What is cancer?

All cells in the body keep multiplying throughout life. Normal cells multiply under control. Cancer cells lose this control and start multiplying more than required. These cells can damage the organ where the cell multiplication is occurring and can also spread to other sites.

What part of body can get cancer?

Cancer can occur in any part of the body. They are usually painless and generally present as swellings or growths. They gradually increase in size and damage the surrounding tissue.

Can Cancer spread from one person to another?

Certainly not! Cancer is a non-communicable disease, which does not spread from one person to another. It occurs due to some changes in the cells due to which the cell multiplication becomes uncontrolled. Certain cancers may have a hereditary causation which means a person may be at higher risk of getting cancer if his/ her relatives have had that particular cancer. These cancers are breast, ovarian, colorectal, and other less common cancers.

How does cancer spread?

As Cancer grows, it invades the surrounding structures and causes damage. It spreads to the draining lymph nodes. Through the blood stream it spreads to the others parts of the body like lung, liver, bones, brain etc.

What causes Cancer?

Different cancers are related to different reasons. Reasons are not known for all cancers. However, there are certain risk factors, which frequently lead to cancer. Among the common factors Tobacco is most important. Nearly half of the cancers in India are due to tobacco.
Some common Risk factors for Cancer:
Smoking: Cigarette, Bidi, Cigar, Hukka.
Smokeless: Zarda, Gutka, Khaini, Snuff, etc. in any form.
Alcohol : Increases effect of tobacco several times if a person is using both.
Infections – such as Hepatitis B (liver cancer), HPV (cervix, mouth) etc
Lifestyle – obesity (excess weight), high fat diet and lack of exercise are related to some common cancers like breast, prostate, colon.

Is Cancer a preventable Disease?

Yes, to a large extent. About 50% cancers are Tobacco related e.g. Lung Cancer, Cancer of Mouth, Cancer of the Voice box, Cancer of the Food pipe, etc.
Avoiding intake of Tobacco can prevent these cancers. Also, avoid alcohol.
Hepatitis B vaccination reduces risk of this infection and subsequent liver cancer.
Good hygiene and having reduced number of sexual partners reduces risk of cervix cancer.

What are the signs and symptoms of Cancer?

As Cancer grows, it invades the surrounding structures and causes damage.  It spreads to the draining lymph nodes. Through the blood stream it spreads to the others parts of the body like lung, liver, bones, brain etc.
Common symptoms of cancer are:
1. Lump or swelling
2. A sore that doesn’t heal
3. Recent change in a wart/mole
4. Unusual bleeding or discharge
5. Changes in bladder or bowel habits
6. Nagging cough or hoarseness
7. Difficulty in swallowing or dyspepsia

Can cancer be cured?

Yes, Cancer can be cured if detected early and treated promptly. For example, in USA cancer of cervix and breast both are detected in stage 1 in most cases. Hence they have cure rates in range of 70-90%. Unfortunately in India, about 70% patients present in advance stage, which have poor chances of survival.

How is cancer treated?

Cancer can be treated through Surgery, Radiation and Medicines. Treatment generally requires more than one type of treatment like surgery with radiation or drugs, etc. To decide on the best treatment for a given patient, initial testing is done to make the diagnosis and determine how far the disease has progressed. Based on this information, the treatment is planned. The response of disease to treatment is assessed from time to time. The treatment generally needs to be given over a period of time. Once the planned treatment is completed, cancer patients need regular follow-up.

Significant advances have occurred in all cancer treatment modalities i.e. surgery, radiotherapy, medicines. Better techniques of surgery now allow cure with less extensive operations, early discharge, and better functional outcome. Radiation machines have improved a lot with resultant much less side effects, and ability to give higher doses resulting in better cure rates. Medicines have seen maximum improvement, with newer medicines being more effective, and less side effects. There are now over 50 different types of chemotherapy medicines, and many newer non chemotherapy medicines (also known as targeted medicines) which have improved outcome to a large extent. Also, supportive care medicines have improved a lot to reduce side effects, cancer pain and other symptom relief.

What can I do to prevent cancer?

·      Avoid tobacco and alcohol; Take healthy food

·        Indulge in physical activity

·        Be aware of your body so that you can detect any changes early