To highlight the significance of increased awareness about cancer prevention and early detection among the general public, the ‘National Cancer Awareness Day’ will be observed on November 7.
The government had initiated the National Cancer Control Programme in 1975 with a view to provide cancer treatment facilities in the country and in 1984-85 was given the thrust on prevention and early detection of the disease.
The day coincides with the birth anniversary of eminent French-Polish scientist Madame Curie. Curie is known for her discovery of radium and polonium, and her huge contribution to the fight against cancer. Her groundbreaking work led to the development of nuclear energy and radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer.
In 2014, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had first announced the National Cancer Awareness Day with an aim to generate awareness on early detection and avoid leading cancer causing lifestyles.
In India, nearly 1.1 million new cases are being reported annually. Two-thirds of cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, reducing patients’ chances of survival. It is estimated that one woman dies of cervical cancer every 8 minutes in India. Tobacco (smoked and smokeless) use accounted for 3,17,928 deaths (approx) in men and women in 2018. Cancers of oral cavity and lungs account for over 25% of cancer deaths in males and cancer of breast and oral cavity account for 25% cancers in females.
A Lancet report reveals that the use of tobacco is a risk factor for 14 types of cancer. Other causes include alcohol, drug use, and poor diet. Unsafe sex is also the main risk factor for cervical cancer and is the second most common cancer type in women. High risk of lung cancer is tobacco use and air pollution.
On National Cancer Awareness Day, people are encouraged to report to government hospitals, CGHS and municipal clinics for free screening. Information booklets are widely circulated to generate awareness on how to avoid getting cancer and to look for signs of early symptoms.
Dr Harsh Vardhan advises that if detected early, cancer could be treated at a fraction of the cost that is incurred when diagnosed at an advanced stage. Its mortality rate is also lowered substantially if people report for screening when the earliest symptoms are manifested.