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Jumat, 05 Februari 2010

Ignorance is not always bliss

Jakarta ; All aboard A cancer activist gives flowers to a bus conductor at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta on Thursday. A rally titled “Cancer Can be Prevented Too” was organized by the Cancer Information and Support Center, the Indonesian Oncology Association and Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital to mark World Cancer Day on Feb. 4. JP/Nurhayati

The public needs to realize that cancer is often preventable and treatable, including through changes in lifestyle, activists say.

“Many people still believe that when you have cancer you will die, and that’s it,” Melissa Luwia from the Indonesian Cancer Foundation (YKI) said during a rally to mark World Cancer Day, in Jakarta, on Thursday.

The general public also wasn’t fully benefiting from early detection and early treatment of cancer, she said.

“Some types of cancer, such as cervical cancer, if detected early, can be treated effectively,” Melissa said.

She added that many people were unaware that healthy habits, such as giving up smoking, avoiding overexposure to direct sunlight, maintaining a balanced diet and regular physical examinations, could help prevent cancer.

“People should realize that they have, and must make, choices. They can choose to eat food without preservatives, for example,” she said.

According to the International Union Against Cancer, each year more than 12 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 7.6 million die as a result of the disease.

However, 40 percent of cancers are preventable, YKI said. During the rally, YKI members and university students distributed leaflets promoting healthier lifestyles.

They also displayed a banner denouncing smoking, attracting passers-by in the busy area.

“Today we are trying to increase public awareness of the dangers of smoking, because it is one of the known causes of lung cancer,” Melissa said.

Indonesia’s Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI) estimates that last year there were around 60 million smokers in Indonesia, and that 427,000 citizens died from smoking-related diseases.

The campaign also included a visit to an organic farm in Cisarua in Bogor, a campaign directed at bus drivers and their assistants at Blok M bus terminal in South Jakarta, and a seminar on healthy living.

Data from Dharmais Hospital, Jakarta, shows that in 2007, the most common type of cancer treated at the hospital was breast cancer, followed by cervical cancer and lung cancer.

The 2008 Basic Health Research report from the Health Ministry reveals that tumors and cancer were the seventh-biggest killers in Indonesia that year, with a prevalence of 43 per 10,000 people.

Cervical cancer is currently the number one killer disease for Indonesian women, causing roughly one death each hour.

Deasy Natalia, a recently graduated medical student from Atma Jaya University who took part in the rally, said people should be aware of their own ability to prevent disease.

“People should maintain their physical endurance,” she said.

Adiguna, a student from Ahmad Yani University in Cimahi, West Java, said doctors and medical students should take part in helping prevent cancer and other diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyles, instead of only dealing with cures.

“Sometimes, at the end of our semesters, we are asked to conduct lectures at community healthcenters to inform people about healthy living,” he said, adding that it was difficult to inspire people in healthcenters.

Even promoting healthy habits among students is a challenge, Adiguna said.

“Students on campus, even those at medical schools, have unhealthy habits such as smoking

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