What Do We Know About Cancer?

Graphic by Tejal Kawachi

Cancer is a global disaster that is only getting worse. Healthcare systems all over the world are up against formidable challenges to address this problem. It is known to be a leading cause of death around the globe. However, cancer is curable, and raising awareness about the disease aids in lowering cancer-related fatalities.

Cancer is a group of diseases that can begin in any organ or tissue of the body and spread to other organs when malignant cells grow excessively and infect adjacent systems of the body and transfer to other organs. According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second major cause of mortality worldwide, with an estimated 9.6 million deaths. It imposes a heavy burden on individuals, families, and healthcare systems all over the world. The physical, mental, and financial stress causes a lot of devastating pressure which takes a long time and effort to recover from. Furthermore, a substantial number of people worldwide are unaware of the disease and thus do not receive timely diagnosis and treatment.

Most Common Types Of Cancer In India

The most common types of cancer in India are breast cancer, cervical cancer, and mouth cancer.

Breast Cancer: 

This is the most common kind of cancer. While it is more prevalent in women over the age of 40, it can affect any female, at any age. The symptoms vary, but the most typical signs are changes in the size and shape of the breast, the formation of a painless lump, nipple retraction, or bloody discharge from the nipple.

Cervical Cancer: 

This is the second most common type of cancer in India and is caused by the development of abnormal cells in the cervix, which is the lowest section of the uterus that enters the vagina. Unusual vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after intercourse, after menopause, or after the monthly cycle is over, as well as pain in the lower abdomen and during intimacy, are the most common symptoms.

Oral Cancer: 

The country is responsible for more than 85 percent of all reported cases of oral cancer worldwide. Tobacco and alcohol usage are the leading factors of this type of cancer. Chronic ulcers in the mouth, trouble chewing and swallowing, tooth loosening and loss, pain and discomfort in the throat, and changes in the patient’s voice are all typical symptoms.

The Importance Of Cancer Awareness

Cancer education is critical for early identification and better health-seeking behavior. It is prevalent in both developing and developed countries, yet public awareness regarding the same remains poor. Inadequate awareness may lead to a failure to utilize screening methods and a delay in treatment. A delay in seeking care for cancer-like symptoms is one of the factors that have been consistently linked to late detection and treatment. It will be many years before we recognize all the variables and elements that lead to cancer. We may never be able to reverse the lives of those who have been affected by cancer, but we can strive to identify cancer as early as possible and assist individuals and families in getting an early diagnosis followed by timely intervention.


Cancer prevention is the technique of actively reducing one’s risk of developing cancer. According to a WHO report, 30-50 percent of all cancer occurrences are avoidable. Early detection of the disease and timely treatment would not only decrease the growth of the disease but also help in the emotional and economic factors. Prevention is also the most cost-effective long-term method for cancer control.

Some major key risk factors to be followed in order to prevent Cancer:

1. Avoid the use of tobacco, including cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. 

2. Maintain a healthy body weight

3. Follow a  nutritious diet rich in fruits and vegetables

4. Exercise on a regular basis

5. Limit Alcohol consumption

6. Practice safe intercourse

7. Reduce UV radiation exposure

8. Prevent unnecessary occupational radiation exposure

9. Get a routine medical checkup 

10. Chronic infections are also risk factors for cancer. Therefore, get vaccinated against Hepatitis B and the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Screening Examinations

Cancer education, awareness, and screening are critical for improving the survival rates of cancer patients. Screening results in earlier detection and a higher likelihood of survival. Tests are used to detect disease before any symptoms appear. The purpose of screening is to discover illness at its most curable and early stage.

  • A mammogram is the primary diagnostic technique for breast cancer. It is an x-ray picture of the breast that reveals and distinguishes normal and malignant tissue. Additional cancer screening and testing are recommended, if abnormal tissue is found.  According to modern medicine, mammography screening should be done on a regular basis after a woman reaches the age of 40. After the age of 20, all girls/women should undertake a self-breast inspection on a regular basis.
  • The PAP test is for the detection of cervical cancer. It scans your cervix for abnormal cells that might develop into cancer over time. From the age of 21, all women should begin receiving pap tests on a regular basis.
  • An endoscopy is a medical procedure that allows you to see inside your body. Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are colorectal cancer screening techniques. While sigmoidoscopy only checks the bottom half of the colon (the rectum and sigmoid colon), colonoscopy examines the whole colon. The major test for detecting stomach cancer is esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD.
  • LDCT is the screening test for those who have a high risk of lung cancer but no symptoms or indications of the disease.
National Cancer Awareness Day 

On November 7th, India commemorates National Cancer Awareness Day to raise awareness about cancer, its symptoms, and possible treatments. National Cancer Awareness Day was initially declared in September 2014 by Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan. It is observed in remembrance of Marie Curie’s birth. The scientist was born in 1867 and is known for her groundbreaking research that led to the invention of nuclear energy and radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer.


According to the WHO, there were around 18 million cases worldwide in 2018, with 1.5 million occurring in India alone. In the same year, there were around 0.8 million cancer deaths in India, compared to 9.5 million worldwide. An increase in the number of new cases in India is expected by 2040. Therefore, promoting awareness around the world is essential in order to lower the risk factor of the devastating disease and inspire people to be optimistic and strong.

The latest advances in cancer treatment have established a whole new perspective on how to treat cancer. Advancements in treatment, as well as numerous awareness programs, and screening tests, have greatly aided in tackling the disease at its earliest stages and understanding the disease so that it may be prevented and maintained. Certain habits need to be in check, as well as a healthy diet and lifestyle, are significant factors in cancer prevention. The proverb “prevention is better than cure” fits perfectly with this disease since it puts a lot of physical, emotional, and financial strain on the patient as well as the entire family. To prevent it, one must be self-aware and attentive to one’s own health. Thus, cancer awareness is a critical issue that must be propagated and reached in every corner of the planet.

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