Cancel Cancer: Assisting women to make informed decisions
By Dr. Angela Eapen, Consultant – Clinical & Radiation Oncology, Karkinos Healthcare
Here comes March 8th – International Women’s Day – the globally-observed day that celebrates the creation of a woman and her role in every possible way. It is not easy being a woman. We comprise nearly half of the global population and have a significant influence on the well-being of our families, communities, and economy. Yet there’s worldwide disparity in women’s health care and, despite best intentions, widespread gender bias still persists.
Health is never a priority for a woman. It is always being there for her family first but never for her own health and wellness. This is why the needle on cancer incidences, across the world, points more towards women, especially for the ones that can be prevented. India’s National Cancer Registry Program (NCRP), in a report released in 2020, indicates that one in 9 women are expected to suffer from any form of cancer in their lifetime (considering a median life expectancy of 74 years). The projected 5 most common cancers in 2020 for females (breast, cervix uteri, ovary, corpus uteri, and lung) constituted 53% of all cancers. The Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) cancer registry data reports a high burden of cervical and breast cancer in India. It is unfortunate that most of the cancers affecting women can be prevented or when diagnosed early can be managed or treated with better outcomes and particularly in a cost-effective manner.
Karkinos Healthcare’s plan to eliminate cancers in women
This year the International Women’s Day campaigns the message ‘Break the Bias’. Several disparities are observed while considering a woman’s well-being. The need of the hour is to assist women to make informed decisions about their health. For this, it is important to empower the woman with knowledge on the right approach to health and wellness. Educating women on preventing life-threatening diseases like cancer is critical to accomplish goals focused on women’s health. Physicians like me are also responsible to destigmatize thoughts on cancer and help women with the right information to avoid being misled by baseless myths. And, to address all these needs, Karkinos Healthcare has launched efforts across India to help every woman it encounters to be empowered with the knowledge about cancer, its causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
It is important for a woman to have access to information as well as medical intervention to tackle cancer. This is why Karkinos Healthcare takes cancer care closer to a woman’s home. The company believes that no person is deprived of quality care either by lack of access or affordability. This is why Karkinos Healthcare conducts widespread screening and outreach programs to:
- create awareness about the common cancers in women;
- educates on the symptoms of breast, cervical cancers, etc.;
- screens for the cancers based on demographic incidence;
- guides on appropriate diagnosis and treatments; and
- connects with partner hospitals and cancer care centers for better and affordable access to care.
By doing all this, Karkinos Healthcare helps a woman in making informed decisions. Decisions that help tackle cancer at a stage that can be managed and treated without compromising on quality and also ensuring that the care is affordable and accessible.
Five simple mantras to cancel cancer
Did you know that breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in India and accounts for 27% of all cancers in women. According to reports, 1 in 28 women is likely to develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Cervical cancer (one of most preventable cancers) is the second most common cancer in India in women accounting for 22.86% of all cancer cases in women. Ovarian cancers, colorectal cancers and oral cancers are also commonly diagnosed in Indian women. And all of these cancers can either be prevented or the outcome of the treatment improved if the cancer is screened, detected, and treated at the early stage. Five diligent practices can help prevent or catch cancer early.
Mantra 1: Participate in screening and outreach programs to screen for common cancers
After a lot of research and study, some tests have been recommended as standard screening tests for common cancers. Doctors advise that these be done at regular intervals so that early cancers or precancerous conditions can be recognized and treated. These include:
- HPV testing/Pap smear for cervical cancer in women aged 30-65 years;
- Monthly Self Breast Examination from 20 years, clinical breast examination from 30 years and mammography after 45 years. For women younger than 45 years, an Ultrasound breast is the investigation of choice;
- A monthly 8 step oral examination to look for oral cancers;
- Chest X-ray or low dose CT for lung cancers;
- Stool test for occult blood after 50 years of age;
- Prostate specific antigen test to screen for cancers of the prostate.
Apart from these it is important to watch out for the red flag symptoms of cancer like unusual weight loss, loss of appetite, change in bowel movements; persistent cough; or acute pain in the back.
Mantra 2: Cut fast food and have a balanced diet
Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans can keep cancer at bay. It is best to eat less-calorie foods, and it’s best to avoid refined sugars, flours, and fat from animal sources. Fast food and food that contains preservatives should be avoided. The risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver, increases with the amount of alcohol consumption too. So, alcohol consumption in moderation is best to avoid liver, colorectal, breast cancers. Excessive tobacco intake can lead to oral cancers. Cutting down on smoking or chewing tobacco-based products can help avoid cancer. Also, red meats like beef, pork and lamb have a high fat content, which promotes inflammation — a contributing factor in the development of many chronic diseases, including cancer. Hence, alternative sources of proteins from red meat in diets can be considered.
Mantra 3: Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active
Maintaining a healthy weight might lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney. Physical activity counts, too. In addition to helping control body weight, physical activity on its own might lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer.
Mantra 4: Practice good hygiene
Proper hygiene practices can definitely reduce the chances of a viral infection. This is especially true for cervical cancer that is caused by Human Papilloma Virus. The risk of cervical cancer can be reduced by keeping the vaginal area clean. It is also important to practice safe sex.
Mantra 5: Get vaccinated
There are vaccines that can prevent healthy people from getting certain cancers caused by viruses like the HPV that causes cervical cancer. WHO strongly recommends HPV vaccination as the most effective primary prevention measure for girls aged 9–14 years.