When one hears the word cancer, no matter the details, the dreaded word frightens all. On occasion, the fear psychosis associated with the word may do more harm than the disease itself. People relate the term to circumstances of despair and doom, even if it may not be so. Much like in life, time is of essence when dealing with cancer. More than a third of all cancers are preventable by reducing exposures to risk factors. Early detection with the correct treatment can easily help a person overcome the illness.

Cancer is a disease that occurs when changes in a group of normal cells within the body leads to uncontrolled growth causing a lump called, “tumor”. This is true for all cancers, except leukemia, i.e. blood cancer.  If left untreated, tumors can grow and spread into the surrounding normal tissue, or to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic systems, and can affect digestive, nervous and circulatory systems.[1]

The tumors can be either benign tumor or malignant tumor. The former are not cancerous and rarely life threatening. Benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body as they lack the ability to invade neighboring tissues. This tumor is composed of similar cells as that of the normal cells and has a slower growth rate. It becomes life-threatening only when the tumor becomes large, thereby producing the “mass effect,” which may compress tissues and may cause nerve damage, tissue death, organ damage, etc. A malignant tumor is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.[2]

There are many known reasons for cancer. Some of them are cited below:

  1. Genetics, some types of cancer run in certain families but most cancers are not clearly linked to the genes we inherit.
  2. Tobacco, it contains approximately 80 different types of cancer-causing substances. Smoking not only causes lung and mouth cancers but also other types of cancers.
  3. Alcohol, it can increase the risk of a number of cancers, including mouth, throat, liver, breast and bowel cancer.
  4. Obesity, obese people have an increased risk of bowel and pancreatic cancer due to high insulin levels.
  5. Age, many types of cancers is linked to age as well. The longer people live; more exposure to carcinogens can lead to genetic changes and mutations.
  6. Weak immune systems

The Paris Charter adopted at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris on February 4, 2000, established the WORLD CANCER DAY. The Charter aimed at the promotion of the research for curing as well as preventing the disease, upgrading the provided services, sensitization of common opinion and thereby mobilizing the community in the fight against cancer.  The World Cancer Day 2016-18, with the tag line of, “WE CAN. I CAN”, will explore how everyone-as a collective or as individuals- can do their part to reduce the global burden of cancer.[3]

Cancer can be defeated; one can win in the battle against cancer. Apart from the medical aspects, the psychological assistance is extremely important.  It is exceptionally difficult experience when one learns that he/she has been diagnosed with cancer, nonetheless, knowing what to expect and making plans accordingly on how to proceed can make the stressful time easier.

  • Taking in the news is the first step. Accepting the problem is half the battle. It takes the time to accept the fact but one must cope with cancer like any other problem in life.
  • Gathering knowledge and learning about cancer and treatments can help and give a certain sense of control.
  • Communication and expressing feelings are extremely important in dealing with cancer. Patients often feel isolated or fail to express their feelings thereby leading to depression. Sharing and caring through strong communication channels can help immensely.
  • Prepare mentally and psychologically for possible changes post diagnosis of cancer. One must make a rational and practical evaluation of the impact of cancer on his/her daily life and accept the same.
  • One must maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly.
  • Lastly, reach out to others. There are times when finding strength is hard and at such times, one must reach out not only to other cancer patients but also to family, friends or support organizations.

Thus, there is an urgent need to take necessary actions to spread awareness about cancer and its treatment, persuade governments to develop and provide essential medical aid and resources to prevent this disease from taking lives of millions around the world.

[1] Medical News Today, ‘What is Cancer?’, available at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/cancer-oncology/whatiscancer.php

[2] National Cancer Institute, available at http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/what-is-cancer

[3] For taking action and getting involved, kindly visit, http://www.worldcancerday.org/about/2016-2018-world-cancer-day-campaign

About the Author:

Saif Rasul Khan

Saif is a law graduate from Government Law College, Mumbai. His interest areas include legal research and writing. He is actively involved in writing articles for prominent law journals.