At a time when cancer is fast spreading its tentacles globally owing to genetic, environment and lifestyle factors, India is also witnessing a steep rise in cancer cases and significantly, more and more women are falling prey to the emperor of all maladies, top health care providers stress.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), every 13th new cancer patient in the world is an Indian and breast, cervical and oral cancers top the list in the country.
“Out of 12.5 lakh (1.25 million) new cancer patients each year in India, over seven lakh are women,” says Dr (Col) Ranga Rao Rangaraju, director (oncology services) at Max Super Specialty Hospital in the capital.
“Nearly 3.5 lakh women face deaths owing to cancer each year and the figure is likely to go up to 4.5 lakh by 2025,” said Dr Rangaraju. Imbalance in the circadian clock due to sleep loss, lack of exercise, wrong eating habits, work-related stress, smoking and alcohol abuse are some of the key reasons behind high mortality rates among women with cancer.
“Our sedentary lifestyle is the first thing to be blamed,” adds Dr Sandeep Batra, senior consultant (medical oncology) at BLK Super Specialty Hospital. Focused on professional life, urban women end up in late marriages and child bearing. Some of them opt for hormone replacement therapies which further increases the risk of cancer.
“Artificial hormonal replacement therapies must be avoided,” Dr Batra added. Therapies, like controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) — the hormone treatment required for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) — must be avoided as it increases estrogen and progesterone levels which has been suspected to increase breast cancer risk.
“One should be ambitious but, at the same time, have a target to go the family way in time,” cautions Dr Sameer Kaul, senior consultant (surgical oncology and robotic) from Indraprastha Apollo Hospital. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, maintaining correct body weight and adequate exercise as well as safe sexual practices can go a long way in preventing cancers, he suggests. According to a recent study, India has seen a 7.5 per cent rise in the number of cancer patients primarily due to poor lifestyle choices.
The lifestyle problems have contributed to breast, ovarian and cervix uteri cancers among women, says the ‘Globocan’ project study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Women also need to strictly carry out annual health checkups. A thorough gynecological checkup must become a routine after the age of 35.
“Cancer treatment should be carried out only at certified centres run by government-laid guidelines so as to maximise survival rates and improve quality of life,” said Dr Vedant Kabra, director (surgical oncology) at Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon. Increased awareness among women is imperative as it results in timely detection which is very important in cancer patients as it can prevent death.
Often for socio-economic reasons, along with less awareness, several women tend to overlook risks and symptoms associated with cancer. It thus proves fatal as in such cases cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage where the treatment becomes ineffectual.
“Avoid regular consumption of unhygienic and unhealthy junk foods as it disrupts the normal body mechanism and triggers the onset of cancer,” notes Dr Batra, suggesting that the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables coupled with daily exercise and a stress-free environment are keys to ward off cancer risk.