Cancer Treatment – From Despair to Hope !!
Has cancer become a more common disease than what it was a few years go?
Yes, the incidence of cancer has increased over the last few years and there are several hypothesis to explain this.
First, there is increasing awareness and diagnosis of cancer.
Secondly, there is also a true increase in incidence of cancer.
Why is there an increase in incidence of cancer?
Several factors are to be blamed for this increasing incidence including changes in lifestyle, more sedentary lifestyle and less physical activity. Increasing use of tobacco and alcohol, delay in marriage and childbirth, less child bearing (especially relevant to breast cancer). Other factors include change in dietary practices such as consumption of red meats, excessive use of spices and chillies and contamination of food items with pesticides to some extent.
How much role does genetics play in cancer occurrence in an individual?
Less that 5% cancers are attributed to genetic predisposition (i.e. personal or family history of cancer) in an individual.
Is cancer preventable?
Some cancers are certainly preventable such as those cancers related with consumption of tobacco and alcohol. Some viral infections such as Hepatitis and HPV infection predispose to liver and cervical cancers and therefore can be prevented by use of vaccination against these viral infections.
Which all cancers are related to tobacco consumption?
Both smoked and chewed tobacco can lead to development of cancers including concer of mouth, tongue, throat, voice box, food pipe and lung.
If I have never used tobacco am I still at risk of developing oral cancer?
Although more than ninety percent oral cancers result from tobacco consumption, chronic injury by sharp teeth can lead to mucosal injury and can predispose to development of oral cancer even in people who have never smoked or consumed chewed tobacco.
What has changed in the last few years in diagnosis and treatment of cancers?
- Concept of multidisciplinary team and tumor board discussion for all cases ensures the correct sequence and best modality for treatment of cancers.
- Availability of newer histopathological techniques, such as immunohistochemistry, liquid biopsy and next generation sequencing for personalised treatment of cancer.
- Better staging tools such as PET-CT and other new imaging modalities.
- Advances in Surgery – Cancer surgery has become less mutilating and more and more organ conservation. There is emphasis on reconstruction, cosmetic and functional outcome. Chest and abdominal surgeries are now performed by Minimal Invasive Surgery and Robotic Surgery.
- Personalised cancer treatment, e.g. two women with similar stage breast cancer may be treated differently based on their molecular and genetic factors.
- Use of Precision based Radiation Therapy Techniques (IMRT, IGRT etc) allows better treatment outcomes with minimal side effects.
- Availability of targeted therapy and immunotherapy offers better disease outcomes with less side effects.
How do I take care of myself to prevent cancer?
Adopt a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise and avoid smoking and alcohol consumption. All cancers are not preventable so it is advisable to go for regular check-ups and screening for cancers.
The author DR ASHISH GOEL, MS Surgery, DNB Surgical Oncology is Associate Director Surgical Oncology at Jaypee Hospital, Noida.