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Cancer - Alarming Facts

  By : , Kochi , India       5.2.2018         Phone:0484 669 9999          Mail Now
  Kuttisahib Road, Near Kothad Bridge, South Chittoor, Cheranalloor, Kochi, Kerala 682027

Dr Jem Kalathil
Senior Consultant
Surgical Oncologist
Aster Medcity, Kochi

As we move into 2018, our modern life style is creating havoc in the health scene. This is significant since we as a society is sill under a myth regarding the Kerala model of health care. The situation is alarming even though our health care indices are still the best in the country. Move towards a digital era has brought with it all the perils of unhealthy life style. Most alarming is the fact that, at the drop of a hat, we are forcing even infants to watch tabs and the idiot box incessantly in the guise of feeding them and pacifying them. We are thus forgoing any chance of recovery for another generation purely for our comfort.

Currently we are effected by severe diseases linked to unhealthy life styles which account to cancer, diabetes, cardio vascular diseases & significantly influence the cost for health care systems. February 4 th is marked as international World Cancer Day. The prime objective of such a day is to raise awareness of cancer & encourage its prevention, detection & treatment. From 2016- 2018 this is taking place under the tag line ‘’We can I can’’ This is to explore how every one as a collective or individuals can do their part to reduce the global burden of cancer. This is a very relevant concept in our present situation

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death world wide & data shows correlation with main life style factors like tobacco consumption, harmful alcohol use, sedentary life style, unhealthy diet & obesity. It is obvious that these are the hallmarks of an executive lifestyle. On one side we have urbanization of a predominantly rural lifestyle with limited access to health care and paradoxically on the other hand we have a highly affluent executive community who do not have the time to care for themselves

According to the ICMR, the premier research body in India, the total number of new cancer cases annually is around 14.5 lakhs & the figure is likely to reach over 17 lakhs in 2020. Around 7 lakh people are expected to succumb to the disease annually. The most worrying factor in all these statistics is that only 12.5 % of patients come for treatment in the early stage of disease.

To put things in perspective, among females, Breast Cancer tops the list & among the males it is mouth cancer. We have about 1.5 lakh of new breast cancer every year. Cancer of the lung is the next with about 1.14 lakhs. Cancer of the uterine cervix is the third most common cancer with about 1 lakh new cases.

Another worrying fact is that Cancers associated with the use of tobacco accounts for about 30 % of all cancers. One in eight Indians is likely to develop cancer in the life time. And that is why I want to share to you about the role of life style in Cancer & prevention strategies.

The emphasis is not to live longer but to live better. Primary prevention, which in many situations is a cultural choice, is one of the main tools to obtain concrete & durable results

Data shows that 3 million life years free of cancer could be gained within 10 years & over 10 million life years in twenty years through integrated, preventive measures aimed to address the risk factors mentioned above.

We have to re orient ourselves to think about education before medicating ourselves and to take care of our health before spending a fortune in treating disease. To promote healthy life style means to promote a good life in terms of quality which means to make years of our lives enjoyable.

International strategies on life style intervention aim for 10 % relative reduction in the use of alcohol & insufficient inactivity, 30 % reduction in salt intake & prevalence of current tobacco use in persons aged above 15 years.

If you look at the common cancers, Breast Cancer reflects the prevalence of risk factors associated with affluence & socio economic status including parity, age of menarche & menopause, obesity, tobacco smoking & alcohol consumption.

High rates of lung cancer patterns reflect the current phase of lung cancer epidemic due to past smoking exposure. World Cancer Day is mainly influenced by diet with high intake of red & processed meat, obesity, sedentary life style. The risk of Prostrate Cancer increases with tobacco usage, alcohol consumption, wrong diet & absence of physical exercise.

Alcohol is an important public health problem with detrimental health & social consequences for the drinker, people around the drinker & society at large. It causes cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, colon, rectum, liver, breast & pancreas. Alcohol causes cancer through the production of acetaldehyde which is a toxic metabolite. What is alarming for me is that alcohol related social issues and drink driving has still not become socially unacceptable like in the west

Tobacco usage and smoking is another bane of executive life style. It is the single largest cause of cancer in the world & is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. One person dies every 6 seconds from tobacco related diseases, & what worries me most is the that we have six lakhs victims of second hands smoking. One out of four of all cancer deaths are caused by smoking. 95 % of lung cancers are due to tobacco smoking.

Coming to nutrition, physical activity & obesity, WHO has estimated that insufficient intake of fruit & vegetable causes approximately 14 % of deaths from gastro intestinal tumors. Junk food brands and unhealthy fast food culture has made significant inroads and has become a way of life in our society especially among executives.

Proper diet will lower the risk of cancer of the digestive system by 30%. Physical activity may lower the risk of colon cancer by 20% & breast cancer by 30%. Inappropriate diet causes about 1/3rd of all cancer death world wide. Diet is linked to cancers of the lung, stomach, colon, oropharynx, oesophagus and mouth. Even though a typical executive is aware of the pitfalls of an unhealthy lifestyle, it is often difficult to break away from well established social systems.

When strategies are planned to combat this social menace of smoking we have to be innovative. In addition to the existing strategies in controlling the usage of tobacco like awareness programs, pricing and taxation to decrease the availability of tobacco products, we have to strive toward a lasting social and cultural change. More awareness should be given to the non smoker regarding the huge health impacts they suffer in the presence of a smoker. Public smoking should become socially unacceptable especially in front of children. The implementation of ban on public smoking is patchy at best. Strategies addressing these issues should be initiated & integrated with school health programs. Children should be given a chance to proudly resist smoking at an early age as an informed choice and should be rewarded socially.

Alcohol related issues is more complex. Personally I am of the school that forcible ban on alcohol in a democratic society is not practical. I believe that systems should be in place to prevent spurious liquor and drugs. Consistent and stringent measures should be in place to tackle alcohol related antisocial behavior, domestic issues and crimes. Although abstinence from alcohol should be the aim, clear awareness should be ensured on the harmful use of alcohol. Policies should be innovative to make tobacco & alcohol usage socially unacceptable especially in an executive lifestyle

Dietary interventions to tackle the menace of junk food should be novel and consistent. I believe that in addition to the current strategies in place, emphasis should be on catching them young. Healthy eating habits should become entrenched in the child from school days. Parents have a critical role in ensuring healthy diets from infancy. I strongly believe that children should have the opportunity to make an informed choice at later ages regarding their diet. This approach would have long term benefits in the molding a healthy generation. Also a healthy holistic lifestyle should be offered incorporating physical activity, yoga and meditation from childhood aimed at social and spiritual well being

In addition, children could be used as a corrective force for their parents health. They can exert a critical and significant push to make parents quit smoking, alcohol and take better care of their own health.

Along with these long term strategies, a robust cancer awareness program should be in place for employees highlighting the perils of an executive life style. Institutional policies should be directed to provide and reward efforts to change to a healthy life style within the system. Early detection and cancer screening activities should be made mandatory in institutions since they provide a more viable economic model in the long term.

More importantly there should be a cultural change in the mindset of the physician community as well to combat lifestyle diseases and cancer screening. These should be a routine practice across specialties to educate and nudge every patient, towards a better healthy life style. Screening programs for life style diseases and cancer should be made mandatory at various points in one’s career as appropriate. Health insurance models should include such screening than opting to pay for the treatment of advanced disease.

TAGS: cancer,   World cancer day,   February 4 -world cancer day,   Dr Jem Kalathil,   Dr Jem Kalathil Surgical Oncologist,  

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