Srinagar: Post pandemic, the number of cancer patients in Kashmir is witnessing an alarmingly significant increase.
Conservative estimates from the largest tertiary care of the hospital, SKIMS, Soura suggest that around 4700 patients with cancer were recorded in 2021. In the first three months of 2022 alone, the number stands at 1100. At this rate the number of patients suffering is poised to far exceed the previous year.
Doctors attribute one major reason for the upsurge as delay in treatment owing to Covid-19. This can be gauged by the fact that very recently two middle-aged patients reported at SMHS Hospital, Srinagar.
“There is this 55-year-old who suffers from gastric cancer. He was operated on in 2019 and another 68-year-old patient was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), a type of tumor that occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, most commonly in the stomach or small intestine. Both had been given a proper protocol on following the required radio and chemo therapies. But they delayed availing the treatment due to the pandemic. Consequently, they have reached an advanced stage of cancer,” the senior doctor treating them said.
Data also indicated a three-time increase in the number of patients with stomach, colon, breast and pancreatic cancers at Governmental Medical College, Srinagar.
Professor of Surgery, GMC, Srinagar, Dr Iqbal Saleem said there has been a surge in the number of cases with cancer.
“There are multiple reasons contributing to it. Firstly, Covid had a very negative impact on the patients as many of them didn’t come in time. In the last three months, when things are slowly going back to normal, a lot of them are reporting to us,” he said.
Besides, the change in dietary habits and unabated use of fertilizers and pesticides are other contributing factors. “Cancer rate has also picked up due to our unhealthy lifestyle. Further, the unnecessary use of pesticides eventually finds its way into our food cycle. Second, the increasing awareness on cancer, diagnostic facilities and greater availability of doctors at various rural centers has made sure that people recognize their symptoms earlier,” Dr Saleem said.
Professor Fir Afroz, Head of the Department Radiation Oncology, SKIMS, Soura said making some important lifestyle modifications can help prevent cancer.
“Having a balanced diet coupled with adequate exercise is the need of the hour. People need to know about the relationship between physical inactivity and cancer cell growth — because the science on the subject speaks volumes. Getting in your daily 10,000 steps isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not enough for cancer prevention. That requires working up a sweat for 20 minutes to half an hour about five days a week,” Dr Afroz said.
She added that varying your daily diet is important. “A good rule of thumb is to eat at least three different colors of fruits and vegetables each day. There are different bioactive ingredients in the pigment of fruits and vegetables that may reduce cancer risks,” Afroz said.
Meanwhile Researcher and senior member, JK Scientists group, Khalid Gul tweeted, “A paradigm shift in what we eat; the adulterated foods, rampant use of pesticides, smoking, unhealthy lifestyle, socio-political stress contribute to the spike up in cancer cases. High time a Research Centre is established in the valley,” he said.