Cancer! What does it mean to the world, to India, to you and to me? In the year 2018, 180 lakh new patients were diagnosed to have cancer, 98 lakh persons died of cancer in the world. In 2030 the number is expected to double. None is immune to this disease, irrespective of race, religion, country, richness, business, profession, work, or celebrity status.
Many doctors, oncologists, politicians, film celebrities, businesspersons, religious leaders, and renown from all walks of life have been affected. It can affect anyone, anywhere and anytime! So, we or our family member could be one of them any time! Most importantly, in India, and as elsewhere, the term cancer resonates shock and fear because of two concurrent reasons; first, very high treatment costs and second, poor chances of survival !
Facts at a glance!
- Cancer is the first or second leading cause of death in 50 % of the countries and third to fifth in 15 % countries and sixth to tenth in the rest. One in six deaths is due to cancer.
- About 10 million people die of cancer each year in the world.
- Approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.
- Around one third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use.
- Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer deaths.
- Cancer causing infections, such as hepatitis and human papilloma virus (HPV), are responsible for up to 25% of cancer cases in low- and middle-income countries.
- Late-stage presentation and inaccessible diagnosis and treatment are common.
- around 17 lakh new patients are diagnosed each year.
- Conservative estimates are around the annual growth rate of 5- 7 %.
- Annually 8 lakhs die due to cancer.
- The types of cancers in India are also undergoing transition. There is a decline of infection caused cancers in India such as cervical, and penile cancer, and an increase in lifestyle and aging associated cancers such as breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers.
- The numbers all over are expected to double by 2030.
Why the increase in cancers?
- increased population,
- Increasing life span, (current life expectancy in India is 68 years)
- decrease in deaths from infections over the years
- better health facilities for diagnosis,
- Increased tobacco consumption in all forms -cigarettes, beedis, gutka, chewing tobacco, pan masalas,
- Alcohol use
- less energy expenditure (less physical activity) and over consumption of calories leading to obesity, lifestyle diseases.
- changing food habits: transiting from traditional to more western diet, high fiber to low fiber diet,
- changing social and family norms : small family norms, late marriages, no or late child bearing, longer exposure to female hormones (early menarche, late menopause)
- changing sexual habits
During cancer treatment, cost would be for the actualtreatment as inpatient, OPD, non medical expenditure and productivity loss of the patiet and family members. In economic terms it is about annual cost of 1.18 trillion US dollars for the world. For India, it is estimated to be about .38 % of GDP and productivity loss it is expected to be around 7.2 billion US dollars (canceratlas.cancer.org).
The cost of proper cancer treatment is quite high and will vary according to the type of cancer, treatment and the place. At times, the financial burden associated with cancer treatment can force patients and households to acute misery and even insolvency. Studies on India suggest that about 60 and 32 percent households resort to borrowings and contributions (from friends and relatives) respectively for cancer hospitalization. Over 60 percent of the households who seek care from the private sector and incur out of pocket expenditure in excess of 20 percent of their annual per capita household expenditure. Health insurance is available with about 17-20 % of the population and some sort of public funding would be with about 10 % people. Recently launched Ayushman Bharat and othe state Govt schemes help about 35 to 40 % of the low income population.
There is a strong need for each individual to think of health expenditure during their financial planning, and to cover their families with some kind of insurance.
Let there be no assumption that costly treatment can always be far far better than cheap treatment. There will be cheaper options of threatment which may suit your budget. Do please dicuss thw your oncologist to examine all options and benefits.
Disparity in the world ! Like the world has disparities in everything so has cancer !
- More than 90% of high-income countries have adequate treatment services compared to less than 30% of low-income countries.
- Some of the developed countries with their efforts over decades have been able to control cancer and bring down the death rates due to cancer.
- While, the developing countries have increasing cancer incidence and high mortality rates.
- There is a great variation in types of cancers in various countries.
So how does it matter to us ?
- We could be the victims of cancer anytime ! We are no exceptions !
- Since cancer is preventable, let us begin to understand the measures and adopt to minimize our chances of cnacer. This will help us and certainly our next generations.
- It is possible to detect cancer early so let us understand the way to do it. It will save us a lot of effort and money.
- It is possible to get cancer treated effectively, let us understand it how. This wil optimally utilize our resources.
- There are many who don’t undertand about cancer so let us make them aware !
- There are many myths about cancer and let us understand the facts and drive the myths away !
Friends, today 4th February is world cancer day. It is one singular initiative by WHO under which the entire world can unite together in the fight against the global cancer epidemic. What do we do on this day and thereafter? Not just talk or read and forget or make it a talking point! There is a need for each of us in this world, to learn, plan, act and change. Gain knowledge about cancer and spread it! To make people aware of cancer, its impact on an individual and his family and society.
It is possible to detect cancer early. Look out for lumps and unexplained and unusual symptoms. Consult your physician or local hospital or cancer center. Consult oncologists for family cancers or if there is a doubt. It is possible to treat and cure cancers. Let the oncologists handle and treat promptly and correctly. Talking of costs! Yes, for those who can’t manage on their own, there are many ways to manage them. Several government hospitals, offices, NGOs, hospitals provide free care and financial assistance. Just guide them! For the young, healthy and self-sufficient, there is a small piece of advice. The way you have insured your bike or car, insure for your and family’s health! They are more important than your car or bike!
There are several myths about the cancer.
- That it is incurable. Wrong. It is curable !
- it is infectious. Wrong, It is not infectious !
- it is a curse. It is not ! Man made diease
- starvation can cure cancer ! No !
- biopsy or surgery will spread it, chemotherapy kills the patients, and so on. Never ! They don’t spread cancer !
Please bust these myths! They are dangerous and keep the people from doing right things. More important, don’t spread rumors or wrong, unauthenticated, unproven information! When you confront some information or message first check, find out, question rather than blindly believing it and forwarding it! Don’t be a victim or let someone become a victim of unauthentic information!
I am sure you would have got up to do something for cancer today and from today onwards. Take more people and join as a force to fight cancer. Start today, on the world cancer day and let some time in your life be devoted to it. You too say “I am and I will” with the world !. Get involved in any way. Because together we can bring the change. Let us all dream and work for a ‘cancer free world’ – for us, our future generations, by preventing cancer, detecting early, treating cancer. Bust the myths and spread the awareness.