by Dr. Simi Paknikar on  June 6, 2015 at 5:14 PM Health In Focus
Cancer Survivors' Day 2015
The Cancer Survivors' Day celebrates survivors of cancer, which includes those who are completely cured of cancer as well as those who are still living with the disease. It is celebrated in the United States on the first Sunday of June as the National Cancer Survivors' Day. Several other countries also celebrate this event, though not necessarily on the same date.

The word 'cancer' certainly sends shivers down the spine. It is a condition that we normally do not expect ourselves or our immediate family members to be affected. Thus, when a diagnosis of cancer is made, it not only brings in physical issues, it also causes psychological distress and economic problems that affect not only the patient but also the near ones.

Even if the cancer is completely treated, the fear of recurrence often haunts the patient. Childhood cancers are particularly heart rendering because of the very young age of the patient. Blood and brain cancers are commonly noted in children.

Sometimes cancer can bring in a new awakening within us and make us appreciate what we take for granted. Olivia Newton-John had life changing moment when she had cancer. "My cancer scare changed my life. I'm grateful for every new, healthy day I have. It has helped me prioritize my life."

Cancer-Related Awareness

Awareness about cancer often helps people to deal with the condition or take steps to prevent it. There are several aspects that are not very well known about cancer:
  • Not all cancers mean death. In many cases, cancer can be completely cured especially if diagnosed early. Therefore, it is important to recognize the early signs of cancer, especially if you are at risk or have a family history of the cancer. A routine health check-up even if you are feeling completely fit and fine is a good idea to detect cancer early.
  • Even if you cannot be completely cured from the cancer, there are many treatments that can delay the progression of the disease and therefore sometimes even result in a normal lifespan.
  • Newer therapies may be associated with lesser side effects. For example, targeted therapies are directed toward the cancer tissues with minimal effects on other tissues.
  • Many cases of cancer are preventable by simple methods like stopping smoking, avoiding excessive sunlight, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and being physically active. Thus, a healthy lifestyle may just be enough to keep you away from cancer.
  • The progression of a cancer depends on its type. Though some cancers are aggressive, a few cancers are extremely slow growing and may not even affect your lifespan. Thus, it is important to understand how your cancer is likely to behave before panicking about the diagnosis.
  • Cancer of the cervix, i.e. the lower part of the uterus in females, vagina and anus, are often associated with a virus called human papilloma virus. Thus, a vaccine that is effective against the virus prevents the development of this cancer in women, and is being routinely administered for this purpose.

Cancer Survivor's Day

A cancer survivor is one who has been diagnosed with cancer in the past and may or may not be completely cured of the disease. America itself has around 14 million cancer survivors. The Cancer Survivors' Day is an opportunity to celebrate those who have overcome the disease. In addition, several other issues that can also be taken up on this day:
  • The Cancer Survivors' Day is an opportunity for cancer survivors to connect with each other. Cancer survivors can be advised to join a support group. Support groups contain other patients and caregivers of cancer patients. By sharing their experience with others, patients can often address problems which sometimes are difficult to communicate with doctors.
  • Cancer survivors encounter several community-based problems due to the disease. The Cancer Survivors' Day is an opportunity for them to put forth their problems to the concerned authorities, who can then formulate some solutions to improve cancer care as well as to address other issues that plague cancer survivors.
  • The Cancer Survivors' Day is an opportunity to acknowledge the role of the caregivers, who are sometimes affected even more by the condition. Some cancer patients are treated by trained caregivers. However, more often than not, they are under the supervision of an informal caregiver, who may be a spouse or close friend of the patient. The informal caregivers have to bear the brunt of the disease. They may suffer from stress and physical problems, emotional problems which increase as the patient requires more and more care, as well as financial problems - they have to spend time with the patient as well as try to earn at the same time.
As the average lifespan increases, more and more elderly people are being diagnosed with cancer. Also, because of the available healthcare facilities especially in developed countries, cancers that may have be totally ignored are now been diagnosed, thus increasing the number of cancer survivors.

A simple way to extend our support to cancer survivors is to wear a specific coloured ribbon and increase awareness about cancer. For example, a pink ribbon is used to increase awareness about breast cancer, a very common cancer in women.

Although easier said than done, a positive aspect to life even after the diagnosis of cancer is one way of beating cancer. The bottom line is: Cancer is not the end of the road; there is life beyond cancer. "Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities," said the legendary fast-talking, wisecracking New York-bred basketball coach Jim Valvano. "It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul."

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