Oncologists- The New Indian Express

Oncologists- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

KOCHI:  Reshma (name changed) recently consulted a doctor for a lump near her neck. The 18-year-old nursing student never expected the visit to upend her life. The Kannur native was diagnosed with cancer and is now undergoing treatment. Bincy, of Kottayam, was diagnosed with cervical cancer nearly four years back. Two years later, the 35-year-old private school employee is still undergoing treatment as the malignant cells have metastasized.

Not long ago, the news of a 65-year-old aunt or 70-year-old grandfather being diagnosed with cancer would have shocked us. The situation has changed in the last two to three decades with the rise in the number of early-onset cancer, and instances of the disease among people in their 20s and 30s are no longer treated as an anomaly.

According to a study conducted last June by international journal Cancer Epidemiology, titled ‘Adolescent and young adult cancers in India: Findings from the National Cancer Registry Programme’, incidence of teenage and young adult (TYA) cancer has increased in both males and females, with the highest recorded numbers in the 35-39 age group. Fortunately, say experts, the majority of TYA cancers are curable. Dr Arun R Warrier, senior consultant, medical oncology, Aster Medcity Kochi, said the most common cancers seen among youngsters are lymphomas, germ-cell cancers, and leukaemia. 

“Most of the time, these cancers are curable with proper treatment, and many hospitals have dedicated oncology centres where patients are provided counselling along with medication,” he said.
According to Dr Pavithran K, professor of medical oncology at Amrita Hospital, the cure rate of TYA cancer is high. “70 to 80% of TYA cancers are curable, while it is only 50 to 60% among the elderly,” said Dr Pavithran. Although the disease affects both genders, its occurrence is higher among women. Dr Pavithran said it is mostly seen in women, and recently, the number of men in their 20s and 30s diagnosed with cancer has also gone up.

Dr V P Gangadharan, senior consultant and head of the department of medical and paediatric oncology at VPS Lakeshore Hospital, said there has been a steady rise in the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age. “In females, breast cancer cases are increasing. Earlier it was mostly women in the age group of 40 to 50 who were diagnosed with breast cancer. But now, it has come down to the 20s and 30s,” Dr Gangadharan said recently during an interaction for TNIE’s Express Dialogues series.

The younger generation needs specialised care as the challenges they face are different from those faced by the elderly. Dr Arun says psychological and financial support are important for patients in this age group. “Youngsters may face emotional challenges and high levels of stress. They may become conscious of their body image as well. Therefore, specialised care is important,” said Dr Arun. 

He said lives will return to normal once cancer is cured. “Survivors will develop a good immune system and better health. However, they should be monitored and closely followed up as there are chances of occurrence of other diseases later. They may experience fertility issues, cardiac issues, etc, and need to be taken care of,” he said. Dr Pavithran said frequent check-ups are essential in preventing occurrence of diseases later in life. “These survivors may experience hormonal issues, diabetes, obesity, and other issues. There is a chance of second cancers. With follow-ups and check-ups, these can be prevented,” he said. 

New studies and approaches focusing on psychological aspects of dealing with cancer and treatments offer hope to young patients as the key to sustainable recovery also hinges on attitudes. “Positive thinking helps in production of biochemicals that improve one’s immunity. These components are higher in people with a positive attitude, Gangadharan said.

Positive outlook

  • Incidence of teenage and young adult cancer has risen in both males and females, with highest recorded numbers in the 35-39 age group
  • New studies and approaches focusing on psychological aspects of dealing with cancer and treatments offer hope to young patients as the key to sustainable recovery also hinges on attitudes

https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2023/jun/26/70-80-per-centof-early-onset-cancers-curable-oncologists-2588593.html

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