When Tahrin (not her real name), a 27-year-old school teacher was diagnosed with cancer, life seemed to have stood still. The despair she and her family felt was unimaginable. After a series of tests that confirmed her illness, she was given chemotherapy to battle the disease.
But nothing seemed to have worked for her. She felt so weak that it seemed the treatment, and not the cancer itself, was 'killing' her.
It was not until one of her relatives asked her to get in touch with the Singaporean Parkway Cancer Centre's Dhaka office that she took her first real step in the battle against blood cancer.
Tahrin is just one of 15 lakh cancer patients in Bangladesh, and around two lakh patients are newly diagnosed with the disease each year.
Lung cancer and mouth-oropharynx cancer rank as the top two prevalent cancers in males. In women, cancer cervix uteri and breast cancer are most prevalent.
What is cancer?
The cells that make up the tissues in our body serve a specific duty. These cells grow and replicate in an orderly fashion. A person is diagnosed with cancer only when his/her body cells start to grow out of control.
As the cancer cells start to multiply it causes problems for the neighbouring healthy cells in the body to function.
These cancerous cells also have the ability to spread to other parts of the body. The malignant cancer cells of the lungs, for instance, can travel and affect the bones. Although still called 'lung cancer' the treatment of this stage of the cancer would require a holistic approach to get positive results.
The various types and stages of cancer
Not all cancers are the same – some grow fast and eventually spread rapidly in other parts of the body, while others grow at a much slower rate. Before treatment can start, specialist doctors must ascertain the stage (how far the cancer has spread from its origin).
With advent of technological advancements, it is quite possible to figure out the stage of the cancer, which ranges between 1 and 4.
Symptoms of cancer
The first step towards battling cancer is proper diagnosis at the right time. Most people consult medical personnel in an advance stage of the illness which makes treatment difficult, and often, painful. The following are some of the most common signs of cancer (although it requires a specialist to rule out other possible complications, which may have similar warning signs) –
Parkway Cancer Centre is dedicated to sharing hope to everyone and anyone affected by cancer. They are home to a full suite of cancer treatments provided by some highly skilled, multidisciplinary physicians, nurses, counsellors and other professionals. Their team works hard to provide holistic cancer care in a safe and calming environment.
They are aided by the latest technologies and test new therapies to achieve optimal clinical outcomes for their patients.
The battle against cancer is not easy, but through it all, they are there to support and guide our patients.
For more information contact Parkway Hospitals Singapore Pte. Ltd. (Dhaka office): Suite B3, Level-4, House-10, Road No. 53, Dhaka 1212. +880 2-8850422
Sores that refuse to heal
Unusual bleeding or discharge from any orifice of the body
Thickening of lump in the breast or on other parts of the body
Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
Change in bowel habits or bladder function
Nagging cough or hoarseness of the voice
Recent changes in a wart or mole
Unexplained weigh loss or fever
Prevention better than cure
Dr Lim Hong Liang, Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology, Parkway Cancer Centre, Singapore is a recognised authority on the treatment of lung cancer. He believes that, while other factors may influence the chances of getting lung cancer, smoking alone increases the chances many times.
“In fact, smoking increases the chances of getting lung cancer by 15 times; while air pollution can increase the chances by 1.5 times,” said Dr Lim. But he went on to add that “pollution in Dhaka can be a contributory factor to the high rate of lung cancer patients from Bangladesh.”
It goes without saying that one of the best ways of preventing, not just lung cancer but a host of other illnesses, is to not smoke or quitting as soon as possible.
Another lifestyle issue that can contribute to the prevention of cancer is the consumption of a healthy diet rich in vegetables. Over the last decade Bangladeshis have gone through rapid changes in their diet, which in turn have raised the number of gastroenterological illnesses, including cancer.
Dr Zee Ying Kiat of Parkway Cancer Centre believes that unhealthy food habits can increase the chances of developing cancer. Obesity is certainly a factor that contributes to this, followed by lack of physical activity, and infection of Helicobacter Pylori.
As an expert in gastroenterology and cancer, he also advised against the consumption of alcohol.
Just like Helicobacter Pylori, Human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical and other cancers including that of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer).
Covering these aspects, oncologist Dr See Hui Ti mentioned that although cervical cancer has decreased globally due to the development of vaccines, in the Bangladeshi context the disease is rising alarmingly. Although not all sorts of cervical cancer are not preventable it is possible to reduce the chances of getting cancer by taking vaccines.
Cancer treatment – a change of mind set
Despite our sincerest efforts, it may not be possible to prevent cancer. However, when detected at an early stage, cancer is curable – it is no longer synonymous to life's end.
In the local context, cancer looms as an ominous sign that not only kills, but also set the entire family back monetarily. Most patients seek the help of foreign doctors only at the last stage of the illness. This makes treatment expensive and often, yielding poor results.
It is a misconception that cancer is incurable. Advancement of medical technology has provided new insights in cancer care and if diagnosed at an early stage, most cancers are treatable, with the patients resuming normal life soon after treatment.
Today, Tahrin has returned to normal life and enjoys teaching the youngsters in her class. She is one of countless Bangladeshis who recovered with the assistance of Parkway Cancer Centre. As a cancer warrior, her battle is won.
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif,
back from Singapore
Photo: Parkway Hospitals Singapore Pte. Ltd. (Dhaka office)
Watch this space for more on cancer treatment as Star LS speaks to some of the most renowned oncology specialists working at the Parkway Cancer Centre.