By Dr. Rachna Pande
Every 4th February is marked as, “World Cancer Day”. It is to make people more aware about cancer, which has emerged as one of the leading causes of death globally.
Cancer once started, spreads like evil in the body dealing devastation in any part it affects. Untreated, there is slow painful death. Curative measures like surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy only prolong life not the quality. They also have painful adverse effects. If detected and treated early, the individual can lead a long good quality life, even after having cancer.
Therefore it is better to prevent cancer. This is possible by just following some simple measures.
Normally a healthy immune system (one responsible for fighting diseases) prevents the multiplication of cancer cells and destroys them. But man has reduced his immunity due to his current lifestyle and habits. There are many risk factors which are within human control to avoid risk of developing cancer.
It is important for people to be aware regarding preventive measures for cancer. A healthy well balanced, high fiber diet is useful for cancer prevention. Diet should include green vegetables and fresh fruits along with cereals, whole grains and fish. Excess of fats and oils should be avoided. Red meat particularly processed one like smoked beef, ham, e.t.c. increase risk of cancer. Ready to eat fast foods have harmful chemicals which predispose one to cancer. These chemicals are used as preservatives, additives, coloring or flavoring agents. Therefore one should avoid fast food.
Alcohol and tobacco use is best avoided. They are risk factors for many cancers.
Having sex from early age along with multiple partners predisposes a young woman to develop cancer of the cervix (lower portion of uterus). Multiple pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases add to the risk. Hence one should have a disciplined sex life.
Stress reduces the immunity of the body and increases the risk of developing cancer. Therefore it is best avoided. Regular exercise also improves immunity
Along with technological advancement, man has been exposed to many kind of cancer producing substances. Many chemicals were put in industrial use without realizing their potential cancer producing property.
The responsibility lies with employers to provide the workers with suitable preventive measures in situations of exposure to chemicals/heavy metals. Individuals working with X-rays should always use protective shields. People engaged in occupations involving exposure to carcinogens should be screened regularly for early detection of cancer.
Excess exposure to sunlight makes one more susceptible to skin cancers. This can be avoided by using sunglasses and caps while moving out in the sun. “Fairness creams”, available increase risk of skin cancer.
Those suffering from HIV/AIDS are at a high risk of developing various kinds of cancers, due to reduced immunity of the body.
One should be vigilant enough to pick up the early tell tale signs of cancer in the body. Persistent or recurrent white patches or ulceration in the mouth should be screened for oral cancer. Hard painless lump or nodule, appearing anywhere in the body could be cancerous and should be tested for the same. Unexplained weight loss in an elderly person with no diabetes is highly suggestive of presence of cancer somewhere in the body and should be searched by relevant tests.
Chronic cough with bloody expectoration, breathlessness and weight loss, in which investigations exclude an infection suggest high possibility of lung cancer.
Persistent altered bowel habits in elderly, i.e. new onset of diarrhea or constipation is a sign of cancer of large bowel.
Self examination of breasts is a very useful and economical technique to detect breast cancer at its earliest. Any lump, persistent pruritic patch or puckering of nipple or bloody discharge from nipple, should be immediately reported and tested for cancer.
Middle aged/ elderly women should be cautious about any vaginal discharge because discharge at this age could be due to cancer of cervix. Bleeding occurring 6 months after menopause, could be due to cancer of uterus.
Cancer is preventable by a healthy life style.
Dr Rachna Pande
Specialist internal medicine
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