World cancer day amid Covid 19 Pandemic

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World cancer day was observed all over world on 4th Feb. with the aim to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about cancer. Making the administration and individuals across the regions, countries, aware about the risk and the implementation of preventive measures against the disease. The way whole world got alert and united against the corona virus, from an individual to the level of world organizations, and succeeded though partially in controlling the pandemic, and made vaccine available within a year. Similarly on the world cancer day, let us make a commitment to put all our efforts, fight together, lead to powerful progress in reducing the rise in cancer.

The theme of the day “I am and I will” is a reminder of the enduring power of cooperation and collective action for coming together to achieve that we all wish for a healthier and brighter future. Everyone has the capacity to wake up against the cancer burden. One should remember that in the world 17 people die every minute from cancer (WHO). Amid the coronavirus covid19, pandemic threat, panic, phobia, lockdown, and what not, the cancer burden continued to grow, thus exerting tremendous physical, emotional, and financial strain on individuals, families, communities and health systems. The war against corona was declared in Feb. 2020 in UT of J&K. When the education system, the internet, tourism, travel, trade, offices got shut, roads were deserted, law and order crises and the corona was everywhere, contact tracing, tracking testing, assault on health care personnel, panic everywhere, even the hospital phobia, the cancer center despite all this, continued to function smoothly at SKIMS. During this period Jan 30th to Dec 2020. 3840 new cancer cases were seen though less than 2019 when 4378 cases were registered. There seems a temporarily decline in the diagnosis or the registration of cancer cases on one hand, but there was a rise in the cancer related deaths.

In April 2019 and 2020  newly diagnosed with cancer were 418 and 233 cases respectively, of which 72 (16.40%) and 65 (27.89%) had expired. Similarly in June 2019 and 2020 a total of 390 and 370 cases got registered, of which 64 (16.41%) and 98 (26.27%) expired. This is the period when corona virus cases were rising rapidly and the data shows the magnitude of cancer burden and its mortality we have here in the valley.   Nevertheless the WHO notes that the majority of deaths occur in low and middle income countries, where most of the cases with the disease are diagnosed in late stages. This is perhaps due to the lack of awareness on early detection and barriers to health services.

The low survival rate is largely because of the late presentation of the disease. About 50% of patients seek treatment at stage 3 and 4, when the disease is harder to treat. It is also due to the poor adherence to recommendation of treatment. The aim of organizing the world cancer day is to make an individual, aware of his risk factors which one interacts on day to day activities, and report to the doctor for early detection of the disease, where the risk factors cannot be changed or modified, that are out of our control, that include family history of breast or ovarian cancer, genetic mutation and age as most of the patients are diagnosed above 50years of age.

The factors that can be changed or modified include physical activities, alcohol, smoking, and other pollutants in the surroundings, poor hygiene, and diet. The covid-19 pandemic has placed an enormous strain on patients with cancer around the globe. The  cancer patients refrain from visiting hospitals for fear of being affected by the covid-19 virus In addition hospitals and medical centers have also been swamped with coronavirus patients which then leaves, those in need of other forms of medical care on the back burner. In conclusion, my message is that the State cancer institute at SKIMS is functioning normally, following the preventive measures for coronavirus, you can visit the hospital for consultation without any fear. Remember, most common cancers seen in Kashmir can be prevented with healthy behavior, making healthy choices and avoiding things that are known to cause cancer.