cancer Treatment in India, click here.
Therefore, we must educate ourselves about cancer and its symptoms to diagnose it at an early stage and treat it like just another disease. ZenOnco.io understands the importance of proper awareness of cancer and unite with all the cancer organizations and India's Government in a bid to make our country free from the fear of cancer.
To read a detailed article on cancer symptoms, click here.
If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer recently and need guidance on treatment or have any doubts or queries, please call ZenOnco.io on +91 99 30 70 90 00
All statistics provided are from the year 2018, as recent statistics are not available.
"Cancer Statistics. India Against Cancer, cancerindia.org.in/cancer-statistics/.
"One in 10 Indians Will Develop Cancer during Their Lifetime: WHO Report. The Hindu, The Hindu, 4 Feb. 2020, www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/one-in-10-indians-will-develop-cancer-during-their-lifetime-who-report/article30734480.ece.