‘Healthy lifestyle, early detection keeps cancer morbidity at bay

By Ajita Rijal

Kathmandu, July 8: Increasing unhealthy lifestyle, including smoking, pesticides and insecticides lashed foods, fruit and vegetables are some of the leading causes of cancer, according to doctors.

“Cancer has become one of the most daunting life-risking factors in Nepal,” they added.
According to Dr Abish Adhikari, a Clinical Oncologist, common cancers seen in Nepal are cancers of lung, head and neck and intestines in males; while breast and cervical cancer are common in females; and blood cancer in children.
Dr. Adhikari cautioned that smoking, unhealthy eating habits, drinking alcohol, obesity and infections are the major reasons behind increasing incidents of cancer. Besides, use of insecticides and pesticides in food production has also been contributing to the rise in cancer cases, he said.
“Genetic factors also lead to cancer,” he added. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide.
According to the WHO, by 2020, there will be an expected 15 million new cancer cases every year, with almost 60 per cent of these new cases occurring in the least developing parts of the world like Nepal.
Dr Rishikesh Narayan Shrestha, Medical Director at the Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, said that cancer screening tests could help detect cancer at an early stage, before serious symptoms appear.
He added that when abnormal tissues or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat or cure.
The earlier you diagnose the cancer, the easier will be its treatment, noted Dr. Shrestha. The government has recently started providing Rs.100, 000 to cancer patients for treatment. On the prevention side too, it has prohibited the sale and use of tobacco in the public places.
Despite government’s efforts of introducing laws and newer policies such as banning of smoking in public, the implementation part has not been as effective as expected.
More concerted efforts and strong penalty may be required to discourage and change people’s behaviours for prevention.
Dr. Adhikari also stressed on the preventive measures saying that the government should focus not just on treatment, but also on preventive measures such as  providing vaccine for preventing human papilloma virus (HPV) infection which helped get rid of cervical cancer and anogenital cancers.
The vaccine against HPV can be provided at the age of 12- 16 years, said Dr Adhikari, adding it will help avoid cervical cancers. Meanwhile, together with the medical facilities, the government also should take into consideration the psychosocial and financial need of the patient and families, and focus on all dimensions of care, said Dr Shrestha.
“For instance, our oncogenetics team counsels on the hereditary aspects of cancer so that patients and families would be well informed for prevention and early diagnosis” said Dr Shrestha, adding that the trained dieticians are needed to look after patient’s nutrition.
According to the doctors, one must take nutritious diet, exercise regularly and avoid tobacco products and alcohol consumption in order stay healthy and avoid cancer.
In Nepal, the number of cancer patients is on the rise and an approximate 40,000 to 50,000 new cases are likely to be reported in 2019, according to Dr Adhikari.
Among them, only 10,000 to 20,000 cancer patients reportedly reach the hospital for treatment, while others do not visit hospitals due to lack of awareness or ignorance or knowing the diseases only at the last stages.
Also, the lack of easy health care access and high cost for cancer treatment is a reason for less number of cancer patients actually reaching hospitals, said Dr Adhikari. (the rising nepal)

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