According to a WHO report, the estimated cancer burden in India in 2018, are about 1.16 million new cases, 784,800 deaths, and 2.26 million 5-year prevalent cases in the country’s population of 1.35 billion.
India had an estimated 1.16 million new cancer cases in 2018, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), which said that one in 10 Indians will develop cancer during their lifetime and one in 15 will die of the disease. WHO and its specialized International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have released two reports to mark World Cancer Day: one aimed at setting the global agenda on the disease; the other focused on research and prevention. The World Cancer Report said according to the estimated cancer burden in India in 2018, there are about 1.16 million new cancer cases, 784,800 cancer deaths, and 2.26 million 5-year prevalent cases in India’s population of 1.35 billion. In India, the six most common cancer types were breast cancer (162,500 cases), oral cancer (120,000 cases), cervical cancer (97,000 cases), lung cancer (68,000 cases), stomach cancer (57,000 cases), and colorectal cancer (57,000). Together, these account for 49% of all-new cancer cases. Of the 570,000 new cancer cases in men, oral cancer (92,000), lung cancer (49,000), stomach cancer (39,000), colorectal cancer (37,000), and oesophageal cancer (34,000) account for 45% of cases. The report added that of the 587,000 new cancer cases in women, breast cancer (162,500), cervical cancer (97,000), ovarian cancer (36,000), oral cancer (28,000), and colorectal cancer (20,000) account for 60% of cases.
Cancer patterns in India are dominated by a high burden of tobacco-related head and neck cancers, particularly oral cancer, in men and of cervical cancer in women; both of these cancer types are associated with lower socio-economic status, the report said. The burden of cancer types, such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer, associated with overweight and obesity, lower levels of physical activity, and sedentary lifestyles is increasing and these cancer types are associated with higher socio-economic status.
“During the past two decades, India has had one of the world’s best performing and most stable economies, which has grown by more than 7% annually in most years. This economic development has given rise to vast socio-economic changes, with an increasing risk of non-communicable diseases, including cancer, ad significant disparities in access to cancer prevention and control services,” the report said.
WHO warned that global cancer rates could rise by 60% over the next 20 years unless cancer care is ramped up in low and middle-income countries. Less than 15% of these nations offer comprehensive cancer treatment services through their public health systems, according to the U.N. agency. At least 7 million lives could be saved over the next decade, by identifying the most appropriate science for each country situation, by basing strong cancer responses on universal health coverage, and by mobilizing different stakeholders to work together, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The report said about 80% of the world’s smokers live in low and middle-income countries. In addition, 64% of the world’s daily smokers live in only 10 countries and more than 50 per cent of the world’s male smokers live in three countries: China, India, and Indonesia. There are currently 164 million users of smokeless tobacco, 69 million smokers, and 42 million smokers and chewers in India. More than 90% of patients with oral cancer have low or lower-middle socio-economic status. Tobacco-related cancers account for 34-69% of all cancers in men, they constitute 10-27% of all cancers in women in most regions in India. The incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing in the most developed States in India and in urban populations.
“There is a clear increasing trend in the incidence rates of breast cancer across the country, with an annual percentage increase that ranges from 1.4% to 2.8% and is more pronounced in urban areas than in rural areas. Incidence rates are also increasing for cancer types associated with overweight and obesity and lower levels of physical activity, such as colorectal cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer,” the report said
The report noted that there is a clear decreasing trend in the incidence rates of cervical cancer in most regions in India (annual percentage change, -2.0% to -3.5%), with age-standardized incidence rates as low as 6 per 1,00,000 in women in Kerala. India accounts for about one fifth of the global burden of cervical cancer, despite decreasing incidence rates in several regions of the country. Thus, elimination of cervical cancer in India will have a major impact on global elimination of the disease as a public health problem. Cervical cancer disproportionately affects women with lower socio-economic status, who are at a considerable disadvantage in the availability of and access to public health services for prevention and early detection, and therefore this is an equity issue.
