Cancer. The word itself sends shivers down our spines, evoking fear and uncertainty. While it’s a global health challenge, the landscape of cancer in India takes on a unique form. With over 1 million new cases diagnosed annually, understanding the most prevalent cancers and the crucial cancer screening tests becomes a matter of life-saving awareness.
The Grim Reality of Cancer in India and the World
India ranks third globally in cancer cases, with roughly 1 in 68 men and 1 in 29 women developing the disease in their lifetime. This translates to a staggering 5 lakh deaths every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes the importance of early detection and access to quality cancer care, highlighting it as a key pillar of its 2024 World Cancer Day campaign, “Close the Care Gap.”
There are hundreds of types of cancer and no one can get screened for all of them so here is a broad indicator of who is more at risk.
Who needs Cancer Screening Tests?
- If you have a family member who suffered from Cancer
- If you are more than 40 years of age , especially a female
- If you are a smoker or have been drinking alcohol regularly
- If you have any of the symptoms listed against the type of cancer below
But amidst these statistics, there’s a glimmer of hope. Early detection through effective cancer screening tests can significantly improve survival rates and treatment outcomes. So, let’s know more about the top 5 most prevalent cancers in India and their crucial screening tests:
1. Breast Cancer
- Prevalence: 2 lakh new cases annually, affecting 1 in 29 women.
- Symptoms: Lumps in breast, changes in breast size, nipple discharge, breast skin dimpling, pain in the armpit area
- Crucial Screening Test: Mammography: X-ray imaging of the breast tissue recommended every two years for women above 50 and annually for those with high risk factors.
2. Lung Cancer
- Prevalence in India: 1.2 lakh new cases annually, affecting both men and women.
- Symptoms: Persistent cough for more than 2 months, chest pain, coughing up blood or blood stained mucus, shortness of breath.
- Crucial Screening Test: Low-dose CT scan: Recommended for high-risk individuals like smokers and those with chronic lung conditions.
3. Oral Cancer
- Prevalence in India: 1.1 lakh new cases annually, impacting men more than women.
- Symptoms: Whitish plaques or ulceration inside the mouth, red patches, difficulty swallowing, tongue pain.
- Crucial Screening Test: Oral Visual Examination (OVE): A simple and painless oral check-up by a dentist or healthcare professional.
4. Cervical Cancer
- Prevalence in India : 1 lakh new cases annually, primarily affecting women between 30-50 years.
- Symptoms: Abnormal vaginal bleeding like in between periods or after menopause or after sex, pelvic pain, foul vaginal discharge
- Crucial Screening Test: Pap Smear: A painless and cheap test that collects cells from the cervix for abnormal growth detection.
5. Colorectal Cancer
- Prevalence in India: 70,000 new cases annually, affecting both men and women.
- Symptoms: Blood in stool, abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits
- Crucial Screening Test: Colonoscopy: An endoscopic examination of the inner lining of the colon and rectum.
Additionally, India also has a high prevalence of Gastric/stomach cancer and Gall bladder cancer, so do not ignore any abdominal symptoms if they have been consistent and chronic.These can quickly be detected through cancer screening tests that I have mentioned above.
Remember: Early detection is the only key! Don’t shy away from seeking medical advice if you experience any of the mentioned symptoms. These screening tests are powerful tools in the fight against cancer, offering a chance for early intervention and potentially life-saving treatment.Your general physician can be your first line of approach , who can advise the basic crucial cancer screening tests for your weighing in your risk and your symptoms.
Beyond Screening: A Holistic Approach to Cancer Care
While screening tests play a crucial role, the fight against cancer demands a holistic approach. Here are some additional steps you can take:
- Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a balanced diet (this anti-inflammatory diet is great), engage in regular physical activity and take care of your emotional wellness .Avoid tobacco in any form and reduce alcohol consumption.
- HPV Vaccination: Vaccinating girls against HPV can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
- Self-Examination: Regularly examine yourself for any unusual changes in your body and report them to your doctor.
- Early Diagnosis and Treatment: Don’t delay seeking medical help if you experience any symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve prognosis.
- Emotional Support: Cancer can be a challenging journey. Seek emotional support from loved ones, support groups, or mental health professionals.
By keeping a proactive approach, we can empower ourselves and our communities in the fight against cancer. I cannot stress this enough, early detection is not just a statistic; it’s a chance to rewrite the narrative and reclaim control over your life.This one decision not only affects your life but also the quality of life of your loved ones.
Let’s close the care gap together. Let’s fight cancer, together.
- World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/cancer
- Indian Council of Medical Research: https://www.icmr.nic.in/
- National Cancer Institute: https://www.cancer.gov/
(This blogpost is a part of Blogchatter’s #CauseAChatter)
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