Are you aware of the triggers that may heighten the risk of developing cancer, often referred to as the Big C? Awareness and self-examination are crucial even though you are young and healthy as doctors have observed a worrying trend.
"Cancer is rising among young people," says Dr CH Mohana Vamsy, a surgical oncologist and Founder of Omega Hospitals in Hyderabad. According to him and other prominent oncologists, more people in their 30s and 40s are being diagnosed with the disease.
Dr Vamsy says that people from this age group form about 20-25 per cent of his total patients as against around 10 per cent some five years ago. He puts it mainly to lifestyle changes, obesity and unhealthy food habits such as lack of fibre-rich diet and rising dependence on microwave cooking. Moreover, one should not ignore certain syndromes and conditions, including chronic cough, persistent low-grade fever, lump or swelling in the body, change in colour or shape of moles, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite and distaste for food, change in bowel habits, blood in urine and/or stool, menstrual issues, nipple discharge and so on.
In case you are diagnosed with cancer, there are effective ways of dealing with it instead of panicking or feeling depressed. Here is a good example. We have spoken to a young woman who is working for a global technology giant and well on her way to conquering ovarian cancer. She has some tips to share based on her experience.
To start with, it helps to have health insurance early on, much before one is diagnosed with any critical illness, as it is quite impossible to get one when you are fighting cancer. Staying physically active is also important for overall wellness. Opt for a diet containing more fibre, protein (like pulses) and leafy vegetables, and avoid processed and fried food. Go for the tests your doctor has prescribed without any delay. Incidentally, a CA 125 blood test can easily detect early signs of ovarian cancer. Finally, stay positive as beating the Big C is a huge emotional battle.
Molecular-level targeted therapy is often used for personalised cancer treatment, with or without hormonal therapy and chemotherapy, says Dr Mithua Ghosh, Director, Clinical Diagnostics, at Strand Life Sciences. For instance, HER-2 protein is found in excess on the surface of some types of cancer cells. Specialists think this may cause them to grow and spread more quickly. So, targeted medications such as trastuzumab are used to treat conditions (especially certain breast and stomach cancers) that overexpress HER-2.
Although targeted therapy is known to improve survival rates in certain types of cancer - lung, renal, breast, colorectal, liver, thyroid and melanoma, for instance - long-term survival or a complete cure remains elusive, says Dr Ghosh. The answer may lie in further understanding and evaluating the biology of cancer and the subsequent treatment based on accurate measurements of contributory factors via DNA-sequencing technologies.
Targeted deep-sequencing of a large number of patients suffering from different types of cancer will help analyse mutation profiles of tumours and provide better insights into individuals' cancer triggers. The tests available for this range from small gene panels of actionable hotspot mutations to clinical/whole exome sequencing and whole genome sequencing.
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