Cancer is a leading cause of fatalities globally, as per the World Health Organisation. In a special series, on World Cancer Day, the OnlyMyHealth editorial team talked to Dr Vineeta Goel, Cancer Specialist, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi. She has been treating and helping cancer patients live a healthy life for the last 25 years, Dr Goel talks in great detail about what are the different causes of cancer and approaches to deal with them.
Tobacco, betel nut, and smoking are associated with the risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, and lungs, respectively. Lifestyle has an important role in determining whether you could develop cancer or not. Our goal should be to stay protected from cancer. But if it happens, we should be able to catch it at an early stage, which is possible only when we go for a regular health checkup. We should have an optimistic approach and think that cancer is just a comma in your life, not a full stop, says Dr Goel.
Common Causes Of Cancer
According to Dr Goel, “The causes of cancer are not fully known, but we know some risk factors that can lead to cancer. For example, tobacco, betel nut, and smoking are clearly associated with the risk of developing mouth, throat, and lung cancer, respectively.”
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Lifestyle-Related Causes Of Cancer
Further, Dr Goel mentioned some lifestyle-related reasons that can cause cancer. These include:
- eating a lot of junk food
- sitting for long periods
- indulging in no physical activity
- consuming foods laden with pesticides and other chemicals
While mentioning these cancer causes, she emphasized that these are not proven but speculative causes of cancer.
Genetic Causes Of Cancer
Genetics can be another cause of cancer resulting from the transfer of a mutated gene from parents to offspring. The mutation can also be caused by exposure to harmful environments, resulting in cancer.
According to Dr Goel, the extent of genetic cancer is about 5%, while the rest 95% is caused by other factors. It is important for people with a family history of cancer to be more aware of the disease, but it is not absolute that they will develop cancer.
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Approaches To Fight Cancer
It is important that we change our perception towards cancer. Dr Goel suggests three ways one can deal with cancer.
Prevention Of Cancer
She advised taking care of the prevention side of the illness. “People should avoid the known causes of cancer such as smoking, chewing tobacco, and betel nuts to prevent the onset and complication of cancer.”
Adding to the prevention of cancer, Dr Goel said, “Cervical cancer is common in women but can be prevented by the vaccine, which is now available in the market. Women should take vaccines to protect themselves from cervical cancer. The vaccine is administered to girls after 12 years of age, in two to three shots.” Cancer of the liver is caused by Hepatitis C infection, and like the cervical cancer vaccine, Hepatitis C vaccines are also available in the market.
Following a healthy lifestyle is another measure to prevent the occurrence of cancer. Dr Goel recommended having a plant-based diet with more fresh fruits and vegetables instead of junk, processed foods, and meat. Additionally, one should not forget to indulge in regular physical activity.
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Timely Screening Of Cancer
Many cancers cannot be prevented, but since they are common cancers, it becomes important to stay aware of their symptoms and go for regular screening and health checkups. Dr Goel said, “Considering the seriousness of cancer, people must undergo cancer screening after reaching the milestone of 40 years in life. Women should go for a mammogram for breast cancer screening and a pap smear test for cervical cancer screening. While men should go for a prostate-specific antigen test for prostate cancer screening.
Attitude Towards Cancer
While concluding, Dr Goel said, “We need to change the pessimistic view that cancer cannot be cured. Modern medicine has made significant advancements that make cancer cures possible for most patients. We should have an optimistic approach and think that cancer is just a comma in my life, not a full stop.”
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