The high calorie diet in the affluent west contributes to a sizable proportion of cancers. The high dietary fat increases the risk of colonic cancer by increasing the bile acids in the bowel. Dietary fat, high calorie non-vegetarian diet of refined foods can give rise to the cancer of uterus, rectum, large intestine and stomach. Several studies have found a remarkably low incidence of cancer among vegetarians.
In several studies it has been found that the risk of colonic cancer is inversely related to the consumption of fibre. In the process of refining, some valuable nutrients and fibres that the natural foods are blessed with, are eliminated. The fibre holds fibrous carbohydrate in food mainly cellulose. It cannot be digested by the human body. It increases the bulk of the stool and helps in its quick passage, thus preventing constipation reducing fat absorption by the body. High fibre diet is also a low calorie diet and a good cancer preventing diet.
A low intake of vitamin A, carotene and selenium may cause lung cancer. The risk of cancer of the stomach is more in a diet deficient in fruits and vegetables containing vitamin C. In a study of oesophagal cancer the high rate among black males was attributed to heavy alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a high calorie food. Alcoholics tend to eat less and may develop generalised poor nutrition.
When you drink coffee in excess the chances of cancer of the pancreas and urinary bladder are heightened. When foodgrains , not well dried, are stored in humid condition, a fungus (aspergillus flavus) may grow on them and form a toxin (aflotoxin) which may cause cancer. The artificial sweetener like saccharine and cyclamate are weak carcinogens of urinary bladder.
Cooking practices like frying, browning and roasting may release hydrocarbons which are carcinogenic. Cancer is common among the elderly and the bereaved who are beset by grief and emotional disturbances. It is well known that the condition of a patient deteriorates much faster after diagnosis of cancer is made. Our immune system is often affected by negative attitudes. Panic is one such. A sudden fear can set off a harmful chain reaction in the entire endocrine system. Nothing about cancer is more lethal than the hopelessness it produces nothing is more essential than the determination to get the best of whatever is possible.
Early diagnosis is important for effective treatment. If it is diagnosed before it has reached the lymph nodes or before metastasis has developed it is treatable with some good result. It requires more vigilance on the part of the patient and general practitioners. Many times cancer is symptomless and when detected it becomes too late for treatment.
If you feel tired, have giddiness or anaemia; if you have fever which is not responding to treatment; if you feel a lump on the breast or testicles, if you develop hoarseness of voice or find an unresponding ulcer on the tongue or gums; or if you have a chronic cough which is not responding to treatment you may be a case of suspected cancer. A thorough check-up will be called for.
It is advisable to have a routine cancer check-up if you are forty or above. A simple test like the self examination of breasts of testicles, a simple X-ray of chest, blood test or a swab examination of throat or cervix may reveal the existence of cancer in most cases.
Sophisticated examinations like sonography, cat scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), histopathological examination of a small tissue removed in biopsy or aspirated fluid removal from the tumour may be needed in a few cases. Lung cancer is common in male chronic smokers. It can be detected early and is curable. A person who has constant cough should not disregard it by just calling it a “smoker’s cough”. If the cough does not subside quickly, an X-ray of the chest should be done. If any doubtful shadow is detected, it should be thoroughly investigated. Many times lung cancer is treated as T.B. lung. If symptoms do not subside within 3 weeks after T.B. treatment it should immediately be investigated for cancer. Let us not forget that cancer that is detected early is treatable.
The cancer of breast is detected by self-examination. Any lump on the breast should immediately arouse suspicion. Age, number of children born, symptoms like pain, tenderness of the breast and any type of discharge from the nipple also are to be considered before taking a decision. Mamography may be required to confirm the diagnosis. Mamograph is a soft tissue breast X-ray.
The cancer of cervix and vagina can be easily detected by a smear test. A cotton swab is put at the mouth of cervix and smeared with the discharge. The smear is placed on a glass slide. The stain is examined under the microscope. An early diagnosis of all disease especially cancer is important for effective treatment. A melanoma or skin cancer, not so common in India, is common among the white skinned people if they are exposed to the hot sun for long periods. If a pimple suddenly changes colour, cancer could be suspect.
Enormous sums have been spent on cancer research. Skilled surgery, sophisticated machinery for X-rays and other types of radiation and the development of a range of powerful anticancer drugs, have not been able to check the onslaughter of the disease. The cures are hardly more frequent now than they were half a century ago. A few cancers, including one form of childhood leukaemia, can be cured almost as a matter of routine., if tackles soon enough. It is the common cancer which has proved most amenable to treatment. Tumours of the lung, the gut, the female breast and genitalia continue to strike more people every year.
There is a tendency to regard cancer as a malignant blight visited by baleful fate upon those unfortunate enough to catch her eyes – an inevitable happening for those marked out for the disease. It is nothing of the sort. Like coronary heart disease cancer can be prevented. The difficulty with cancer treatment is that all the treatment whether it is by radiation or chemotherapy kills not only the cancer cell as well as normal cells. Research is being caried out to attack only the target cells but no great success has been achieved yet. Surgery is successful if done at an early stage, but most of the cases that come are late when the cancer cells have already reached the lymph mode and metastasised in other parts of the body. If metastasis could be stopped through treatment we would have an effective way to counter the disease. But that is also a remote possibility.
