The grim cancer scenario in India…
Over 5 lakh persons die of cancer in India every year and among them a sizable portion are senior citizens. In India, cancers of lung, throat, mouth, neck, lungs, stomach and prostate afflict men, whereas women are prone to breast, cervical and ovarian cancers. In addition, colorectal cancer and cancers of head, brain, pancreas, skin, intestine and blood are also making their presence felt.
Seniors are especially at a disadvantage when stricken by cancer on account of lack of support systems, high cost of medicines and surgery, reluctance of insurers to offer health insurance to elderly etc.
Go in for cancer screening every year…
If detected at an initial stage, cancer treatment is more effective and less costly. If treatment begins at an advanced stage, costs are very high and survival chances are also low. The sad fact is that in India 70% of cancers are detected at advanced stages. We urge that every person and especially the elderly should go in for annual cancer check-ups. Organisations like Indian Cancer Society carry-out annual cancer screening free of cost. For women, mammogram and pap-smear test are a must.
Some of the warning signs of cancer onset are (a) Change in bowel or bladder habits (b) A sore that does not heal (c) Unusual bleeding or discharge (d) Thickening or lump on breast or elsewhere. (e) Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing (f) Obvious change in wart or mole and (g) Nagging cough or hoarseness.
New techniques to detect cancers at an early stage...
Treatment is most effective if cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. A few techniques being researched to detect cancer at an early stage are outlined below:
It has been found that in case of colon, lung, breast, stomach and womb cancers the DNA of tumours undergoes chemical modification called 'methylation'. In future this methylation signature may be possible to be detected through a simple blood test, which will enable these 5 types of cancers to be treated at an early stage itself, thereby raising survival rates dramatically.
A new technique, devised by CBS (Kalina, Mumbai) and TIFR (Colaba, Mumbai), detects cancer without taking tissue samples from the body. Light from a focused laser beam is used to trap a live cell and bring it close to another cell. Two healthy cells take only 5 seconds to bond, whereas tumourous cells take much longer time to stick to each other i.e. 20 to 25 seconds. However, this technique is still at nascent stage.
A test being developed by Swansea University Medical School (UK) detects mutations in proteins on the surface of red blood cells. In healthy persons, the number of mutations of this type average about five per million, but in cancer partients there can be 50 to 100 mutations per million.