Imagining a life with cancer is terrifying for all of us but the warriors who fight this battle everyday are worth being honoured. Therefore, every year on the first Sunday in June, the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation commemorates the day to spread awareness and information about the survivors of the deadly disease as well as celebrate them.
The importance of post-cancer care cannot be overstated. In order to have a healthy life, it is essential to adopt a good lifestyle. Some cancer therapy adverse effects endure. Some people return to their lives before to their diagnosis.
The challenge for each survivor is to figure out how to get back to normal life while adapting to the disease’s and treatment’s consequences.
In an interview with Medically Speaking, Dr Ravi Kant Arora, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology at the Fortis Escorts Hospital gives an insight into fighting cancer, post-cancer treatment and lifestyle as well as emotional care during and after cancer.
When we speak of cancer and cancer survivors, what helps us understand when this journey comes to an end?
Dr Ravi Kant Arora: When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, so in the Indian context, the whole family is diagnosed with cancer. Some cancers have treatment in the form of surgery, in the form of chemotherapy following surgery, or radiation after chemo. So, it’s a long journey. When treatment is completed, a routine needs to be followed for 5 years or 10 years. The journey starts from diagnosis and continues till the follow-up of about 10 years. After that, if the patient has no problems, we can say he/she is a cancer survivor.
You said, once a person is diagnosed, then the whole family is diagnosed, so in the context of women, tell us about the journey from diagnosis to the end of the follow-up process, especially if it is a woman diagnosed with something like breast cancer, as it is so common in our country.
Dr Ravi Kant Arora: In India, women are very important units of our family. That is the most important reason why the entire family gets affected in India if a woman gets affected by cancer. The entire family suffers, mentally, psychologically, and, in many cases, financially. The other way is that if a woman is aware or educated, she can tell her female friends the symptoms of cancer and help them to get an early diagnosis of cancer. So, in that way, we can prevent and help many people.
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If we speak about prevention and knowledge, is that the key really to saving ourselves from cancer? It is possible that one cannot obtain assistance, but an early diagnosis is very significant. help us understand the significance of the knowledge around cancer and how early diagnosis can help a patient.
Dr Ravi Kant Arora: This is one of the focus areas where we oncology people stress, because if a patient is aware and knows about the symptoms of cancer, especially in women, where breast cancer is one of the major cancers, In India, 1 in 28 women develops cancer. So breast cancer is a primary cancer. If we talk about breast cancer, so if a lady has discharge which is watery in nature or bloody in nature or she has a lump in her breast, or in her armpit, or in her neck area, so these are some of the features. Through this, a woman can be made aware that something is not right with her and she can do a self-examination. If she is menstruating, then four days after her periods get over, she can examine herself while showering or in front of a mirror. Similarly, if a woman has stopped menstruating and she is beyond 50 years old and she develops some kind of bleeding from the vagina, then it is a very important aspect which she can’t ignore.
What can we say about the emotional aspect of the person who has been diagnosed or who is a survivor of cancer, like how they can manage their emotions?
Dr Ravi Kant Arora: Besides knowing how to diagnose cancer and how to contact health professionals early, it is also very important to understand how it is treated. So raising awareness about treatment is also very important, and if we are able to send the message that if they come earlier to health professionals, then their breasts can be saved, treatment doesn’t go on for long, the cost is low, and you can go back to enjoying your life and your work sooner. So this is also a very important aspect, and yes, one thing is that they should not be afraid about losing their breasts as we have so many techniques now to save the breasts or redesign them.
Why is it so important that we celebrate Cancer Survivor Day?
Dr Ravi Kant Arora: Why do we say “celebrating cancer survivors” because they have gone through so much that people who haven’t even imagined it. They are the link. They are the narrators of treatment who can go and motivate and inspire people with the knowledge about the journey and the precautions that will decrease the load of cancer in society. People like you and me won’t be taken that seriously as compared to the one who has gone through this journey and goes out and shares the experience and motivates, so that is the most important thing that this day is dedicated to.
And to conclude, the testimony of the survivors is very important. It gives courage to the others and builds a community. We need to speak out and encourage everyone to get an early diagnosis because that really is the key to recovery. As you rightly said, we need to reduce the load from the system, which can happen only when people come forth and get checked.
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