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Updated: February 5, 2012 23:28 IST

The good news about cancer

Harmala Gupta
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Lisa Ray, a model and Bollywood actor who fought back a rare cancer of the white blood cells with advanced treatment, is among the more famous survivors of the disease.
Lisa Ray, a model and Bollywood actor who fought back a rare cancer of the white blood cells with advanced treatment, is among the more famous survivors of the disease.

With the treatments available today, it is possible to hit the disease for a six.

Yuvraj is stricken with cancer today, but why the long faces? All kinds of people have had cancer, battled with it and emerged winners. The ‘C' word no longer evokes the dread it once did and there are several good reasons for this.

More people are alive today with cancer and enjoying a good quality of life than at any other time in human history. This is encouraging news and is a tribute to the progress made by scientific research thanks to which we know how different cancers occur and grow. This in turn has led to the development of more effective drugs and treatments. Looking back over the last 20 years alone, the progress has been phenomenal.

Progress in treatment

Whereas two decades ago cancer specialists had only mutilating surgeries, highly toxic chemicals or radiotherapy treatments based on a cobalt source to offer their patients, today not only have these treatments been greatly refined but treatments that target specific genetic mutations in the cell, hormonal treatments and immunotherapy all have a role to play and have made cancer less of a death threat.

Gone are the days, for example, when a woman's entire breast was removed, including the lymph nodes under her arm which severely impacted her ability to use her arm again, after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Removal of the malignant lump in the breast, followed by radiotherapy, is the preferred course of treatment now at any reputable cancer institution.

Radiotherapy too is administered by a machine known as a linear accelerator which uses an x-ray technique that administers radiation more precisely than the earlier generation radiotherapy machines. These new machines are so accurate that the negative side-effects associated with exposure to radiation have been almost eliminated. This has resulted in both enhanced survival and a better quality of life after treatment.

Cure rates

The cure rates for cancers in children in the West have climbed up to a remarkable 80 per cent. This is true also for certain adult cancers like lymphomas and breast cancer. This once again makes the point that the battle against cancer is being won by using a number of techniques and approaches which include stem cell therapy and bone marrow transplants. In fact, so effective are these treatments that often they are beginning to be prescribed as the first line of treatment for certain cancers so that no time is lost in using standard treatments which are unlikely to impact them. Drugs to prevent certain breast cancers are also being talked about these days.

The answer for the future surely lies in an even more intimate and detailed understanding of how cancer cells proliferate and what genetic changes in a cell trigger a malignancy. The key lies in more research and clinical trials. At cancer conferences around the world, it is the data collected by treating doctors in their clinics that has to be matched and married to research being undertaken in laboratories. This is where support for research on cancer and for the development of drugs needs to be undertaken by a public institution rather than by private pharmaceutical companies alone. The National Cancer Institute in the U.S. is an example of one such institution which has contributed in a major way to the progress made in the treatment of cancers both in the U.S. and worldwide.

Matter of time

It is true that there are still cancers that are more intractable and difficult to treat than others. But certainly it is but a matter of time before they too will become less life limiting. What needs to be factored in here is the need for each one of us too to be more vigilant when it comes to diagnosing cancer. Should we have an unhealthy lifestyle, use tobacco consistently in any form or have a history of a particular type of cancer in our family we must go for regular check-ups. As we hear time and again when it comes to cancer the earlier you catch it and treat it the better.

So while we may feel sorry for Yuvraj, let us remember that when it comes to treating cancer successfully we are today in the golden age and Yuvi has a number of factors working in his favour. He is young, suffers from no other chronic condition and is healthy given his sporting background. More than that, he has shown time and again that he is a man who can rise to the occasion when asked to do so. What he now needs from those around him and from all of us, his well-wishers, is an equal belief in his ability to fight back and hit cancer for a six.

(Harmala Gupta is a cancer survivor. She is founder of CanSupport which has pioneered home based palliative care for cancer patients in India. For information, email:

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I lost my wife due to breast cancer some fifteen year back inspite hectic treatment at Meenakshi Mission Hospital madurai.My humble submission to the government of tamilnadu to make it copulsory to under go momography for the ladies crossed the age of 40.

from:  M Sankaralingam
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 10:12 IST

cancer is treated in India well by..........herbal treatments made people come out from Cancer. Here is a place for fantastic unbelievable results. Vaidhyar.V.K.Raveendran,VALLIYAMMAL GURUKULAM, Tribal Traditional Ottamooli Cancer Treatment Center,Ph: 09946097562.address: CHINDAKKI,MUKKALI,ATTAPADY,PALAKKAD-678581.
NOT ONLY FOR YUVI,this could help each and every person who is
suffering from cancer,and any type of cancer. Please forward this information as fast as you can.Your mails and sharing can save someone's life

from:  Rajalakshmi Ganesh Babu
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 09:40 IST

Cancer is no match for the indomitable Yuvraj. We all know and
acknowledge the indefatigable fighting spirit and never say die
quality of Yuvraj Singh as an outstanding cricketer and sportsperson.
Now I predict with the utmost of conviction in my heart that Yuvraj
shall demolish the myth of cancer in a one sided match, which he shall
win handsomely by heaving the cancerous ball out of the stadium of his
life for a massive sixer.
C'mon Yuvi ! You are the eternal fighter. May God bless you always.You
shall always be successful in overcoming challenges of all hue.

Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 00:43 IST

Thanks for an educating and motivational article. May God's grace be with Yuvraj for a speedy treatment and recovery.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 00:15 IST

I feel very sorry for a sporting person who did so much in the world cup is having treatment for cancer. Wish him a speedy recovery. At the moment one should understand that anyone wants to get treatment in the best possible centre. There is no doubt that Cancer treatment in U.S is far better than in our country especially for Lung cancer.We should strive to achieve the same quality of treatment only through slow continuous process in India.Even within our country the outcome of critical illness varies widely between the institute and cities. First we need to address that and than think about achieving western standard. Let us all pray for Yuvraj to get the best treatment possible and for a better recovery.

from:  R.Manivarmane
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 16:41 IST

My wishes for Yuvraj. Get well soon.
But my question remains same that are we really not good enough to treat
such illness in India itself? This article says we have come a long way
in the battle with Cancer but with so many if and buts. Like if detected
earlier then curable. >My question is what ever one claims about survival from this Could poor and lower middle class people can fight with it ? If this only gets cured in US and big cities .

from:  Sonu
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 14:48 IST

Absolutely.The C word is no longer dreadful.My wife had breast cancer
and she is now fine and normal like other women.No one should feel sorry
for Yuvraj.C is as curable as any other disease.

from:  Bhaskar
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 14:25 IST

This article is awesome and I really appreciate your effort to reach out to the people with cancer. I wish you all the best in your efforts.

from:  Antony Francis
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 14:09 IST

Why should be treated in US? Does it mean that cancer treatment in
India is inadequate? So if we get this disease our chances of survival
are nil unless we go to US?

from:  Prabal
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 09:19 IST

It is really painful to read the news that the dashing all rounder Yuvraj Singh has lung cancer. The news was that during the cricket World Cup time he under went some anxious movements in the nights and yet he continued playing cricket and helped India to win the cup. I humbly pray God to restore him his full health (as DR system) and I want to see him play cricket again for India. It is the wish of all the cricket lovers.

from:  Thodla Venkatasubramanyam
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 08:47 IST
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