IARC Director Elisabete Weiderpass observed that high-income countries have adopted prevention, early diagnosis and screening programmes, which together with better treatment, have contributed to an estimated 20% reduction in the probability of premature mortality between 2000 and 2015, but low-income countries only saw a reduction of 5%.
In the above scenario as described by the article, we will now see how siddha treatment for cancer, can harness the wisdom of ancient medical systems of India.
BUT WHAT IS CANCER
Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and multiply (through a process called cell division) to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.
Sometimes this orderly process breaks down, and abnormal or damaged cells grow and multiply when they shouldn’t. These cells may form tumors, which are lumps of tissue. Tumors can be cancerous or not cancerous (benign). Cancerous tumors spread into, or invade, nearby tissues and can travel to distant places in the body to form new tumors (a process called metastasis). Cancerous tumors may also be called malignant tumors. Many cancers form solid tumors, but cancers of the blood, such as leukemias, generally do not.
Benign tumors do not spread into, or invade, nearby tissues. When removed, benign tumors usually don’t grow back, whereas cancerous tumors sometimes do. Benign tumors can sometimes be quite large, however. Some can cause serious symptoms or be life threatening, such as benign tumors in the brain.
Cancer cells differ from normal cells in many ways. For instance, cancer cells:
- grow in the absence of signals telling them to grow. Normal cells only grow when they receive such signals.
- ignore signals that normally tell cells to stop dividing or to die (a process known as programmed cell death, or apoptosis).
- invade into nearby areas and spread to other areas of the body. Normal cells stop growing when they encounter other cells, and most normal cells do not move around the body.
- tell blood vessels to grow toward tumors. These blood vessels supply tumors with oxygen and nutrients and remove waste products from tumors.
- hide from the immune system. The immune system normally eliminates damaged or abnormal cells.
- trick the immune system into helping cancer cells stay alive and grow. For instance, some cancer cells convince immune cells to protect the tumor instead of attacking it.
- accumulate multiple changes in their chromosomes, such as duplications and deletions of chromosome parts. Some cancer cells have double the normal number of chromosomes.
- rely on different kinds of nutrients than normal cells. In addition, some cancer cells make energy from nutrients in a different way than most normal cells. This lets cancer cells grow more quickly.
Many times, cancer cells rely so heavily on these abnormal behaviors that they can’t survive without them. Researchers have taken advantage of this fact, developing therapies that target the abnormal features of cancer cells. For example, some cancer therapies prevent blood vessels from growing toward tumors, essentially starving the tumor of needed nutrients.
Cancer is caused by certain changes to genes, the basic physical units of inheritance. Genes are arranged in long strands of tightly packed DNA called chromosomes.
The genetic changes that contribute to cancer tend to affect three main types of genes—proto-oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, and DNA repair genes. These changes are sometimes called “drivers” of cancer. Proto-oncogenes are involved in normal cell growth and division. However, when these genes are altered in certain ways or are more active than normal, they may become cancer-causing genes (or oncogenes), allowing cells to grow and survive when they should not. Tumor suppressor genes are also involved in controlling cell growth and division. Cells with certain alterations in tumor suppressor genes may divide in an uncontrolled manner.
DNA repair genes are involved in fixing damaged DNA. Cells with mutations in these genes tend to develop additional mutations in other genes and changes in their chromosomes, such as duplications and deletions of chromosome parts. Together, these mutations may cause the cells to become cancerous. As scientists have learned more about the molecular changes that lead to cancer, they have found that certain mutations commonly occur in many types of cancer. Now there are many cancer treatments available that target gene mutations found in cancer. A few of these treatments can be used by anyone with a cancer that has the targeted mutation, no matter where the cancer started growing.
There are more than 100 types of cancer. Types of cancer are usually named for the organs or tissues where the cancers form. For example, lung cancer starts in the lung, and brain cancer starts in the brain. Cancers also may be described by the type of cell that formed them, such as an epithelial cell or a squamous cell.
