World Cancer Day: Increasing cases and confusing trends

A recent report highlighted that cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart disease in India. Although the number of cancer cases have shot up in India for the past few years, it still remains lowest in comparison to the West. A report stated that 94 people in a lakh suffer from cancer in the country.

“India is the second largest country by population and there are fair chances of under reporting and deficiencies in screening. Also, majority of Indians live in rural areas where healthcare facilities are not as developed as urban areas. Insufficient medical facilities can be a reason for under-reporting. A report also pointed out that actual cancer cases can be between 150 and 200 per 1 lakh people, which still is quite low in comparison to the West,” said Dr Kanika Sharma, senior consultant, radiation oncology at Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital.

According to data, men have 25% more chance of getting cancer as compared to women across the world. However, India shows completely opposite trends, where women are more commonly affected. No clear explanation has been presented by anyone for these opposite trends. The picture becomes more confusing with the fact that despite lower cases, men have a higher death rate due to cancer.

Lifestyle changes in the past decade are also responsible for the rise in cancer cases. In India, lip and oral cavity cancers top the chart for men due to smoking or tobacco chewing habits, whereas breast and cervical cancers top the chart for women. Delayed diagnosis with poor prognosis contribute to higher mortality. However, increased awareness of breast and cervical cancer have helped in early diagnosis, which is often followed by better treatment options and prognosis.

“Cancer management has improved drastically in the past few years. Latest technologies have made it possible to screen breast and cervical cancers at home. Also, most part of the treatment, which includes chemotherapy, post-surgical care, hydration therapy, and palliative care can also be availed at home. Cancer care at home has directly benefited the patients from tier-2 and tier-3 cities who were completely dependent on tier-1 hospitals for care. Advanced technology, improved awareness, healthcare facilities at home have played a leading role in bringing down the mortality especially in breast and cervical cancer patients,” said Dr Gaurav Thukral, COO & Critical Care Specialist, HealthCare atHOME.

Indian cancer trends may be opposite to the world and we may still have the lowest number of cases, however, we need to realise that incidence is creeping up steadily and cancer is the second most common cause of death. There is no absolute prevention against cancer but following a healthy lifestyle can help in the long run. Cancer is treatable if diagnosed early and we have quite a few celebrities who overcame the challenge of cancer to live a healthy life.

On this cancer day, let’s pledge to contribute in cancer prevention, treatment, follow a healthy lifestyle and encourage others too.