Cancer is abnormal and uncontrolled multiplication of cells. Normally the multiplication of cells is very systematically controlled by genetically controlled mechanisms based on bodies’ requirement. However, when one or few cells come out of this control mechanism and start multiplying that is called cancer. As the cells multiply without control, they spread to various parts of the body.
There are more than 200 types of cancers. Cancer can affect any organ in the body. However, some organs are affected more commonly than others. The most common organs affected include breast, colon & stomach. This also depends on the race and habits. Cervical cancer and mouth cancers are more common among Indians. Prostate cancer is more common among people of African origin.
Cancer DOES NOT spread from person to person. There is no need to fear about the disease spreading to others in the house.
There come are cancer that may be caused by infection. Cervical cancer (HPV) and liver cancer (hepatitis virus) are the most common among them. These are caused by viruses that usually spread by sexual route or blood route.
Many cancers can be prevented by healthy lifestyle and vaccines (see page on cancer prevention), which is called primary prevention. Many other cancers can be detected early, so that a cure can be achieved, which is called secondary prevention. By secondary prevention we can cure most of the patients.
Cancer can be cured if detected early. You have to be aware of your body. Look at any changes that occur so that you can approach your doctor when you notice something that needs attention.
- Cancer is painless to begin with. So, show any Lumps & Bumps that appear in your body or suddenly grow.
- Sudden Anemia (lack of blood) or weight loss or Loss of appetite is alarming.
- Wounds that fail to heal over long time (2-3 months or more)
- Skin mole that is growing, bleeding or itchy
- Blood in stool, vomitus or phlegm
- Change in bowel habit.
- Persistent indigestion
- Hoarseness of voice or cough that lasts for more than 15 days
- Patch or ulcer in mouth that lasts for more than 15 days.
- Abnormal bleed from vagina
Approach your doctor with if you notice any of the above as these need to be investigated. Sometimes these could be cancer.
If you have any of the known causes of cancer (smoking, certain infections, sedentary life, etc.) then it is most likely that you have got it because of that reason. However, cancer can occur even if you do not have any of these predisposing causes. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will develop cancer some time during their life. Most of these (>75%) occur above the age of 60 years.
Yes, worldwide statistics indicate that the cancer incidence is increasing. Present statistics indicate that about 70 per lakh of population develop cancer every year. This incidence is increasing as life expectancy is increasing. It is estimated that 1 out of 4 people living today will develop cancer sometime during their life.
Recurrence of cancer occurs mainly because of a few microscopic cells left behind after treatment (surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy). It occurs mainly because of the stem cells (mother cells) that are not killed by treatment. These cells could be hiding in far away organs with no symptoms at all and may suddenly grow after months or years.