World Cancer Day which is observed every year on February 4, focus on creating awareness, inspire change and reduce the global impact of cancer.
The day also aims to reduce misconceptions surrounding cancer and various stigmas myths associated with it and helps people in getting the right information about it.
The theme of World Cancer Day 2022 is ‘Close the Care Gap’. It is all about identifying and recognising global disparities in cancer care, that prevents people from certain economic strata full access to essential healthcare services and facilities. Inequity in cancer care costs lives.
Dr Shivali Ahlawat -Head of National Reference Laboratory, Oncquest Laboratories said, “We have developed cures for everything as a sophisticated civilization, yet the life-threatening problem of cancer persists. The first step in dealing with any problem is to become aware of it. When it comes to a life-threatening disease like cancer, awareness is the first step toward prevention. World Cancer Day is explicitly dedicated to achieving this aim, and its goal is to inculcate in everyone a sense of the seriousness of cancer and encourage its prevention, identification, and treatment.”
“This ‘World Cancer Day’ lets us act responsibly by connecting our hands as a team and raising awareness about this severe disease and the importance of regular health care to prevent it. So, let’s make sure that we all do our part to help pave the road for a healthier global environment”, she added
Stressing the role of Ayurveda in cancer treatment, Puneet Aggarwal, Director and CEO of Nirogam said, “Scientists have devised remedies for everything as a sophisticated culture, but cancer remains a life-threatening condition. Some people are unaware of its treatments and unsure how to maintain their health through it. Furthermore, many people cannot afford the costly cancer treatment and, as a result, frequently succumb to the disease.”
“While we live in a time of awe-inspiring advancements in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment Ayurveda may be a safer method to treat this serious disease. Ayurveda, the oldest Indian indigenous medical system based on plant medications, has prevented or inhibited different malignancies since ancient times. It has an in-depth and holistic treatment for cancer and treats the disease according to the specific nature of the patient, by pacifying the body energies involved and treating the body tissues that are affected. Cancer treatment in Ayurveda focuses not only on the area of the malignancy but on the entire body system, as the whole organism must be returned to harmony for the disease to be treated and not recur elsewhere. Let us take responsibility on ‘World Cancer Day’ by joining hands as a team and creating awareness about this deadly illness and the importance of regular health care to prevent it by using the effective remedies of Ayurveda”, he added.
Dr Mandeep Singh Malhotra, Department of Oncology, CK Birla Hospital, Delhi said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has put healthcare systems under unpredictable, health challenges. For those with chronic problems like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc. have been profoundly impacted by the pandemic. It has left hundreds of cancer patients in advanced stage of disease due to delay in diagnosis and treatment leading to less chance of recovery and ultimately decreased survival. There was very limited people movement during lockdowns which made it difficult for cancer patients to reach health care facility, also contributing was the apprehension of contacting covid in the minds of patent and his care givers which made them prefer to stay at home rather reaching a health care facility. Also, the health care infrastructure was diverted towards providing Covid care as that was the immediate need which also led to paucity of treatment opportunities to cancer patents. Due to the pandemic, there has been a delay in cancer screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care. According to the Lancet study of 2020, there was a 54 per cent reduction in new patients registered between March 1 and May 31, 2020. Cancer patients who had follow-up visits decreased from 46 per cent and hospital admissions saw a reduction of 36 per cent. Cancer screening was stopped completely or was functioning at less than 25 per cent of usual capacity at more than 70 per cent of centers during these months.”
“Treatment & survival for diseases like cancer is very much dependent on early diagnosis, as the cancer cells develop rapidly within 2-3 months. During the pandemic, there was a delay in diagnosis as well as treatment. The coming months will be crucial as we have to gear up both our infrastructure and motivate patients to complete the cancer care and save precious lives, while still facing & fighting COVID-19 and its variants”, he added
Talking about genetic testing and cancer, Dr Vedam Ramprasad, Chief Executive Officer, MedGenome Labs added, “Genetic testing is extensively used for screening cancer patients. For eg. In ovarian cancer patients, testing of harmful genetic variants in BRCA1 & BRCA2 genes and/or Homologous recombination deficiency (HRD) status aids in deciding targeted therapy regimen such as PARP inhibitors for better treatment outcomes. Many breast and ovarian cancer patients have a strong family history and an early onset. Genetic testing for inherited variants in families diagnose familial cancer syndromes and at-risk asymptomatic individuals can be put on high surveillance and prophylactic measures. Another prevalent cancer type, lung cancer has maximum number of targeted treatments available wrt specific genomic variants in the genes such as EGFR, ALK, ROS1, KRAS, BRAF, Her2, NTRK1/2/3. These mutations can be detected in tumor tissue DNA (Tissue Biopsy) as well as in circulating DNA in blood plasma (Liquid Biopsy). Liquid Biopsy is an advanced technique in which DNA that is shed from the tumor tissue into the blood stream is isolated and sequenced to identify genetic variants. This is a non-invasive technique that is useful in scenarios where a tissue biopsy is not feasible and is very powerful in monitoring disease progression and treatment effect in terms of drug resistance. Drug resistance develops due to further changes in some specific genes after using primary treatments and can lead to disease recurrence. These resistance mutations can be identified through liquid biopsy testing further helping to decide the course of treatment.”