The question being asked is “Does the food we eat increase the risk of cancer? Will it be wise to revert to the food, we used to eat 50 or 100 years ago?” We may have to avoid refining and processing the foods and come back to mother nature. Dr. Frederick Hoffman in his book “Diet and Cancer”, in the early 1950s, stated: “I am fully convinced that profound dietary influences in cancer are to be looked upon as a causative factor”. It has been seen that breast cancer is much lower in Asian than American women.
Cancer of the stomach is more common among the Japanese, while cancer of colon is more prevalent among Europeans and Americans. The Japanese who migrated to Hawaii and the U.S.A. showed signs of a rise in the colon cancer and a fall in stomach cancer after a few years’ stay. The type of food they ingested for a long time was found to be the cause. Extra fat, lack of fibres, high calorie diet, refined food, polished cereals are now being pinpointed as causes for the cancer of colon, uterus, gall bladder, breast and pancreas. Highly salted and seasoned foods are responsible in promoting cancer. Cabbage and cauliflower contain a chemical which has protective action.
Educating the masses about the preventive measures seems to be the only answer in the absence of an effective treatment. The treatment cost of cancer is high, unaffordable in Indian perspective. Inspite of all the sophistication in treatment the result remains still poor. Moreover there are yet no signs to show that we are heading towards an effective treatment in the near future. It will be worth looking for other avenues.
In 1982, Prince Charles, addressing the British Medical Association, said that the whole imposing edifice of modern medicine, for its all breath taking success, is like the celebrated Tower of Pisa, slightly off-balance. He urged doctors to handle their client as a whole person, rather than bodies attached to disease. He said: “It is frightening how dependent on drugs we are becoming and how it is easy for doctors to prescribe them as universal panacea for our ills. Wonderful as many of them are it should still be more widely stressed by doctors that the health of human beings is also often determined by their behaviour, their food and nature of their environment.
A fortnight later he presided at the official opening of the Bristol Cancer Help Center where treatment includes yoga, meditation and a diet of vitamins and a diet of vitamins and uncooked vegetables. He asked doctors and other healers to work together to find solutions to our bodily ills. Modern medicine can alleviate many dangerous or distressing ailments from plague to corrupted heart valves which we untreatable half a century ago. But there are still numerous conditions, from cancer to migrane which are often resistant to even the most powerful scientific remedies.
It is true of all diseases but more so in cancer than an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Prevention has a much bigger role to play. Educating the masses how to prevent cancer and how to help to detect it early will go a long way in the management of the disease.
The Indian Cancer Society has ambitious plans drawn up for the next five years. The government is going to spend a lot of money to educate people in the preventive aspect of cancer. This may include avoiding some of the goodies of life:several things we like the most are carcinogenic like tobacco, alcohol, fat, refined food, fried and processed food. Changing the life style is the need of the hour. If we do not do it now we may have to pay a high price. It might be too late to look back. This will call for a lot of determination. It is not easy to change one’s old food habits and living style.
The capacity of the body to combat illness is truly remarkable. Often ailments can be tackled through proper “health farming”. A disease like cancer however is the result of long years of abuse. The body’s wisdom towards tackling cancer is limited. A span of a few hundred years is nothing in the history of the human body. With health farming there is still a chance. Some cancers do heal – at times. But today there is a much better chance, if one has the cancerous growth removed and then follow up the treatment through a proper and health farming methods.
In most cases unfortunately the diagnosis comes too late after the disease has spread and nothing much can be done. At this juncture many questions arise. Should the patient be told about the malignancy? Should the patient’s be involved in deciding the course of his treatment? Should the patient’s last last days, weeks or months be made more wretched by intensive treatment with drugs, radiation or surgery, when there is no reasonable prospect of a cure and when he should have been allowed to die in dignity and peace?.
The time that passes between suspected cancer and a confirmed diagnosis is the most tortuous. The doctor and the family often try to protect the patient from learning about it. However most patients become aware of the diagnosis. When they have not been told directly they lose the benefit of communicating their fear and having any misconception corrected. Most bear their fear in silence and isolation. It seems futile to try to keep the diagnosis from most patients.
A woman who had advance cancer of her ovaries bore the knowledge of her terminal condition with great courage inspite of the effort by her doctor and husband to keep her from knowing her disability. As her condition worsened she worried about her children who were seeing her dying by inches. One day she collected all her courage and shared her fear with the physician. “I have not been able to discuss with my husband”, she said, “and I know it will be very hard for him when he realises that I have been carrying this alone all this time”.
Very soon to the relief of the doctor both the patient and her husband talked over her state. They had nine days to share their feelings with no holds barred and then she died. Body is meant to perish. Disease comes in one way or another to help the body to perish. We control one disease then the next appears, and the next one until we have no control and ultimately the body succumbs to it. Cancer is one such disease which we cannot control in most cases.
