FAQs about cancer

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PUNEET ANAND provides insight from discussions at the ISWA Sypmosium

Cancer is one of the deadliest human diseases today. With an estimated number of 130,466 cases detected in 2016 in WA alone, cancer rules the chart of deaths with 46,880 already marked this year.

ISWA Cancer Symposium.Indian Link

To make our people aware of this monster disease, the Indian Society of Western Australia (ISWA) and the Australian Indian Medical Association of WA organised a medical symposium on 5 June, 2016 at ISWA Centre for Arts and Culture.

Hippocrates, the father of modern day medicine, coined the term cancer. It denominates the irrational and abnormal growth of cells, which multiply uncontrollably and spread to the surrounding tissues as well. A panel of renowned doctors were present to enlighten the community about various forms of cancer.

At the outset, Dr Sanjay Mukhedkar (Medical Oncologist) briefed the audience about the statistical data and background on cancer. Not all cancers are same, he said; for instance, a person can survive many years with prostate cancer as compared to stomach cancer. He listed the causes as infection, tobacco, alcohol, obesity, nature v/s nurture, exposure to radiation and more. Pain is rarely a presenting symptom, he stated, and sometimes it is too late to even diagnose. He moved towards a prevailing solution, chemotherapy. But the drawback remains that it kills the weed but good grass too, that is, alongside killing the bad cells, it diminishes the good surrounding cells as well.

Dr Sunil Kaushik (Consultant Gastroenterologist) spoke about screening vs investigation in bowel or colon cancer. One out of 27 males and 1 out of 26 females is observed with it. He lamented that only 7 % of the population get themselves tested; in these tests, 30 % would show colon polyps, and in 3 % cancer would actually be detected. Every person over the age of 50 must get themselves screened and if a positive result ensues, go in for a colonoscopy, as a stitch in time saves nine. We should also keep a check on our Vitamin D levels, weight increase, family history, obesity, red meat intake and sedentary lifestyle, he added.

The third speaker Dr Vinita Singh (Breast Surgeon) presented that old age, genetic mutations, prolonged unopposed oestrogen exposure, family history and lifestyle factors lead to breast cancer. Women should self-check regularly at all ages, and later go in for regular breast screens. They should look out for new lumps, change in shape and size of the breast, crusting, ulcer, discharge, redness or rash. Diagnosis can be done in many ways like through screening mammography, clinical investigation, MRI/ ultrasound, needle test, core biopsy or FNA. She stated the treatment depends upon the stage of cancer: surgery is an option, also chemotherapy and radiography. New methods of treatment includes hormone therapy and targeted drug therapies for breast cancer.

Dr Sangeetha Bhatt (Consultant OBG) highlighted the importance of cervical cancer screening. A pap smear test is recommended for all women 18-70 years in age, every 2 years.

Mr Paul Katris, Registered Psychologist at the Cancer Council of WA showcased the role of the Council in supporting cancer patients.

Dr Jagadish Jamboti led the Q and A session at the end.

It is hoped that ISWA continues to bring such informative events for the benefit of the community