Translation of an interview with Dr. Thomas Varughese, Surgical Oncologist, Reconstructive Surgeon, and HoD Cancer Division of Renai Medicity. Reference: Doctors Talk
Dr. Thomas believes any body can afford to have quality cancer treatment, within their capacity. Compared to developed countries, India and other developing nations do not have a facility to cover cancer treatment expenses of its citizens. Even then, he believes that cancer treatment is not beyond us, if we can understand and make efforts to practice following two critical things in the fight against cancer:
- Healthy life choices
- Early detection
Let us see what goes into each of them.
Healthy life Choices
Cancer that used to attack in 50-60 years of age in older generation, is seen to be prevalent in younger generation at 20-30 years of age. This is a significant change that generally goes unnoticed. Even before living half the age of average life expectancy, people coming under the clutches of cancer go through severe afflictions. Even if some of them survive, majority of them go through life-long disabilities and get reduced to the confines of their homes.
An average person undergoes changes in his/her lifestyle during their adolescent years. Choosing a healthy lifestyle should be the theme during this phase.
The most important factor is healthy diet.
Food and diet are not the same – Food is anything tasty that can be eaten. But diet is what the body requires. 60% of today’s cancers are related to food.
We used to hear about these 5 white poisons
- Sugar – excess of sugar helps cancer growth
- Excess of salt – salted food – causes cancer
- White rice – polished rice having no bran – causes cancer
- Maida and its various products including kerala porotta also known as malabar paratha and most bakery items – one of the major causes of cancer
On the contrary, there are many food items that can prevent cancer
- Legumes – most important among cancer preventing food. They include clover, peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, lupin bean, mesquite, carob, soybeans, peanuts, tamarind, adzuki beans, black beans, soybeans, anasazi beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, lima beans etc. These are much more healthy and beneficial to the body than chicken, mutton, beef etc., that we normally consider as superior.
- Bran – After legumes, food that contains bran – rich in fiber – helps in preventing cancer. Lack of fiber can destroy the human body. Most people complain about chronic constipation – which normally is to do with their diet. Instead of consuming fiber rich food, we are moving towards consuming medicines to ease bowel movements. There are soluble and insoluble food fibers. Soluble fibers dissolve when cooked. They help in cleansing waste from the liver. Insoluble fiber creates bulk. They help in discarding carcinogenic particles from our body.
- Coloured Fruits and Vegetables – containing anti-oxidants. Free radicals are formed within our body as part of the natural processes. To expel these free radicals, nature has given us coloured fruits and vegetables containing alkaloids. Almost all spices that we use – curcumin, chilly etc., help in this.
Lifestyle factors and habits contributing to cancer
- Excess fat – another cause of cancer. All kinds of hormones get deposited in the fat. Fat deposits can occur whithin the stomach as well. If you observe, majority of cancer patients having ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, uterus cancer etc., obesity is a factor. Obesity and cancer co-exist.
- All cancers are related to one or other hormone. Breast cancer, ovary cancer, uterus cancer with oestrogen, prostate cancer with testosterone, etc.
- Tobacco usage– 20-30% human cancers are caused by tobacco. It contains about 7000 chemical agents and 630+ carcinogens. Kidney and bladder cancers are so prevalent because of tobacco usage
- Alcohol – can cause cancer by directly creating cell toxicity. Excess alcohol can cause liver cirrhosis, and beyond a stage, cirrhosis leads to cancer.
Healthy choices that can prevent cancer
- Vaccinations – Preventive vaccines are available for cervical cancer and Hepatitis B
- Antibiotics – Antibiotics are available for stomach cancer/gastric cancer caused by bacteria.
Need of the time.
Without early detection, cancer is incurable even in today’s age.
There are only very few lucky people to come out of cancer successfully after late detection – and that is because they can afford the extremely expensive treatments.
Doctor says, if we exclude genetically occurring cancers, early detection is the sure shot way. This requires people to have awareness about all these factors. Cancer when detected early, may not require chemotherapy and/or radiation.
There are many cases where people do not approach a doctor even when he/she is diagnosed with cancer. Even if someone approaches a doctor, there are cases where they are given wrong treatments. All this requires awareness at the patients side.
Warning signs should not be ignored.
Sometimes, people ignore all warning signs given by the body and one fine day they get diagnosed of cancer. By this time, the disease would have progressed so much and later stage cancers will require very costly treatments that will be unaffordable to many.
So this brings up the question – what all cancers can be detected early? What screening can be done ?
We go by the most common cancers:
- Head and neck cancer – throat, mouth etc.
- Prostate cancer
- Breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
All these cancers can be detected early by simple screening tests and will not cost much, if we are ready to act early.
If we can follow a healthy life style, develop awareness, and opt to do screening for early detection of cancers, then it is possible to move towards a stage where anyone can afford to treat cancer.