Surviving Cancer: How Can an Early Detection and Timely Diagnosis Make a Difference?
Cancer, if not treated timely can become metastatic and the course of treatment for patients can get longer than expected.
It has been proven by various medical studies that an early diagnosis of cancer can save up to 90% of lives. Out of all the cancers, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, it accounts for almost 30% of the entire cancer burden amongst them. With less awareness and inadequate participation in the mandatory diagnosis, 1 in every 20 women is diagnosed with this cancer. We live in a country where women between the ages of 35-50 years contribute to at least 50% of the total burden of active breast cancer, but still, let our fear and hesitancy of undergoing chemotherapy come in our ways to consult for a cancer diagnosis. Cancer, if not treated timely can become metastatic and the course of treatment for patients can get longer than expected.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has further eclipsed cancer care over the past two years. The lack of awareness, absence of pain in early stages and above all the pandemic scare is making many patients postpone their visit to the hospitals.
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This is resulting in a considerable amount of patients getting diagnosed at advanced stages of the disease.
In an era of technological advancement and amalgamation of medical sciences with technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic modalities, there is a far and wide difference in diagnosis and treatment of cancer. With such effective technologies at hand, the outcomes and results of various traditionally done tests have improved for the better.
Though overall survival rate of breast cancer has improved globally, due to the awareness and patient friendly technological advances, but in India, we are still battling with 50% mortality (much higher than the west). There are different kinds of breast cancer and the kind depends on which cell in the breast turns out to be cancerous. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is said to have metastasized. Hence, cancer survival becomes more difficult in advanced stages of its growth. With various misconceptions and lack of awareness regarding breast cancer and related surgeries, there is a huge rise in the number of women aging between 35 to 50 years, reporting cases of breast cancer.
While metastatic cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer, the outcome is not hopeless, thanks to advancements in therapies that are enabling many individuals to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life. Metastatic breast cancer is not curable, but it is treatable – often for long periods of time. Genetic testing of the blood (germline) and the tumor (somatic) may also influence treatment options. Today in breast cancer the medical drugs discovery has advanced so much that women even in their advanced stages of cancer can be managed with medication. As a reason, any kind of hesitancy, be it fear of undergoing chemotherapy, surgery or being diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer should be done away with. Cancer, if not curable, can now be managed with various technologically progressed medications and therapies. As a responsible decision maker for our health, we should not let any thought come between our diagnoses.
If principally, we operate in a pattern that an early detection of cancer can save many lives, we should be saving millions of people we lose to cancer. There are various advantages linked to early cancer detection, be it better treatment outcomes, non-invasive treatment modalities or treating the diagnosed condition without a chemotherapy. Hence, we should be aware towards its own health and be a responsible decision makers in taking timely diagnosis.
(Inputs by Dr Ramesh Sarin, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi)
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