Islamabad - Cancer experts have stressed for adopting active and healthy life style and living a simple life, besides regular medical check-up, to avoid cancer.

Cancer is 90 percent curable if it is timely diagnosed, they further said while addressing a public awareness seminar after free cancer screening camp organised by Shifa International Hospital in connection with World Cancer Day.

February 4 is World Cancer Day and is marked every year around the world. This year’s theme is “It’s Not Beyond Us”. Shifa International Hospital started a public awareness campaign to aware masses about cancer, myths and risk factors. A free screening camp was also organised to check for early breast cancer risks among women. Dr Reshma Aziz held tests and advised the visiting women on prevention.

While giving their presentations the experts informed that cancer was rapidly spreading in developing countries like Pakistan. They said that cancer would become a commonest cause of death by 2020. Dr Kamran Rasheed, consultant medical oncologist, said cancer is when cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control. Although there are many kinds of cancer, they all develop because of uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells. “It has the tendency to spread in different parts of the body.” He said cancer could be treated through various methods including surgery, radiation treatment, chemotherapy, targeted therapies and bone marrow transplant. But prevention is better than cure, Dr Kamran remarked.

Dr Kamran added that people over 30 years of age are more vulnerable to this disease. It is estimated that around 0.2 million people become cancer patients in Pakistan every year. Thickening or lump in the body particularly in breast, an injury that is not healing, unusual bleeding or discharge, indigestion or trouble swallowing, irritating cough and hoarseness, obvious changes in moles or warts, changing in bathroom habits, weight loss, hunger loss and fever are some of the warning signs for cancer, and one must go for cancer tests and diagnosis process with the suggestion of cancer expert if he or she feels development of any of such symptoms, he said.

Dr Kamran said masses should know possible symptoms of cancer. General physicians must suggest cancer related tests to patients if they find symptoms related to cancer disease in patients to diagnose it at early stages, he stated.

Dr Saira Hassan, consultant medical oncologist, said anyone can get cancer. Cancer cells grow in an uncontrolled manner. Specially focusing on breast cancer, she said, it is a tumour (a mass of abnormal tissue) within the breast tissue. She said breast cancer is the commonest cancer in women worldwide. Pakistan has the highest incidence of breast cancer in entire Asia. “The best way to fight this cancer is to detect it early,” Dr Saira remarked.

She said that all women are at risk of developing breast cancer. One in eight women is at the risk of developing breast cancer in her life. She added that in majority women breast cancer is first noticed as a lump in the breast. However swelling of the upper arm or swelling or lump in the armpit can also be the signs of breast cancer.  She said early detection was the best option. The best way to detect is to perform monthly breast self exam (BSE), she informed the audience. Dr Saira said a regular BSE takes only five minutes, and if done correctly, it may detect a possible breast problem.

Consultant Radiation Oncologist Dr Muhammad Farrukh said estimated 32.6 million people are living with cancer worldwide. Pakistan is the 7th populous country where more than 3,40, 000 living cancer patients increased in the past 5 years.

He said tobacco smoking, shisha, alcohol, immune suppression, family history, environment, excessive exposure to sunlight, and infections are some of the risks for developing cancer disease.

He said that timely screening, active and healthy life style and avoid the avoidable risk factors can protect people from all types of cancer.

Consultant General Surgeon Dr Qamar Hafeez Kiani said surgery played a key role in treatment and diagnosing cancer and finding out its impact. Surgery offered the greatest chance for the cure for many types of cancer, especially those that have not spread to other parts of the body. In most cases, the only way to know if a person has cancer and what kind of cancer it is, by taking out a piece of tissue and testing it. This process is called biopsy.

Dr Qamar said one common myth about cancer is that it will spread if it’s exposed to air during surgery. He underlined that cancer did not spread because it has been exposed to air.