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Defying Death

Times of India
5 February 2010
By Radha Sharma
Ahmedabad, India

Over 40,000 fresh cases of cancer are reported in Gujarat every year. In India, the number of cancer cases reported annually is around nine lakh. And, only 15–20 per cent of the cases are registered!

On the World Cancer Day on Thursday, experts conceded that the true picture might be much scarier with cancer targeting many more people than we know as there is no common registry in the country yet.

In Gujarat, most people fall victim to oral cancer as nearly 30 per cent of the cases reported are a result of the victims consuming tobacco in the form of masala and gutkha. In women, breast cancer and cervical cancer continue to be the leading concerns.

“Consumption of tobacco in Gujarat needs to be checked as we have reports of children as young as seven–eight consuming gutkha,” said Dr Pankaj Shah, director of Gujarat Cancer Research Institute (GCRI).

“We have come across very young patients, many of them in their 20s, getting operated for cancer because of high consumption of masala and gutkha,” said oral cancer surgeon Dr Kaustubh Patel of HCG–Medisurge Hospital.

The hospital on Thursday organised a carnival of cancer survivors at Kankaria where people who overcame the disease planted a tree and took a vow to create more awareness about the disease which is one of the top–three killers in India.

Doctors warned that the state was also witnessing a rise in number of people suffering from colon cancer, a problem directly related to following Western eating patterns and consuming high amount of breads and pizza.

“Colon cancer is the outcome of people shifting from Indian diet which is highly fibrous. How many children now eat vegetable khichdi, once a staple diet in most Gujarati households?” said Dr Jagdish Kothari of HCG–Medisurge Hospital and an onco–surgeon specialising in gastro–intestinal cancer. Dr Kothari said there was also a rise in cases of liver cancer due to high consumption of liquor at a young age in a state which is a dry state otherwise.

Survivors’ Tale
vrinda Patel Vrinda Patel, 51
It was a double tragedy for Vrinda when just months after she was operated for breast cancer, her husband died of liver cancer in 2005. “I was numb with shock, I was still undergoing chemotherapy,” recalls Vrinda who moved to the US to be with her son. There, she says she was immensely helped by the American Cancer Society where she found support and courage in fellow cancer patients. She is now cured and actively campaigns for cancer awareness. “The mantra is to be positive,” says Vrinda.
Sejal Patel Sejal Patel, 36
This businessman started chewing tobacco when he was only 16. His family often warned him that he was courting trouble but he paid no heed to the warnings. He was in for a rude shock when about six months ago, he found himself unable to open his mouth. He was diagnosed with oral cancer. Worse, he was found to be suffering from thyroid cancer as well. “The twin-cancer shocked me. I underwent surgery and decided to fight it with all my will power. I have no problems now,” says Patel who has so far persuaded many of his friends and relatives to give up tobacco.
Rasik Dave Rasik Dave, 65
For this government employee, retirement brought a double whammy. He was diagnosed with suffering from cancer of the oesophagus and blood. Dave, who still has retained a twinkle in his eyes, fought both and got operated where his food pipe was removed and a fresh made from his stomach. Dave says he does not dwell on his health problems, and is dedicated to travelling. “I have been to US and Haridwar after my surgery and am now preparing to go to Rameshwaram soon,” says Dave.

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