The Big C: It can happen to anyone, Be Aware!

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Amidst all the deluge of information around the on-going Covid-19 outbreak, the news of the demise of two beloved Indian actors, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor, came as a shock and sent their legion of fans in mourning. Apart from being brilliant artistes and versatile at their craft, there was one more thing common between the two – both the actors had cancer and fought the disease till the very end.
Research has shown that cancer can happen to anyone, irrespective of their age, gender or even financial background. Whether its Bollywood celebrities like Lisa Ray, Sonali Bendre and Rakesh Roshan, or even sportsmen like Yuvraj Singh, all have been diagnosed with cancer. But today, they are successfully dealing with the Big C and are inspiring many others with their determination and grit.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report released in February 2020, there are over 1.16 million new cases of cancer registered every year in India. Out of these, around 5.7 lakh cases are seen in men and around 5.87 lakh cases are in women. The report also mentioned that one in 10 Indians will develop cancer during their lifetime! Hence, which such alarming statistics, there is a need to spread awareness about the causes, symptoms and vulnerability of cancers that impact such a major chunk of the population. An early diagnosis will keep everyone two steps ahead of cancer and minimise the effect.
In India, the four most common types of cancer are breast (1.6 lakh cases), oral (1.2 lakh cases), cervical (97,000 cases), and lung (68,000 cases).

1. Breast cancer – Although this majorly impacts women, there have been several cases recently of men being diagnosed with breast cancer. The most common symptoms include a painless lump in the breast with a sudden change in size, nipple retraction, etc. Breast cancer can be detected early with the help of the mammography screening tool.

2. Oral cancer – Out of the 3 lakh cases of oral cancer detected annually around the world, close to 86% of the cases are reported from India. The main cause is tobacco and alcohol consumption. The most common symptoms include pain in throat, ulcers, difficulty in swallowing, etc.

3. Cervical cancer – India accounts for 1/5th of the global burden for cervical cancer. The symptoms include bleeding from the vagina, after the menstruation cycle, pain in the lower belly, etc.

4. Lung cancer – The most common risks are smoking and family history, while the symptoms include coughing, chest pain, blood in sputum, etc.

While the rates are increasing phenomenally, affecting people across age groups, the WHO report also indicated that behavioural and dietary risks are the leading cause of all cancer deaths. These are high BMI, deficient in nutrients from fruits and vegetables, tobacco and alcohol consumption and lack of any physical activity.

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