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Being diagnosed with cancer is one of the worst nightmares in anyone’s life. The deadly disease is the leading cause of deaths worldwide, accounting for 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Globally, about one in six deaths is due to cancer. Today, various organisations across Bangladesh will observe World Cancer Day. - A home for your website

Unfortunately, more than 70 per cent of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries like Bangladesh where resources available for prevention, diagnosis and treatment are limited or non-existent.

According to doctors, 90 per cent of cancer cases can be prevented if they are detected during stage one. But most cancer patients come to doctors during stages three and four.

Dr AMM Shariful Alam, senior consultant and head of clinical oncology of Ahsania Mission Cancer and General Hospital, told The Independent that preventative cervical screening programmes can avoid cancer deaths and provide a way of early detection.

When the disease is detected at the early stage, 90 per cent of all types of cancer cases

can be prevented, he added. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) data, around 59 per cent of the deaths in Bangladesh are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCD), out of which 10 per cent are caused by cancer. There are eight to 10 lakh cancer patients in Bangladesh, with more than two lakh patients being diagnosed with cancer each year and 1.5 lakh dying every year.

In Bangladesh, lung cancer and mouth-oropharyngeal cancer are foremost among males. Other types of cancer are esophagus and stomach cancer. In women, cervical cancer and breast cancer are most prevalent. Other cancers affecting women are mouth-oropharyngeal, lung and esophagus cancer. Lung cancer is prevalent among 13% men and 2% women in Bangladesh.

Dr Shakawat Hossain Shayanto, assistant professor of the oral and maxillofacial surgery department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told The Independent that most cases of mouth-oropharyngeal cancer among males are due to tobacco and alcohol consumption. “According to our estimate, 300 to 350 mouth-oropharyngeal cancer patients come to our department every year,” he said.

Over 40 per cent of cancer cases can be prevented and some of the most common cancers— including breast, colorectal and cervical— are curable if detected early. Even with late cancer detection, pain can be reduced and progression can be slowed, revealed WHO data.

Experts said around one-third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioural and dietary risks including high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco and alcohol consumption.

One of the main reasons for the death of women in the world is cervix cancer. Currently, one woman dies in every two minutes due to cervical cancer. It is a major public health concern and is the second most common cancer among women worldwide, said doctors.

In Bangladesh, about 11,956 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year and over 6,582 die of the disease. About 8,068 women are newly affected by the disease in the country every year, which amounts to 12 per cent of new female cancer patients, said a study of International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Bangladeshi women, aged between 15 and 44 years, are at a higher risk of contracting breast cancer. The rate of breast cancer occurrence is 22.5% per 1, 00,000 females in the country.

Sabera Khatun, chairman of gynaeoncology department of BSMMU, said: “We should introduce population-based screening programmes across the country to prevent cervical cancer among women. One of the main causes of the disease in Bangladesh is child marriage.”

Habibullah Talukder Raskin, associate professor of National Cancer Research Institute and Hospital, told The Independent that majority of cervical cancer cases occur in middle age rather than old age and it is one of the most common cancers in women under 35.

“It is important to raise awareness about cancer so that patients could ensure proper treatment at an early stage. For that, the government, as well as nongovernmental organisations, should come forward,” he said.

Shariful Alam said there is a large number of women affected with cervical and breast cancer in Bangladesh. Most males suffer from lung cancer. “We can’t tell exactly how many cancer patients are there in the country as we don’t have any statistics about cancer patients. For that, the government should introduce hospital-based registration of cancer patients,” he added.

He, however, advised cancer patients to eat healthy and exercise regularly as part of preventive measures. Dr Kashi Nath Prasad of the microbiology department of Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Science in India said: “Cancer can be prevented if we could ensure first-stage treatment.”

Referring to the scenario in India, Ptrasad said the Indian government provides vaccine to teenage girls. Patients come to doctors at the last stage for which cure is not often possible, he added.

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