By ALISON BELLAMY
We all know someone who is or has been affected by cancer. The devastating consequences of diagnosis and gruelling treatment for a loved one, whether successful or not, can leave whole families shattered.
One in two people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. So the chances of it happening to you or someone close to you, such as a partner or family member, are relatively high.
The good news is that cancer death rates in the UK have fallen by nearly 10 per cent over 10 years, according to the latest analysis by Cancer Research UK.
This boost is largely due to improvements in detection, diagnosis and treatments. Without these research-led advances, the rate of cancer deaths would undoubtedly have risen. Around 50 per cent of people now survive cancer for 10 or more years. Early detection is key to fighting the disease, so if you have any concerns or nagging doubts about your health, or any changes occur however small, it is vital that you visit your GP.
Asian Sunday is backing annual World Cancer Day, which was held recently. It is organised to raise awareness about the things which can be done at an individual, community and government level, to bring about solutions and create positive change.
Globally, there are an estimated 8.2 million deaths from cancer – 4.7 million in men and 3.5 million in women.
Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Today, one in two of all people diagnosed with cancer survive their disease for at least 10 years. Our ambition is to accelerate progress so that three in four survive cancer by 2034. It’s important to remember that even though the death rates are falling, the overall number of people dying from cancer is expected to increase. This is because the population is growing and living longer. Too many people are still being diagnosed with and dying from cancer, not just here in the UK but around the world.
“We’re increasing our efforts into key areas of research such as how to achieve earlier diagnosis, and how best to manage cancers which are currently hard to treat. Our scientists are developing new tests, surgical and radiotherapy techniques, and drugs. It’s important to celebrate how much things have improved, but also to renew our commitment to saving more lives. Together we can all do something to reduce the impact of this devastating disease.”
The main causes of cancer are: smoking, alcohol, diet, obesity, sunshine and UV rays, according to Cancer Research UK. Lifestyle choices or simple changes can help reduce risk factors, especially through eating healthily, not smoking and taking exercise.
Some people inherit damaged DNA from their parents, which can give them a higher risk of certain cancers. For example the BRCA genes are linked with breast, ovarian, prostate and other cancers. But the proportion of cancers caused by inherited faulty genes is small.
Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health and your pocket
Smoking is one area that doctors wish to highlight. In England, one in every five deaths in adults over 35 is caused by smoking.
Tobacco is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. Stopping smoking or other forms or tobacco intake, such as chewing betel quid, paan or gutkha, or shisha smoking by water pipe, is one of the best things you can do for your health – and your pocket. A 20 a day cigarette habit is £50 a week, or £200 a month.
Smoking rates are higher among Bangladeshi men (40%) and Pakistani men (29%) than in the general population (21%). Indian men and south Asian women are less likely to smoke.
Smoking increases your risk of cancer, heart disease and respiratory (breathing) disease. This is true whether you smoke bidi (thin cigarettes of tobacco wrapped in brown tendu leaf), cigarettes or shisha.
Bhaniben Mistry, aged 82, breast cancer survivor from Leicester
Hemant Mistry’s mother Bhaniben was diagnosed with breast cancer at 81. Hemant and his wife Sheila know all too well the importance of early diagnosis and are glad that their mum didn’t delay going to see her doctor, when she noticed changes to her breast.
He said: “My mum noticed a lump in her left breast and went to see her doctor immediately. She was referred to Glenfield hospital in Leicester for tests and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. We didn’t even know she had gone to the doctor but when we found out we realised it was the best thing she had ever done”.
“When you get told your mother has cancer it doesn’t matter how tough you are, you just go numb. Her mental toughness got her through, I went to pieces but my mum was the opposite, she just said ‘I am going to fight it’. Her mantra was that if you react positively then your body reacts positively”.
Bhaniben was successfully treated; she had the lump removed as well as the lymph nodes near her armpit.