Written by MSD in the Philippines
According to a new report released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), 2018 has seen 18.1 million new cases of cancer and 9.6 million cancer deaths. In fact, cancers of the female breast, colorectum and lungs were found to be part of the top 5 reasons for mortality worldwide. Cancer remains to be an international health priority as it does not only affect patients but also their families and the communities surrounding them.
For cancer patients, the goal is to be cancer-free after undergoing a series of treatments. But no one can be considered as fully “cured” from cancer because there is no guarantee that cancer cells will not grow back in the body. Many people have the notion that going into “remission” means that one has already won against the disease. Remission marks a major turn in cancer care but it is more complicated than simply being done with cancer treatment.
Types of Remission
According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, there are two types of cancer remission, namely partial remission and complete remission. The former means the cancer cells are still present in the patient’s body – though the tumor has shrunk or the cancer cells have significantly lessened. In this type of case, patients can actually take breaks from their current treatment, as long as they make sure to go for regular checkups to ensure that the cancer is not spreading again.
The other type of cancer remission, “complete remission”, means that all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. All tests, examinations and scans show that there are no more visible signs of cancer. However, patients should never mistake complete remission as them being “cured” from cancer as doctors cannot guarantee that cancer cells will be 100 percent gone from a patient’s body after treatment. Though most cancers come back within the first 5 years after treatment, patients are still advised to remain diligent with their lifestyle choices, as the cancer can still come back even after.
Keeping cancer from recurring would include regular intake of the cancer drugs, but in lower doses. Hormones can also be given, instead of the cancer drugs, depending on the needs of the patient. Apart from the drugs, patients on remission should observe a clean diet. Here are some reminders which doctors usually tell their patients:
- Eat lots of food rich in anti-oxidants such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Stop Smoking.
- Maintain a healthy weight – moderate food intake is imperative. Best to refrain from food with high sugar, as well as red meat.
Limit drinking carbonated or sweetened drinks and alcohol.
Exercise. Choose a regimen you would enjoy doing on a regular basis.
- Most importantly, manage stress. Doctors usually encourage cancer patients and cancer survivors to join support groups. That way they can share their thoughts, feelings and experiences with people who are in the same boat.
In the Philippines, the advocacy Hope From Within: Cancer Game Plan PH focuses on educating people about different types of cancer. This includes shedding light on the importance of regular screening (like screening for lung cancer, where early detection can help make the disease easier to fight), and making known the availability of treatments in the country (such as immunotherapy and targeted therapies). The advocacy also helps link patients to various organizations that can support them in coping with the disease and get subsidy to help ease the financial burden of treatment.