Cancer is a group of conditions where the body cells begin to grow and reproduce in an uncontrolled manner. These cells can then invade and destroy healthy tissues. The cells become cancerous or malignant because of DNA damage. This damage can be inherited, or can be caused by mistakes happening while normal cell is reproducing or by an environmental stimulus like tobacco. Cancer cells may travel to other parts of the body, where they begin to grow and form new tumors. This is known as metastases. It happens when cells get into blood stream or lymph vessels.

How Common is Cancer

Approximately 12, 00,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed in India every year. As per the latest National Cancer Registry data, one in eight men and one in nine women in India will develop some form of cancer. The incidence of cancer and cancer types are influenced by many factors such as age, sex, race, local environmental factors, diet and genetics. In males, lung followed by oral cavity and throat cancers are the most common, while cervical and breast cancers are the commonest ones diagnosed in females in India.

Types of Cancer

There are over 200 types of cancers, but most fit into the following categories:
  • Carcinoma – Cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.
  • Sarcoma – Cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscles or other connective tissue.
  • Leukaemia – Cancer that starts in blood forming tissue such as bone marrow.
  • Lymphoma & Myeloma – Cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system.

Spotting signs of Cancer

It is important to be aware of unexplained changes to your body. The typical sign and symptoms are:
  • Changes in bowel/bladder habits – Diarrhoea/constipation for no obvious reasons, frequency/urgency while passing urine.
  • A Sore that doesn’t heal.
  • Unusual Bleeding or Discharge – Unexplained blood in urine, stool, between periods, in vomit, cough.
  • Thickening or Lump – Consult a doctor if you notice a lump anywhere in your body.
  • Indigestion or Difficulty in Swallowing
  • Obvious change in wart or mole.
  • Nagging Cough/Breathlessness/Hoarseness – If you have had a cough, breathlessness for more than two weeks, or if you had blood in your phlegm.

What to do if you have worrying symptom:

  • Consult your doctor – He will ask simple questions, examine you and may ask for some tests.
  • If he/she suspects cancer, then he would refer to an Oncologist.

How to reduce your risk of developing cancer:

  • STOP smoking or tobacco use in any form.
  • Be physically active.
  • Eat healthy, less calorie, low fat diet.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Protect your skin from sun, avoid over exposure.

Treatment of Cancer:

Cancer management is a team work which involves:
  • Surgery – It refers to the total removal of tumor, if possible, with adjacent normal looking tissue to take care of microscopic disease.
  • Radiotherapy – It uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells.
  • Systemic Therapy – It uses drugs to destroy cancer cells and includes chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

Cancer At A Glance

  • Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells anywhere in the body.
  • Unexplained weight loss, skin changes, changes in bowel habits, unusual bleeding, voice change, lumps are worrying signs & symptoms.
  • Definitive diagnosis is made by examining the biopsy or cytology sample of the suspected tissue.
  • Cancer is preventable by taking simple precautions.
  • High Body Mass Index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use increases the risk of cancer.