Dr Krithika Murugan, Surgical Oncologist, HCG Cancer Hospital Bengaluru, said, “The estimates on the updated Globocan 2020 by IARC on 14th December 2021 witnessed a new rise on the global cancer burden, with over 19.3 million cases and 10 million cancer deaths in 2020. The good news is that more people are surviving cancer than ever before, but we know that we can save even more lives by diagnosing cancer at an early stage and starting the respective treatments faster. Considering a case study of a 44-year-old who came in for screening to HCG Cancer Hospital, Bangalore. On sonomammogram, she was found to have a 8 mm lesion which seemed suspicious. Investigations confirmed a diagnosis of carcinoma and PET showing no evidence of metastatic disease. She underwent surgery to cure her cancer. She also underwent radiation therapy and was put on hormonal treatment and is currently doing fine. Early diagnosis is critical to meeting our survival ambition, as it means patients can receive treatment when there is a better chance of achieving a complete cure. Over a third of cancers are preventable. We should invest in cancer prevention and give people faster access to diagnostic tests, invest in cutting edge treatments and technologies, and make sure more patients can quickly benefit from precise, highly personalized treatments as medical science advances.”
Dr Anadi Pachaury, Surgical Oncologist, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka added, “Despite the fact that there are so many path-breaking advancements in the treatment and management of cancer, there is still a major proportion of the population who are deprived of their benefits. There are barriers existing between the caregiver and the patient, like gender disparity, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, age, geographical locations, to name a few. Harsh, but the reality of today’s world is that your origin and who you are governs the type of health care you receive and more so for cancer. Few of these barriers may be political and geographical, which are difficult to overcome, still, many of these barriers are psychosocial, which can be removed through awareness and education. On the occasion of World Cancer Day, 2022, UICC has taken a step towards bridging this gap. They have started a campaign, ‘CLOSE THE CARE GAP’ a small step it may seem now which will prove a big leap towards cancer care in the future. As responsible citizens, now it’s on all of us to hold our hands together to work towards bringing this change in cancer care.”
Koji Wada, Managing Director, Fujifilm India added, “World Cancer Day serves as an important reminder for all of us about the power of early detection and treatment in cancer. We’ve come a long way in cancer research and treatment but we still have a lot to discover. Keeping true to the World Cancer Day’s theme ‘Close the care gap’ for the next three years, we would like to encourage everyone to contribute to this solemn day by listening to their body, checking for irregularities, and getting tested. We will neverstop innovating for healthier world and beat the disease in solidarity.”
Dr Sandeep Nemani, MD, DM (Haematology), Hematologist, Haemato-oncologist and BMT physician said, “COVID-19 has impacted millions of people across the globe and its rapid spread has been daunting for the healthcare system. While the healthcare community in India focussed on managing the situation at hand, there has been a surge in the incidence of other illnesses across the country, like cancer. Disruptions in the cancer-care delivery and fear of contracting the virus amongst people, has led to delays in screening and diagnosis. According to industry reports, there is a general increase in advanced instances of cancer in the country, given patients had prolonged their routine check-ups and screening due to COVID. If diagnosed early, most of the cancers can be treated.”
“Adding to this, there are several misconceptions about the illness amongst people. Most importantly, cancer is not an infection and it is not transmitted by contact. One of the most complex types of cancers – blood cancers – are now curable, if caught in time. Even in older patients, life can be prolonged with excellent quality of life. Cancer treatments today have revolutionised to an extent that many of them can be controlled by simple tablets”, he added.