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Fighting higher incidence of deadly cancers

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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday came out with dreadful disclosures. Based on a survey, conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO said that the number of cancer patients is steadily increasing in Bangladesh, and warns that in the year 2050, the country may record more than double the cases of 2022. According to the WHO, Bangladesh had recorded 167,256 cancer patients in 2022. Of those, 116,598 succumbed to the deadly disease. These figures highlight the fact that both cancer cases and deaths are on the rise. The high incidence of cancer is being attributed to the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and adulterated as well as junk food items that contain harmful chemicals. Air pollution and obesity are also key factors behind the rise. The WHO report underlines that cancer is one of the most common causes of morbidity universally and both local and global efforts must be made to combat it.  

Against the backdrop of such a dismal situation, the National Institute of Cancer Research & Hospital (NICRH) is the only state-run hospital for cancer treatment in Bangladesh at present, and it struggles to accommodate a continuous influx of patients. Moreover, NICRH is mired in myriad of problems, including shortage of necessary medical equipment. Treatment facilities for cancer patients at Dhaka Medical College and other public hospitals across the country are also insufficient. With the existing nationwide capacity, it's estimated that less than 10 per cent of cancer patients receive treatment within the country. Those who cannot afford treatment abroad or do not receive adequate care locally often endure a painful death. This underscores the urgent need for expanded and improved medical facilities for cancer patients in the country. Doctors say cancer needs not be a death sentence, emphasising that it is 95 per cent curable if detected at an early stage. However, the majority of patients in Bangladesh are diagnosed at advanced stages. Given the WHO forecast on an increase in the number of patients, both preventive and curative measures must be geared up. Besides, creating awareness about the importance of early detection and treatment is also of utmost importance.

Cancer is also viewed as a lifestyle disease. As our lifestyle is changing fast, various types of deadly ailments are also spreading fast. Cramped and crowded living conditions, poor diet, polluted air, and the absence of physical exercise exact their toll over time.  Medical experts have long been warning that fast foods instead of providing sufficient nourishment give rise to various ailments. Individual choice, of course, is not the only decisive factor; market plays a crucial role in determining and moulding life and society. Here government agencies like the health department can take steps to inform the citizens of the danger of eating out and discourage consumption of fast or junk foods.

Besides, the haphazard urbanisation does not take into account the essential need of citizens for physical exercise. Parks and playgrounds keep disappearing. Hope urban planners are taking note of the hazards of unhealthy urban lifestyle. A mass awareness needs to be created against the unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle that leads to cancer, cardiac arrest, diabetes and other fatal diseases for both the present and future generations. Otherwise cases of different types of fatal diseases and their mortality rates will continue to grow, cutting lives short.

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