Here are some categories of cancers that begin in specific types of cells:
Carcinoma – Carcinomas are the most common type of cancer. They are formed by epithelial cells, which are the cells that cover the inside and outside surfaces of the body. There are many types of epithelial cells, which often have a column-like shape when viewed under a microscope. Carcinomas that begin in different epithelial cell types have specific names:
Adenocarcinoma is a cancer that forms in epithelial cells that produce fluids or mucus. Tissues with this type of epithelial cell are sometimes called glandular tissues. Most cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate are adenocarcinomas.
Basal cell carcinoma is a cancer that begins in the lower or basal (base) layer of the epidermis, which is a person’s outer layer of skin.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a cancer that forms in squamous cells, which are epithelial cells that lie just beneath the outer surface of the skin. Squamous cells also line many other organs, including the stomach, intestines, lungs, bladder, and kidneys. Squamous cells look flat, like fish scales, when viewed under a microscope. Squamous cell carcinomas are sometimes called epidermoid carcinomas.
Transitional cell carcinoma is a cancer that forms in a type of epithelial tissue called transitional epithelium, or urothelium. This tissue, which is made up of many layers of epithelial cells that can get bigger and smaller, is found in the linings of the bladder, ureters, and part of the kidneys (renal pelvis), and a few other organs. Some cancers of the bladder, ureters, and kidneys are transitional cell carcinomas.
Sarcoma – Soft tissue sarcoma forms in soft tissues of the body, including muscle, tendons, fat, blood vessels, lymph vessels, nerves, and tissue around joints.
Sarcomas are cancers that form in bone and soft tissues, including muscle, fat, blood vessels, lymph vessels, and fibrous tissue (such as tendons and ligaments). Osteosarcoma is the most common cancer of bone. The most common types of soft tissue sarcoma are leiomyosarcoma, Kaposi sarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, liposarcoma, and dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans.
Leukemia – Cancers that begin in the blood-forming tissue of the bone marrow are called leukemias. These cancers do not form solid tumors. Instead, large numbers of abnormal white blood cells (leukemia cells and leukemic blast cells) build up in the blood and bone marrow, crowding out normal blood cells. The low level of normal blood cells can make it harder for the body to get oxygen to its tissues, control bleeding, or fight infections. There are four common types of leukemia, which are grouped based on how quickly the disease gets worse (acute or chronic) and on the type of blood cell the cancer starts in (lymphoblastic or myeloid). Acute forms of leukemia grow quickly and chronic forms grow more slowly.
Lymphoma – Lymphoma is cancer that begins in lymphocytes (T cells or B cells). These are disease-fighting white blood cells that are part of the immune system. In lymphoma, abnormal lymphocytes build up in lymph nodes and lymph vessels, as well as in other organs of the body.
There are two main types of lymphoma:
Hodgkin lymphoma – People with this disease have abnormal lymphocytes that are called Reed-Sternberg cells. These cells usually form from B cells.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma – This is a large group of cancers that start in lymphocytes. The cancers can grow quickly or slowly and can form from B cells or T cells.
Multiple Myeloma – Multiple myeloma is cancer that begins in plasma cells, another type of immune cell. The abnormal plasma cells, called myeloma cells, build up in the bone marrow and form tumors in bones all through the body. Multiple myeloma is also called plasma cell myeloma and Kahler disease.
Melanoma – Melanoma is cancer that begins in cells that become melanocytes, which are specialized cells that make melanin (the pigment that gives skin its color). Most melanomas form on the skin, but melanomas can also form in other pigmented tissues, such as the eye.
Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors – There are different types of brain and spinal cord tumors. These tumors are named based on the type of cell in which they formed and where the tumor first formed in the central nervous system. For example, an astrocytic tumor begins in star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes, which help keep nerve cells healthy. Brain tumors can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
Germ Cell Tumors – Germ cell tumors are a type of tumor that begins in the cells that give rise to sperm or eggs. These tumors can occur almost anywhere in the body and can be either benign or malignant.
