The deadly word ‘Cancer’ invaded my home, when we recently discovered that my wife is suffering from the disease. As it happens in every instance, the whole family felt shattered at the very mention of the word. Helpful suggestions from scores of friends and relatives started pouring in. Well-Wishers started offering prayers for the speedy recovery. While every effort is being made to give the patient the best of both regular and alternative therapies, in my own quest to find out more about the disease, I decided to attend a meeting of the Press Institute of India at which the Raman Magasasay Award winner and Padma Bhushan awardee Dr. V Shantha, the driving force behind the Cancer Institute in Chennai and an authority on the subject gave a talk on ‘Health Care with specific reference to Cancer’
“Contrary to popular belief that Cancer means sure death, sixty five percent of cancer cases are curable. Developments in medical science, especially in the area of Oncology, is helping patients recover from the disease and lead a normal life”, Dr. Shantha said.
“Lung cancer is the top killer among men mainly due to tobacco related habits, whereas among women breast and cervical cancer are most common. Both these cancers, can be detected early through simple check ups. Apart from regular Mammograms, it will be a good idea for women to physically check up for any lumps in their breasts regularly and also consult gynecologists if they find any unusual discharges between periods,” she said.
Dispelling the concept of miracles in cancer cure, she said that all improvements in Cancer cure were a result of modern science, which today can provide ‘targeted treatment` for different types of cancers, resulting in much higher success rate in Cancer cure. Today the disease can be diagnosed even at the molecular stage (without any sort of growth / tumor or physical appearance as such)
While one of the reasons for cancer in a patient could be genetic, she mentioned that sometimes the disease can skip a generation or two. Keeping in mind that `Prevention is better than cure`, she urged the media to create greater awareness among people that cancer is like any other disease and can be treated if diagnosed early. Even in the advanced stages of cancer, which had no cure, the patients are given palliative care to make them live a less miserable life.
Answering a question about falling hair as one of the most humiliating side effects of cancer treatment among women, she said, `though a remedy for this has not yet been found the falling hair will definitely grow again. It is a temporary sacrifice that the women will have to make, if they want a cure from the disease`.
Talking to several other cancer survivors and experts, I realised that the cancer patients willing to fight the disease with a positive approach to the treatment have a better success rate than others who give up hope easily.
I came back from the meeting reassured that cancer patients need not fear that they have received a death sentence from the God at the very mention of the word `cancer`. I am sure with the grace of the same God and her own will power to fight the disease, my wife will join the ranks of lakhs of cancer survivors to tell her success story to the world.
(The above article appeared in the Round & About columns of the August,2012, issue of EvesTouch magazine published from Chennai:)