A Few Answers For Cancer
The recently-concluded Best of ASCO event, held in Mumbai, focused on the latest in technological and clinical advances in cancer treatment and careBy Sayanti Banerjee
Founded in 1964, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) is committed to making a world of difference in cancer care. As the world’s leading organization of its kind, ASCO represents nearly 45,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer. Through research, education, and promotion of the highest-quality patient care, ASCO works to conquer cancer and create a world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor has access to a happy and healthy life. ASCO is supported by its affiliate organization, the Conquer Cancer Foundation.
The Best of ASCO® is an annual educational initiative that celebrates the highlights from ASCO’s Annual Meeting every year. The Scientific Committee has panel discussions and presentations based on issues that impact day to day practice and the needs of oncology professionals in India. The three-day conference held in Mumbai recently, Best of ASCO®, saw oncologists and eminent faculties gathering to discuss and share knowledge about the progress and research in their respective specializations. Though the World Health Organisation says that cancer as a disease has been on the rise, a ray of hope comes through with innovative cure and care solutions.
What is encouraging is the fact that there is always new data on improving access to cancer care, and advances in precision medicine that are highlighted at the world’s largest clinical cancer research meetings. Also, various new approaches to overcoming limited access to cancer care are among the topics that are discussed.
Inspiration Behind Oncology
Most of the doctors who have chosen oncology as their career path shared that they were deeply moved by the sufferings of cancer patients when they visited various hospitals as students. There was a severe need for helping hands a decade ago, and many of them were inspired by their mentors to follow a similar career path. Today, of course, things have changed and specialization in oncology is a much-sought-after domain for medical students.
While there has been significant growth in the field of oncology, the opinion of Indian oncologists is divided when asked what their views were about where Indian cancer research and education stands when compared with the rest of the world. Most of the oncologists suggested that there is a brain drain due to a lack of funding and resources; some of the brightest minds choose to go abroad seeking better career opportunities. A few oncologists also pointed out that the research data received from abroad is not relevant for the Indian lifestyle. So there is still a mismatch and disparity to be addressed formally. Most oncologists suggest that there is a need for more public-private partnerships in order to bring down the number of cancers in our country.
In order to spread awareness about cancer and prevention, many oncologists often extend their knowledge to rural areas, often in the form of voluntary services along with various local NGOs that are active in their respective regions.
The Taboo of Tobacco
Prevention is always better than cure. In India, both the urban as well as the village population are majorly addicted to some form of tobacco consumption. Statistics claim that India is the second-largest consumer and third largest producer of tobacco in the world. The prevalence of overall tobacco use among males is 48 percent and among females, 20 percent.
The two main forms of tobacco products that are sold are meant for chewing and smoking. It has been clinically proven that tobacco is the number one cause of head and neck cancers like those affecting the mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), brain, esophagus areas, and the likes.
Going by the statistics, more than 4,000 different types of chemicals have been found in tobacco and tobacco smoke. In fact, more than 60 of these chemicals have been classified as carcinogens or cancer-causing agents.
The main chemical found in tobacco is nicotine which is a highly addictive chemical and its prolonged usage makes an individual both physically and psychologically dependent on it.
Sitting is the new smoking
While there are numerous factors that might lead to cancer in an individual, a modern sedentary lifestyle plays a major role too. Most of the oncologists share the opinion that if an individual is desk-bound and has been gaining weight without doing much exercise, then he or she is at potential risk of cancer, apart from various other diseases related to obesity. Simple exercises like even walking around after sitting for 30 minutes can also help to some extent. Oncologists say daily physical activity is the most efficient way to lead a healthy life.
Getting gender-specific, studies have shown that obesity among women is significantly associated with an increase in the risk of breast cancer. For instance, a study has shown that the risk of breast cancer among obese women is 12 percent higher than in women of normal weight.
Focus on mental health
Research suggests that chronic stress can actually make cancer spread faster. Stress can speed up the spread of cancer throughout the body, especially in ovarian, breast and colorectal cancer. When the body becomes stressed, neurotransmitters like norepinephrine are released, which stimulate cancer cells.
So keeping a calm mind and a healthy body is a priority. In this context, meditation, de-stressing activities and a proper sleep cycle can have a positive impact on the overall well-being of an individual.
Sessions at Best of ASCO
At the recently-concluded event, knowledge dissemination happened in certain core areas, namely genitourinary cancer, gynaecological cancer, breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, and multiple myeloma.
Besides panel discussions, there were also debates on topics like maintenance therapy in recurrent ovarian cancer. The event also introduced the results of recent clinical research studies.
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