14 The Big C - Dr Ian Pinto

posted Apr 24, 2019, 6:45 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 24, 2019, 6:46 AM ]

Can Cancer be prevented and treated?

The word 'Cancer', when heard, often instills a sense of immense fear. Much of the fear is due to the perceived fatality and devastation associated with it. Cancer is ubiquitous, touching each one of us, directly or indirectly, affecting close family members, friends or acquaintances. Modern advances have revolutionised both the experience during the treatment and the outcomes of patients with cancer.

What is cancer? Cancer occurs when our normal cells get damaged and mutate, causing a loss of normal control on growth of a cell. Since these cells grow faster than the surrounding normal cells, it manifests in a lump or a tumorous growth. Hence, the first warning sign is a lump, bump, abnormal change or growth in the body. If this happens, one must immediately see a doctor. A biopsy of this lump would lead us to the diagnosis of cancer. Just as in battle, before one starts cancer treatment, one must know the origin and extent of the spread of the cancer, so a plan of attack can be formulated.

Can it be prevented? Yes, it can. A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low in saturated/trans fats can go a long way in preventing cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight with a good diet and daily exercise is essential. Tobacco and related products like gutkha lead to more than forty per cent of all cancers, and avoiding them decreases your risk. The previously held belief that a drink a day after forty years of age keeps the doctor away no longer applies. New research reveals that even a drink a day can increase your risk of cancer, and hence it is important to limit alcohol intake. Avoiding sun exposure and use of sunscreen prevents skin cancers. Prevention of infections such as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B, either through hygiene or vaccination, can decrease your risk of cancer associated with these infections. In women, breast-feeding and childbearing decreases the risk of breast cancer.