World cancer day: Hopes for cure

In the past, the word ‘cancer’ meant ‘death’. Not anymore, as some encouraging cures emerge.

Ishrat Ansari February 04, 2014
In the past, the word ‘cancer’ meant ‘death’. Not anymore, as some encouraging cures emerge. PHOTO: FILE


Finally, there is potential light at the end of the tunnel. New developments in pharmacy have played an important role in treating many forms of cancer, including blood cancer.    

Treating cancer at the first and second stage is very possible. At the third and fourth stage it becomes tougher but is not impossible. There is hope, and research is being done to treat cancer at every stage, said Dr Muhammad Khursheed, Professor of Oncology at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi.

Dr Saira Hasan, consultant oncologist at the Shifa International Hospital Islamabad said it depends on the forms of the cancer the person is suffering from, for example breast and colorectal cancers can be treated even in the third and fourth stages successfully.

According to data prepared by the cancer department of the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), the cancer cases are increasing every year. In 2013, 1,875 cases were reported in Sindh as against 1,841 in 2012. Dr Noor Muhammad Soomro, Head of Cancer Department at the CHK, said the disease is getting more common in the lower middle class due to low-protein food, unhygienic living conditions, pollution and malnutrition.

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Cancer causes are unknown?

Dr Soomro refuted this notion explaining that there are some forms of cancer with unknown causes, but mostly the causes are known. A person may suffer from head and neck cancer or oral cancer due to environmental reasons which include pollution, use of cigarette, gutka, paan and betel nuts

Is cancer hereditary?

It is also a myth that if a woman has breast cancer her daughter might get it too. A related reality is that in many cases of breast cancer, the cause remains unknown. Dr Hasan said that it is rare but there is a particular gene that may run in a family due to which a woman can have breast cancer.

Dr Shamsi said that blood cancer is not hereditary and any one can suffer from this malady.

Cancer is not curable?

The director of the National Institute of Blood diseases (NIBD), Dr Tahir Shamsi said that 15 years back cancer was not curable but now there is hope. There are a number of cancers that can be treated successfully. People who despite diagnosis and treatment couldn’t survive a decade back now can live a normal life for a long time.

If I have blood cancer will I die?

Dr Shamsi said that most forms of blood cancer are not curable. However children aged two to ten years can be more easily cured and around 70 per cent of children survive. Adult survival rates are not so encouraging.  One of the forms of blood cancer called Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) is now potentially curable while a decade back there was no treatment for this form of blood cancer. To treat CML there are medicines that are used through targeted therapy and they can successfully control the disease for years and a person can lead a normal life. It is also believed that after stopping this medicine the disease may not come back.

If 100 people have cancer, 90 of them are likely to be suffering from solid tumor and the remaining 10 by blood cancer. This means tumors are more common than blood cancer, said Dr Shamsi.

Is cancer contagious?

Dr Hasan clarified that cancer, essentially, is not a contagious disease.

However, research points out that certain contagious diseases or viruses may lead to cancer. For example Hepatitis B and C raise the risk of liver cancer, and human papilloma viruses (HPVs) may lead to cervical and other cancers.

Do cancer symptoms appear very late?

According to Dr Hasan it is not true that in all types of cancer, symptoms appear late but one should watch out for symptoms. For instance for breast cancer, look out for painless lumps, fatigue, weight loss etc.  One should not ignore such symptoms and consult the doctor immediately.  Conversely, Dr Khursheed said that in some forms of cancer symptoms may take years to appear.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2014.

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FactisFact | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend

Cancer cases worldwide are predicted to increase by 70% over the next two decades, from 14m in 2012 to 25m new cases a year, according to the World Health Organisation.

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