Smoking on the rise in the Valley

Srinagar: Smoking related diseases are on the rise in the valley, say oncologists. In fact cancer is picking up fast, here. Last year about 5,800 patients suffering from cancer were registered with Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences-Kashmir (SKIMS).

“Ten crore rupees are spent monthly on buying and smoking cigarettes, here”, says Prof. Sheikh Aijaz Aziz, Head department of Oncology, SKIMS, adding “smoking related diseases are increasing, here. On an average 10-15 patients visit me per day and 10 out of 15 have health issues related to smoking”.

He says “percentage of smoking is less among females, but elderly women do smoke. It is however, becoming a craze among young elite women”. Sharing his concern, he adds “every cancer in body is related to smoking. Till the year 2000, cardio-vascular disease was stated to be number one killer disease. Now lung cancer has shot-up to number one”.

Prof. Aziz informs that oesophagus, stomach, lung and breast cancers are common here. “There is a belief that frequency of cancers decreases as we move from south to north Kashmir”. He argues adverse conditions prevailing over here for the past 20 years like stress, curfews, crackdowns add to resorting of smoking.

The oncologist maintains “we aren’t optimally equipped, we don’t have space and patients are put on wait-list. Bed strength is low”.

Director SKIMS, Dr. Hameed Zargar says up-gradation of Centre is being done in near future. “Increase in cigarette-smoking leads to increase in lung cancer. Mouth cancer is quite common in India and the same will increase here as well”.

Dr. Hilal Malla, PG medicines points out “smokers usually turn to us at the age of 50-60. By that time, it is an irreversible disease. We can’t do early screening of smokers to diagnose the disease, as acceptance isn’t there”.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2011 on page no. 15

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