The drugs being used for killing the pain or controlling infection are pretty dangerous. What is being used to control cancer (in kidney transplants as well) are potent drugs or radiation, high on the dangerous list. Medical science has been advancing at a tremendous speed, much faster than in the good old days of our grand parents or parents. The accelerated pace may lead to the developments of more dangerous drugs.
Let me enumerate some of the common side effects of drugs used to treat cancer. These include nausea, loss of hair, blisters on the tongue, vomiting, fever and chills. Quite a few times side effects do not start till five or seven days after starting the drug. You may have loss of sleep and profuse sweating which may require the changing of the bed sheet at night. The patient feels weak, tired, frightened and helpless. The veins may get constricted if chemotherapy is given intravenously.
Some of the side effects of radiation are the same as in chemotherapy. The side effects depend on the location of the cancer, the doses administered, duration of the treatment and overall health condition. Surgery if done in an early case may be simple. For advanced cases it may be drastic. The tumour has to be removed along with lymph nodes if the cancer has reached the lymph nodes. If metastasis has already taken place the situation is difficult to control. Surgery may follow with chemotherapy or radiation.
Quit smoking and chewing tobacco. Increase fibre food. Decrease fat in the diet. Make sure that the workplace is safe, do not expose yourself to unnecessary X-rays. Avoid excessive sunlight especially if you are fair complexioned. If you have been smoking for 15 years it is high time you stopped it completely. If you are a beginner, stopping it is easier. Stopping suddenly is the sure way to give up. Or else go on reducing the number of cigarettes and stop smoking within a few days.
The same is true if you chew tobacco or use it in your pan supari. If you have been eating non-vegetarian food, it is high time you gave it a second thought. It is high calorie fibreless food. Prof. Enderlin, a cancer expert of Berlin University, believes that eating of animal flesh is one of the main causes of cancer. Mr. Kasper Blond, F.R.C.S. another eminent cancer specialist feels that liver damage causes cancer. A diet free from animal protein is most important in rejuvenation of a damaged liver.
That is why vegetarian societies report less cancer cases. Fibre is important in the diet. It is present in fruits, salads, green vegetables with their peel on, bran of wheat and unpolished rice. Add germinated moong and gram to your diet. It is a rich source of vitamin B complex as well as fibre. Quite a few vitamins and minerals are destroyed when you cook them. Try to eat plenty of fruits. Eating them is better than having juices. Apple will have more fibres than its juice. Avoid preserved foods, tinned vegetables or fruits and juices. Avoid jam, jellies, pickles and ketchup. Take large quantities of salad. The best way to eat salad is to do what Russians do: take raw salad as the first course of the meal. Eat the salad first and then your meal.
The late Dr. Kirstin Nolfi of Denmark recovered from breast cancer by living on raw potato juice, raw carrot juice and garlic for 40 days. Then she lived for 2 years on fruits and vegetable diet and got cured of her cancer. Raw beetroot juice, cabbage juice and garlic are said to be helpful. Three fourths of the diet should be of raw food. Raw food is living food: it has a lot of life giving and curing capacity for cancer. Do not throw away the water in which you cook vegetables. It will have most of the potassium from the vegetable. Use less salt. Excess salt destroys potassium in vegetables.
Do not use white flour. Do not sieve wheat flour. Bran is a good source of fibre. Do not polish the rice: rice husk is a good source of fibre. Moreover bran and husk are good sources of vitamin B complex. Remember the natural source of vitamin is better as it is utilized better by the body. Do not take white flour products like white bread. Prefer brown bread. Do not take sugar. Sugar is a high calorie food and contains no fibre and is devoid of vitamins and minerals. Prefer jaggery to sugar. Prefer dry fruits, fruits, fruit juices and honey. The honey available in the market most of the time is impure and contains a lot of sugar.
Watch your fat consumption. Do not take fried foods. Use oil and ghee to the minimum. Do not brown the masala and roast the food, as few hydrocarbons are produced in the process, which may be carcinogenic. Cold pressed oil produced in the villages is better than hot pressed oil in the mills. Avoid aluminium vessels for cooking. Stainless steel vessels are better. Be careful about the environment in which you live and move about. Is it polluted? Do you travel every day to work and back in a car on a street full of smoke at rush hour? It is better to avoid rush hour driving. Travel by train. Try to avoid the smoke-laden air of a congested room or cinema hall. If you are working in an asbestos, plastic, leather or chemical industry, you have to be extra careful. If you smoke and work in such industrial units the risk factor is high. Quit smoking if you have to work in such units.
Live in open area. Keep windows open in the night. Mental and emotional factors can be causative factors for diseases like cancer. The relaxation technique, meditation and pranayama will help. It will help you to keep mental balance and relax. Take outdoor muscular exercise. Walk every morning for one hour. Do jogging and physical exercise if you are strong bodily. Water treatment will help. Do not take sauna or steam bath if you are weak. Take a wet sheet pack on alternate days,. Take legguss before going for a walk.
Do not be afraid. It is better to look after yourself and your family so that with preventive measures you avoid this dreaded disease. If you have got cancer do not panic. Collect all energies and start walking on to the path of recovery, with the help of a proper diet.