Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Alcohol, junk food and the malignant spread of cancer

  • Tuesday, July 26, 2011
  • Arunthathi Kanagaratnam
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  • Cancer
    * Cancer is a Non Communicable Disease
    * Causes of cancer can result from a poor diet to consumption of alcohol and tobacco
    * Breast cancer accounts for the highest number of patients
    * Most breast cancer patients are being treated as outpatients
    * Breast cancer is curable
    * One cancer is different from another cancer

    Cancer is a Non Communicable Disease and is one of the most feared diseases that has plagued the world for many years. Causes of cancer could usually result from a poor diet to excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco. However, there are many genetic factors to consider. Some ancient mummies which have been discovered in Egypt have shown signs of cancer. With today’s consumption of junk food, sometimes even the young are affected.

    The Daily News caught up with Dr. Yasantha Ariyarathne, Senior Oncologist of the Maharagama Cancer Hospital to discuss about alcohol and the malignant spread of cancer.

    Q. There are so many types of cancer in Sri Lanka, amongst these, what are the most common types of cancer in the Maharagama hospital?

    A. Breast cancer records the highest number in Sri Lanka. If you are treating a cancer patient it is not fair to keep them in the hospital for longer periods, unnecessarily.

    The Maharagama hospital has almost all types of cancer. Most of the breast cancer patients are being treated as outpatients. They are not bedridden. Only bedridden cases and people under highly toxic chemotherapy are hospitalized. People who cannot travel from distant areas, are kept in charity homes so that they can remain and come for treatment.

    Q. What are the most common causes of cancer?

    A. Apparently at the moment, cancer is caused by smoking and alcohol. In Sri Lanka the alcohol intake is high, and the number of people who are consuming alcohol take excessive amounts.

    Now breast cancer is highly curable. It is considered as a curable disease if you get it at an early stage.

    Q. What are the treatments available to combat cancer?

    A. We have worldwide known treatment types, such as Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy, and surgical treatment. Then we use hormone management. We are using the different Mono Clonal Antibodies which is an advanced type of treatment. Monoclonal Antibodies bind only to cancer cell specific antigens and induce an immunological response against the target cancer cell.

    Q. When it comes to Sri Lanka which sex exhibits the highest cancer rates?

    A. Females have more probability of getting cancer a little more than males. But when it comes to children the males are getting more cancer than the females.

    Q. Compared to the West how successful are countries like Sri Lanka when it comes to tackling this problem?

    A. We are much better than most of the countries in the region. Our availability of treatment is much better. Cancer treatment is extremely costly, each patient incurs more than Rs. 500,000 for the simplest treatment over the period of time. Radiotherapy or chemotherapy alone costs about Rs 500,000 and sometimes it goes up to millions.

    We have to think about the patient when he/she is admitted to the intensive care unit. Because it costs quite a lot and keeps the patient away from the loved ones. Sometimes the treatment may not be a success. In the west of course you do not allow that type of treatment. They keep the patient with the relatives and look after the patient if they know the patient is not going to be successful.

    Of course 1/3 of patients can be cured 100%. When it comes to cancer some of the cancers we can completely control. Another 1/3 can be put down although it may still linger in the body. The patient may die of a heart attack or a stroke, still the patient dies of another disease yet still harboring the cancer inside and not giving any symptoms or any signs of the cancer. The last 1/3 is the 1/3 we cannot control- over a period of time they are dying from the cancer.

    One cancer is different from another cancer. So one treatment will not suit the other treatment. Most of the patients think that what has been done to another patient should be suitable for them. The patient must be convinced that his treatment his/her treatment is different from another person.

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