Neuroendocrine Tumors – Neuroendocrine tumors form from cells that release hormones into the blood in response to a signal from the nervous system. These tumors, which may make higher-than-normal amounts of hormones, can cause many different symptoms. Neuroendocrine tumors may be benign or malignant.
Carcinoid Tumors – Carcinoid tumors are a type of neuroendocrine tumor. They are slow-growing tumors that are usually found in the gastrointestinal system (most often in the rectum and small intestine). Carcinoid tumors may spread to the liver or other sites in the body, and they may secrete substances such as serotonin or prostaglandins, causing carcinoid syndrome.
When we discuss about siddha treatment for cancer, it is interesting to know that, the Siddha system of medicine stimulates the self-healing abilities of the body. It has in its armory a wide range of potent drugs, to detox, purify and support body tissues for natural recovery. The starting point in this process is the balancing of Trithodam and Thirigunam. Modern Cancer treatment include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. Treatment methods such as chemotherapy greatly assists in preventing the growth of Cancerous tumor cells but in the process can also destroy healthy cells. During chemotherapy and / or radiotherapy, Siddha medicine can help reduce the side-effects of the treatment as well as assist the body in its recovery process. Siddhars explained the illness as growths or lumps, explained in various chapters their aetiology, pathology, clinical features and therapeutic aspects in the form of condensed poems. In the medical treatise Vippuruthinoipadalam, (carcinoma like illness), the aetiology of Vippuruthi is explained due to excessive intake of salty, pungent diet and tubers, over indulgence in sex, effects of people’s karma, intake of contaminated food items, indulgence in prohibited activities and consumption of food containing incompatible and adulterated food articles. The poems in classical Siddha literature give ample indication that cancer was known to ancient Siddha physicians. Siddha literatures reveals the clinical features of cancer in certain chapters in Vippuruthinoipadalam, Mega Katti, Kandamaalai Rogapadalam (Lymphoma like illness), Kiranthinoigal, Pilavai and Putrunoi (tumour like illness) in various organ systems.
When cancer is detected in the initial stages and if it has not spread to nearby tissues, then it can be successfully managed with Siddha medicine and diet. Where cancer has spread to other tissues and organs, an integrated approach is used by referring the patient to a surgical oncologist for necessary advice. In modern medicine, the management of Cancer is done by surgery, radiation therapy and systemic administration of anti-cancer drugs. Many patients are reluctant to approach physicians fearing the side-effects of chemotherapy. In these cases, at Siddhalaya for the siddha treatment for cancer, we prepare the patient both physically and mentally with a regimen of Siddha drugs and an appropriate surgical intervention by a cooperating modern surgical oncologist. In patients who have been recommended preoperative chemotherapy, Siddhalaya prepares the patient to face the surgery with its regimen of Kaya Kalpha drugs, that assist regenerate healthy cells, keeping the patient comfortable, without the side effects of chemotherapy like hair fall, anorexia and lowered immunity etc. In certain cancer patients, after excision of the tumor, are also treated with Siddha drugs to avoid recurrence of cancer and live a normal life, similar to other survivors who have underwent modern chemotherapy. Through Siddha system of medicine, palliative care is care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have terminal cancer and are provided no hope survival, after all intervention protocols of modern medicine have failed. In such cases, treatment is started only after a mutual open minded discussion with the patient or relatives. The follow-up treatment regimen is decided after review of diagnostic tests of the patients condition. In the treatment of breast, colon, anorectal, lung, liver, ovarian and uterine cancer, Siddha remedies not only provide excellent palliative care but also removes discomfort and helps to check further spread of metastasis, improving the general well-being of patients. Palliative care addresses the person as a whole, not just their disease. The goal is to keep the patient comfortable through pain management, minimizing the symptoms and side effects of the disease and its treatment. Whenever there is a need for supportive measure like blood transfusion, platelet transfusion, physicians at Siddhalaya, prefer to guide the patient to modern hospitals, to tackle any symptoms that may arise due to the progress of the disease. At Siddhalaya, we believe that an integrative approach using siddha treatment for cancer, can provide succor to cancer patients all over the world.