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8.2 million people die of cancer worldwide every year

Currently, 8.2 million people die from cancer worldwide every year, out of which four million people die prematurely between the age of 30 and 69 years. World Cancer Day is the ideal opportunity to spread the word and raise the profile of cancer in minds of people and in the world’s media.

Consultant Medical Oncologist at Shifa International Hospital, Islamabad, Dr. Ayaz Mir stated this while addressing the participants of an awareness seminar organised at Shifa International Hospital (SIH) to mark World Cancer Day.

Pakistan’s First Woman Cartoonist Ms. Nigar Nazar was invited in the programme as a guest speaker. She emphasised on the need to spread message for preventive and healthy living among public so that a healthy society can be formed.

Dr. Ayaz Mir discussed common types of blood cancer. He said there are more than 100 types of Blood Cancer. Three major categories are Leukemia (involves blood), Lymphoma (involves lymph nodes or glands) and Myeloma (involves bones). He said in Pakistan there are very few Blood Cancer registries.

According to Shaukat Khanum Cancer Registry, Blood Cancer represents about 17% of all cancers presenting to their Cancer Clinic, commonest being Leukemia and Lymphoma. Fatigue, weight loss, night sweats, loss of appetite, bleeding, bone pains, enlarged glands and recurrent infections are main signs and symptoms of blood cancer.

He added that in USA, many blood cancers are now treatable with pills instead of chemotherapy. Other major advance is drugs that stimulate immune system of body to fight cancer (Immune Check Point Inhibitors). Many new drugs are being manufactured in neighbouring countries such as India but not in Pakistan and their import is prohibited. Many blood cancers can be cured by Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplantation from patients own or a donor’s stem cells. Transplant is expensive and many patients cannot be cured due to affordability issues, he said. He said that it is essential to develop a culture of blood donation and research amongst young people at the level of schools and colleges to fight cancer. Pain medicines for cancer are unavailable due to overzealous regulations in the country. “Blood cancer does not mean a death sentence. Many types have a high (70-80%) cure rate. Early detection is easy and expert consultation is essential. Donate Blood Today!” Dr. Ayaz remarked.

Consultant Medical Oncologist and Breast Cancer Expert at SIH, Dr. Uzma Qasim said breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. Pakistan has the highest incidence of breast cancer in entire Asia. “Breast cancer can be curable so do not fear the disease, together we can cure it,” she said.

She added that in majority of women patients, breast cancer is first noticed as a lump in the breast. However swelling of the upper arm or swelling or lump in the armpit can also be the signs of breast cancer. She advised women to do self-examination for breast cancer. If you feel any lump or change of color then you should consult your doctor for further diagnosis and treatment, she said.

Consultant Radiation Oncologist at SIH Dr. Muhammad Farrukh added that currently, 8.2 million people die of cancer worldwide every year, out of which, 4 million people die prematurely (aged 30 to 69 years). People over 30 years of age are more vulnerable to this disease. He said that Pakistan is the 7th populous country with estimated cancer incidence of 148,041 new cases, 101,113 cancers related deaths (48,449 Men and 52,664 Women) and a prevalence of 350,000 living cancer patients are reported in the past five years. The age standardised ratio is more in females (128 women and 96 men per 100,000 populations respectively).

While giving his presentation, he informed the audience regarding cancer prevention tips that includes quitting smoking and avoiding obesity. Stay as lean as possible because being overweight increases your risk of cancer of breast, uterus, colo-rectum, gall bladder, pancreas and oesophagus, he said.

Choose a healthy diet and eat fresh vegetables, fruits, choose whole grains instead of refined grain products, avoid red meat, avoid canned foods or colouring agents and low fat diet, he suggested.

Stay physically active — 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 min of vigorous exercise spread over a week, limit sedentary behaviour including sitting, lying, watching TV and avoid alcohol and oral contraceptive pills and use it strictly under guidance of your doctor, said Dr. Farrukh. He also shared the warning signs of cancer that is CAUTION that means changes in bathroom habits, a sore that does not heal, unusual discharge and bleeding, thickness or lumps in the breast or other places, indigestion and difficulty in swallowing, obvious changes in moles or warts and nagging cough and hoarseness. Timely screening, active and healthy life style and avoiding risk factors can protect people from all types of cancers, he said.

Qasim, Muhammad. 8.2 million people die of cancer worldwide every year. The News, February 6, 2017.

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