According to ancient literature, the first documented cases of cancer came from the Egyptian civilization. It’s almost like darkness without which light cannot exist. Same with our human body. Or so it seems. Normal and abnormal, physiology and pathology, sequence and mutation…they all walk hand in hand, one outsmarting the other. Cancer thus, as a subsequence of genetic or epigenetic alterations was always waiting to happen from the very moment a gene was created.
Thus to call cancer a disease is under-respecting the beast that hides beneath the veneer. This is not diabetes that can be blood tested. This is not high blood pressure that can be numbered. We are dealing with a happening that is at once subtle and coarse. We are dealing with the stealthiest of the snakes that does not give a hint to the air before the final fatal flaunt.
From foods, smoke, alcohol, sun, radiation, asbestos, virus, family, the list of mutagenic factors are impossibly long, various and still growing. Any one of them can hit us at anytime. Some of us will escape in our sojourn, some will stumble.
Make no mistake; scientists have been outstanding in response, hurling defiance every time a new challenge was thrown in. From chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation, surgery, to the present craze of gene targeted therapy, we are throwing all that we have. Yet the beast rages, unbridled, changing colors and moods at random.
I like statistics. They never lie. They look at you without a smile, without a tear shed, and without a muscle twitched. So here’s a snapshot of what cancer looks like in our modern world:
In 2008 approximately 12.7 million cancers were diagnosed and 7.6 million people died of cancer worldwide. Cancers as a group account for approximately 13% of all deaths each year with the most common being: lung cancer (1.4 million deaths), stomach cancer (740,000 deaths), liver cancer(700,000 deaths), colorectal cancer(610,000 deaths), and breast cancer(460,000 deaths). This makes invasive cancer the leading cause of death in the developed world and the second leading cause of death in the developing world. Over half of cases occur in the developing world. In the United States, cancer outranks cardiovascular disease as the number one cause of death under the age of 85.
This brings us to our final verdict.
Caution and only caution remains the single best cure of cancer. If anything bothers you, or comes across to you as out of the norm, report it. This addiction of self denial has to go. The icy complacency that cancer cannot knock on my door needs to be dropped. Worse, the temptation to self treat, the desire to Google and find a cure…nothing can be more naive and dangerous.
The Cancer Society is explicit in its warnings. Whether it’s a sore that does not heal, a bleeding that will not cease, a new lump, an unusual difficulty in swallowing, a change in bowel habits, a mole that looks different, a cough or a headache or a fever that wouldn’t go, or a plain and simple bone chewing fatigue… seek a doctor.
The gracious truth that emerges from all these is that when detected young, cancer can always be arrested. So nip it in the bud before it sprouts. We can beat this beast…together.
SCIT MBA ITBM (2013-15)