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Prasad was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer at age 59. He didn’t lose hope. He didn’t sit around all day waiting for the next test. He tried everything he could to live as healthy a life as possible. When the right time came, he underwent surgery and radiation treatment. Now, he sticks to a low-fat diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and he avoids red meat (beef, pork, and lamb). He works out at a gym 5 days a week.
Every day someone loses someone special to them, because either they didn’t go to their regular cancer screening tests and it was detected too late or because they lost hope once it was detected. It is natural to be scared and disturbed once you have been diagnosed. However, the idea is to not let this fear paralyze you or shut you down. Prasad overcame is fears and was positive for his recovery right from the initial days. Cancer is not the end of the world. There are ways to survive this ailment and even more ways to prevent it.
World Cancer Day, observed on 4th February is organized by the Union for International Cancer Control, to highlight the wide range of actions needed to effectively prevent, treat and control the many forms of cancer.
- Cancers presented approximately 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer related deaths in 2012.
- The estimated number of new cancers in India per year is about 7 lakhs. Out of this, about 2.3 lakhs (33%) cancers are tobacco related.
What are the warning signs and symptoms of cancer?
The signs and symptoms depend on where the cancer is, how big it is, and how much it affects the organs or tissues. If it has spread, symptoms may appear in different parts of the body.
- Unexplained weight loss of 5 kgs or more
- Any change in the size, shape, or colour of a mole or other spot in the skin
- Bloody stool or urine lasting for more than a day
- Lump or swelling anywhere in the body that lasts a month or more
- Frequent discomfort in swallowing accompanied with vomiting or weight loss
- White or bright-red patches inside your mouth or on your lips
- Coughing for more than 3 to 4 weeks
- Fever is very common once cancer has spread from where it started
- Bone-deep tiredness that never gets better in spite of resting and relaxing
- Persistent indigestion or swallowing problems
- A long lasting sore anywhere on skin that do not heal
- Depression along with stomach pain
- Bloating for over two weeks accompanied with weight loss or bleeding.
- Breast changes like dimpled skin, inward nipples, redness, and scaling.
- Problems while urinating like leaking, weak stream, frequent need to urinate.
- Any lump, heaviness, or any other change in the testicles.
How can you prevent Cancer?
- Avoid Tobacco: Tobacco smoking causes many types of cancer and an estimated 22% of cancer deaths per year. Don’t use tobacco and avoid exposure to second hand smoke.
- Lead a healthy lifestyle: Modify your diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Regular physical activity and maintenance of a healthy body weight helps to reduce cancer risk.
- Reduce alcohol consumption: Drink in moderation to prevent cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and breast.
- Get vaccinated: Cancer prevention includes protection from certain viral infections like hepatitis, human papilloma virus.
- Avoid infections: Prevent infection and infestation of Helicobacter pylori, Schistosoma, liver fluke as they can cause stomach cancer, bladder cancer and cholangiocarcinoma of the bile ducts, respectively.
- Control environmental pollution: Exposure to carcinogenic chemicals in the environment can occur through drinking water, contaminated food or pollution of indoor and ambient air. Check contaminants such as arsenic in water, coal fire, aflatoxins or dioxins.
- Avoid carcinogenic radiations: Avoiding excessive exposure to sun’s ultraviolet rays, use sunscreen and protective clothing to prevent skin cancer. Also avoid residential exposure to radon gas from soil and building materials.
- Get screened regularly: Do regular self-examination and take proper medical care for skin, colon, prostate, cervix and breast cancers. If these are detected early, treatment is likely to be successful.
What to do once you are diagnosed with cancer?
The best thing you can do is start taking care of yourself as you begin to cope with this news:
- Do not panic: Cancer isn’t death. Gather your thoughts and analyze what you have been told. This could take a few days. You need to be able to make clear decisions about yourself, your healthcare team and your treatment.
- Take charge: Know about your condition. Surround yourself with specialists, technicians, family, friends and support. You are the most important person to take care of your health so do not leave your life-decisions to someone else.
- Ask questions: Do remember that you have the right to question your doctor until you are satisfied. Do not assume anything, demand explanation for everything he has to say. You can write down your doubts before visiting your doctor.
- Get a second opinion: Increase your chances of survival by taking a second opinion. You can get perspective of a different specialist or an opportunity to meet someone more in tune with your needs.
- Manage stress: Cancer detection adds overwhelming anxiety and stress which can delay the recovery. Find out way to relax yourself such as meditation, positive thinking, and allow people to help you.
DID YOU KNOW?
According to a British health campaign, people suffering from heartburn most days for three weeks or more can develop esophageal or stomach cancer.
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- WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. ACCESSED JAN 27, 2016.
- KIDWAI MEMORIAL INSTITUTE OF ONCOLOGY. ACCESSED JAN 27, 2016.
- WORLD CANCER DAY. ACCESSED JAN 28, 2016.
- CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION. ACCESSED JAN 28, 2016.