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Strong-willed survivors' tales

Special Correspondent

— Photo: V. Ganesan

Chairman of the Cancer Institute, Adyar,

CHENNAI: There were patients who still offer a silent prayer of gratitude as they pass in front of this institution, brave women who raised their sons in spite of the circumstances of disease and turned them into achievers in the U.S., and rural folk who overcame their malignancy to become motivators for others to quit tobacco.

“Reunion Day” organised on Sunday at the Adyar Cancer Institute brought together strong-willed survivors who provided a source of hope, courage and belief for others affected by various forms of cancer.

There was young Bhavani advocating complete trust in the doctor, Venkataraman, who in spite of virtually losing vocal chords to cancer, is a persuasive campaigner against tobacco, and Vasantha Gopalaswamy, who introduced herself as a living example of the fact that cancer is treatable.

The central message from the heart-warming stories they shared with cancer patients was that any cancer could be overcome with courage and self-belief.

Chief Guest Mayil Vahanan Natarajan, Vice Chancellor, The Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University, said prevention had to be undertaken on several fronts. Contrary to the perception that there was little that people could do to prevent cancer, prevention continued to be the most cost-effective long-term strategy against cancer, he said.

Dr. Natarajan recalled his association with the Cancer Institute when he led a team that tried implanting metal prosthesis for bone cancer patients so that they could avoid limb amputation. The programme, which evolved into various prostheses for the lower or upper limb, knee, hip and shoulder joints, was now adopted successfully in 15 other States, he said.

V. Shanta, Cancer Institute Chairman, said genetic studies could lead the way to a much earlier detection of cancers in the next decade or so. “In the next 10-15 years, oncologists might be able to predict who will get cancer,” she said.

Noting that here had been immense changes in cancer care and cure over the decades, Dr. Shanta said while it was quite depressing in the Fifties and Sixties to be unable to offer a cure for children with leukemia, now there was an 80 per cent success rate in treatment of leukemia in children in the developed countries. However, in India there is only a 60 per cent success rate and the main reason for this was the late diagnosis of the condition. T.G. Sagar, Dean and Director, Cancer Institute, said half the 10 million new cancers reported in the world annually were in the developing countries that had severe resource constraints.

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