Cancer: Close the care gap

Dr Rajeev Gupta
Cancer is an abnormal growth of a body cell or group of cells. If it is not destroyed or removed, cancer can spread very rapidly, and eventually lead to death. There are billions of cells in the human body. Normally, they grow in a well-regulated pattern. Sometimes normal cells undergo alterations “transforming” them into cancerous.
According to Globocan 2020, around 19.58 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed and 609,820 deaths happened in 2023 .By 2050, 24 million new cases and more than 16 million deaths per year are estimated.
In India, cancer of oral cavity and lungs in males, and Cancer cervix and breast in females account for over 50% of all cancer deaths.
Scenario in J&K
Jammu and Kashmir has seen a consistent increase in cancer cases with the union territory reporting 51,000 cancer cases in the last four years (2019 to 2022), according to the data of the Government of India.
The Union Health Ministry data reveals that J&K reported an estimated 51,577 cases of cancer, with 12,396 cases being reported in 2019, 12,726 cases in 2020, 13,060 cases in 2021, and 13,395 cases in 2022.
As per Data from State Cancer Institue, Jammu , we have registered 6377 Cancer patients and 3508 cancer patients received chemotherapy in last one year since its inception on 4th Feb 2023.
On the occasion of world Cancer Day, I would like to shed some light on cancer and shatter some wrong notions that are prevalent amongst general population, since early detection is cure and wrong ideas (myths) about cancer can lead to needless anxiety and even hinder good prevention and treatment.
Risk : Life time risk of cancer refers to the probability that an individual, over the course of a lifetime, will develop cancer or die from it.
In the U.S, 7.7% life time risk of developing lung cancer in men (1in 13). In India, 1 in 12 men & 1 in 13 women have a life time risk of developing cancer.
Comon symptoms : As such, symptoms of cancer may mimic common diseases like T.B, Typhoid fever, recurrent mouth ulcers, indigestion, etc. but persistence of symptoms over a prolonged time despite medication, should alarm oneself for further investigations to rule out cancer. World Health Organization(WHO) has issued few warning signals of cancer.
Modern disease? As long ago as 3000 B.C, evidence of bone cancer cells has been found in the mummies of Egypt. But the incidence of cancer is increasing.Being a lifestyle related disease, use of alcohol, tobacco , preserved and junk food, pollution, etc is amounting to a never seen before escalated incidences of cancers.

World Cancer Day

Is Cancer is contagious? Cancer is not contagious (capable of spreading from person to person through contact). However, some cancers are caused by viruses. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that increases the risk of developing cervical, anal, and some types of head and neck cancers. Other viruses, such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C, which are transmitted by infected intravenous needles and sexual activity, increase the risk of developing liver cancer.
Is Cancer inherited? Although having a family history of cancer increases your risk of developing the disease, it is not a definite prediction of your future health.Only 5% to 10% of cancers are hereditary (passed down by a family member). The majority of cancers are caused by genetic changes that occur throughout a person’s lifetime. These changes, or mutations, are caused by factors such as tobacco use, too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, and exposure to certain chemicals.In fact, an estimated 4 out of 10 cancers can be prevented by making simple lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, limiting alcoholic beverages, and avoiding tobacco products. Additionally, doctors may recommend that some people who have inherited a genetic mutation that puts them at high risk for cancer have surgery or take medication, known as prophylactic treatment, to further reduce the chance that cancer will develop.
Can hair dyes and antiperspirants cause cancer? There is no conclusive scientific evidence that these items increase the risk of developing cancer.The skin may absorb the aluminum-based compounds that act as the active ingredient in antiperspirants. These compounds are known to cause hormonal changes, which has led some to believe that antiperspirants could contribute to the development of breast cancer. However, there is no consistent evidence to support this claim.
Does sugar intake make cancer worse? No. Although research has shown that cancer cells consume more sugar (glucose) than normal cells, no studies have shown that eating sugar will make your cancer worse or that, if you stop eating sugar, your cancer will shrink or disappear.
Do Artificial sweeteners cause cancer? No. Researchers have conducted studies on the safety of the artificial sweeteners (sugar substitutes) saccharin; cyclamate; aspartame; acesulfame potassium; sucralose; and neotame and found no evidence that they cause cancer in humans.
Is Cancer always painful? Neither cancer growth nor its treatment with chemotherapy is painful , but once it spreads to bones or engulf nerves , it causes intense pain.Up to 95% of cancer pain can be successfully treated with medications and other pain management techniques. However, in order to benefit from these pain-relief strategies, you must share your symptoms with a member of your health care team.
Is Cancer a death sentence? No! Advances in cancer detection and treatment have increased survival rates for most common types of cancer. In fact, more than 60% of people with cancer survive five years or more after their initial diagnosis.
Are some people too old for cancer treatment? There is no age limit for cancer treatment. People with cancer should receive the treatment that is best suited to their condition, regardless of age. Many older patients respond well to cancer treatments as younger patients. However, some older adults may have other illnesses that limit the use of specific treatments, so older adults with cancer are encouraged to talk with their doctor about the best approach for managing their disease.
Can Cancer surgery or a tumor biopsy cause cancer to spread in the body? The chance that surgery will cause cancer to spread to other parts of the body is extremely low. Following standard procedures, surgeons use special methods and take many steps to prevent cancer cells from spreading during biopsies or surgery to remove tumors.
Is Cancer treatment worse than the disease? Although cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy are known to cause side effects that can be unpleasant and sometimes serious side effects. Recent advances have resulted in many chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments that are much better tolerated than in the past. As a result, symptoms like severe nausea and vomiting, hair loss, and tissue damage are much less common these days; however, managing side effects remains an important part of cancer care.
Can Cell phones cause cancer? No,not according to the best studies completed so far. Cancer is caused by genetic mutations, and cell phones emit a type of low-frequency energy that does not damage genes. Can herbal products cure cancer? No. Although some studies suggest that alternative or complementary therapies, including some herbs, may help patients cope with the side effects of cancer treatment, no herbal products have been shown to be effective for treating cancer. In fact, some herbal products may be harmful when taken during chemotherapy or radiation therapy because they may interfere with how these treatments work.
World cancer day on 4rthFebruary, is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), Switzerland and theme for 2024 is “close the care gap”which is about understanding the inequities in cancer care and taking necessary progress to address them.
A video on cancer related information is for public understanding is available at
(The author is working as Professor & Head, Department of Medical Oncology at State Cancer Institute, Government Medical College, Jammu.)