Cancers; myths vs reality
Now a days cancer is the most commonly heard disease that causes a great psychological, emotional and social set back not even to the patients but their families as well. Cancer is uncontrolled growth of the cells which have lost the response to protective signals that meant to stop their growth after the needed extent. Hence the result is continued growth of cells even if the stimuli causing that are removed. This can happen to any type of cell in the body depending on the genetic and environmental factors we face. The changing lifestyles, occupations, radiations and several other factors are constant risk factors for cancers to develop. Initially due to lack of such advancements at genetic levels it was difficult to understand the causes, risk factors and treatment if these cancers but now in the age of technology it has been possible to know details about it and have reached to the level of personalized medicine and targeted therapies increasing the survival rate of these patients. Yet still at such level of technology the persons unrelated to health and medicine have various assumptions and myths regarding cancers. These misconceptions lead to delayed presentation, diagnosis and finally mortality. It is the need of hour to talk about these myths and clarify the misconceptions prevailing in the society. The first thing that comes into mind after hearing the diagnosis is that the patient will not survive and the countdown has started whereas the reality is that each cancer has its own prognosis, survival rate and response to treatment. The basic need is to concern the doctor expertise in that field and get the correct information from him rather than the stories and suggestions the people around you give without any experience or know how regarding the disease. Here the most important point is that its the responsibility of doctor as well to provide accurate information to the patient discussing all aspects of treatment with their benefits and side effects. The patient should be encouraged for the treatment with realistic approach to the prognosis of cancer. Privacy of patient is the foremost responsibility of the health personnels. The old concept of hiding the reality from patients and discussing with their kins is left far behind and now it is the patient himself who decides the persons to share his scenario with. After the news is broken and after a denial phase finally the patients excepts it, the next difficult step is to convey it to the kins. In case of male patients the family gets worried psychologically and financially but the things go worse with female patients. The uneducated environment of third world countries and especially the illiteracy in women leads to horrible behaviour with the female patients having cancer. The people around refuse to accept these patients and take the cancer as if it is contagious disease. Daily activities like moving around, sitting nearby are restricted alongwith the marital relationship due to the misconception of getting cancer by these means. Our foremost responsibility is to educate people that cancer is non-contagious so kindly accept such patients socially. Some of the tumors like fibroids in uterus, fibroadenoma in breast, lipoma anywhere in body alongwith a long list can be treated by just simple surgical excision. Malignant tumors are something to worry about more but they all behave differently. For example a tumor named choriocarcinoma is very aggressive tumor but its response to chemotherapy is 100% and thus patients can be treated well if present in time. Whereas the pancreatic carcinoma has not good prognosis. The determination of cancer is done by taking a piece of tissue in a block that is processed through several chemicals, finally cutting it very thin, staining it and seeing under microscope. At times to know the subtype of cancer or other prognostic markers few immunohistochemical stains are required to be done which may add to the cost of the diagnostic procedure varying lab to lab depending on their policies. But the patient has to be educated regarding the cost its cost effectiveness. Regarding treatment of cancers it is to be noted that every cancer does not have to be treated similarly. Surgical removal of tumor and other tissues or lymph nodes if involved, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal treatment and targeted therapies can be used individually or in combination. Thus get proper diagnosis, then the recommended treatment from the concerned doctor and ask the queries from the health personnel rather than layman who could be correct in experience of his patient but won’t be correct for your patient. Face the reality not the myths and save your near and dear ones in time before the time slips leaving regrets for you.
dr sadia hafeez