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Sunday, April 29, 2012
Some Facts about Cancer
What is Cancer ?
Cancer is an abnormal growth of a body cell or group of cells. If it is
not destroyed or removed, cancer can spread very rapidly, and eventually
lead to death.
What is the difference
between normaland cancerous growth? There
are billions of cells in the human body. Normally, they grow in a
well-regulated pattern. When cancer sets in a group of cells suddenly
starts multiplying haphazardly and forms a lump or "tumor".
How many kinds of tumors
are there? There
are two kinds of tumors. Malignant, and benign. A benign tumor is more
common, and is generally harmless. It doesn't grow beyond a certain
limit, and it doesn't spread to other parts of the body.
A malignant tumor on the other hand, never stops growing and can spread
to other parts of the body. Cancer is the name given to a malignant
Is cancer contagious or
Since cancer is not caused by a germ, it is not "catching",
and cannot be transmitted from one person to another.
Is cancer a blood disease? No,
though cancer cells may move through the blood stream to another part of
the body. Cancer can however develop in certain tissues which form the
How does cancer spread? In
- Cancer cells grow through the walls of blood vessels
and are carried by the blood
other parts of the body.
- They enter the lymphatic
stream and are carried to lymph glands.
- They grow directly from one
tissue to another.
How fast does cancer grow? There
is no definite rate of growth of cancer tissue, Some types will grow
more in a few weeks than other types will, in several years.
Is cancer a
single disease? No. the term "cancer" includes all forms of malignant
growth. Very many varieties are known. These have certain
characteristics in common though such as uncontrolled growth a tendency
to spread widely in the body and fatal termination if not treated early
and adequately. They differ in certain characteristics, such as location
in the body, microscopic appearance, and response to treatment. Their
histories of development may be quite dissimilar and it is probable that
the conditions which may precede them also differ greatly.
How can you tell if you
have cancer? The
real tragedy about cancer is that it produces very minor symptoms at
first. So you could have cancer --- and not know it. The best way to
detect cancer is to have a regular yearly check-up.
How does a doctor tell if
growth is cancerous? By
performing a biopsy i.e. examining a small portion of the tissue under a
microscope. In advanced cases, physical examination alone may reveal the
diagnosis. But the chances of cure at this late stage, are very poor.
Are cancer and
leprosy related? No. Leprosy is caused by a germ. Both the symptoms and the treatment
for the two diseases are entirely different.
Is cancer a modern
Even as long ago as 3,000 B.C., Egyptian historians made references to
"tumors and ulcers". Mummies from the Gizeb Pyramids were
found to have cancer involving the bones.
Are some people more prone
to certain types of cancer? Yes.
Your life-style may make you more prone to some cancers. E.g. cancers of
the Colon, lungs and skin are common in Britain and U.S.A., while
cancers involving the head and neck region are more common in India. In
women, cancer of the breast and uterus are the commonest.
What are your chances of
getting cancer? One
out of every 8 Indians gets cancer. In other words, there are about 15
to 18 lakh cancer patients in India alone. Though cancer can occur at
any age, the incidence is higher after the age of 40 to 45.
2. What Causes It
What causes cancer?
Though it is very difficult to pinpoint any definite cause, certain
substances, known as carcinogens, can definitely increase your chances
of getting cancer. For instance, people who smoke or chew tobacco are
more prone to mouth, throat and lung cancer. Contrary to popular
opinion, beedi smoking is twice as dangerous as cigarettes. Amongst
other known causes are asbestos, arsenic, pitch, tar, ultra-violet rays.
Continued irritation of tissues can lead to cancer.
Is cancer caused by a
is no scientific evidence that cancer is caused by a germ.
Does cancer come from a
single bruise? A
type of bone cancer may rarely result from a single severe injury. A
single injury to soft tissue, such as the breast, will not give rise to
What is the relation of
food to cancer? In
certain individuals, Vitamin B deficiency may result in changes in
certain tissues, particularly of the mouth and lips, which may
ultimately become cancerous. In general, however, so far as is known, no
food or combination of foods has any influence on the cause or cure of
cancer· but heavily fried food or abandoned red meat is today suspect.
Green vegetables, cabbage may help in preventing certain cancers.
Will irregularity in
eating cause cancer of the stomach? There
is no scientific evidence that it will, since cancer of the stomach may
occur in people who eat most regularly.
Does eating hot food cause
is little evidence that the temperature of food is an important factor
in the development of cancer.
Does the use of alcohol
bear any relation to cancer of the stomach? Not
so far as is known. Alcohol may have an unfavorable effect on stomach
tissues, but no more so than other substances taken along with food or
Is cancer hereditary? There
are probably inherited tendencies that may lead to cancers of different
types. The presence of cancer in one or both parents should be a cause
for greater alertness in looking for and recognizing suspicious symptoms
in the individual. Cancer however is not inherited except for one type
of eye cancer known as Retinoblastoma.
Can cancer be transmitted
by kissing or casual contact between persons or between persons and animals? No.
There is no record of cancer having been transmitted by kissing or by
any contact, accidental or otherwise, between individuals or between
persons and animals (such as pets).
Do corns become cancerous? Cancer
may occur in any tissue of the body, but a corn could not as a rule
develop into cancer.
Do freckles turn
into cancer? Simple freckles do not. However, flat moles containing pigment of a
bluish-black colour and looking like dark freckles, may become cancerous
and should be checked periodically.
Do piles turn into cancer? No.
Piles or hemorrhoids are merely enlarged veins in the rectal wall.
Cancer is occasionally found in the tissue above the hemorrhoids, so
"bleeding piles" should be examined carefully to determine
whether cancer is also present. Rectal bleeding can occur due to cancer.
Can one's mental condition
influence the course of cancer? Not
so far as is known. Cancer is a disease of body cells. One's mental
condition has no effect on the course of the disease since this
malignant change is apparently due to physical rather than mental
Does radiation cause
use of X-rays frequently may increase your chances of getting cancer.
3.Defense Measures Called For
How can one guard against
By preventing, so far as possible, prolonged irritation of any part of
the body. Specifically, protection from overexposure to the sun and
wind, prompt repair of all birth injuries to the womb, permitting the
breasts to function normally early in life, repair of jagged teeth,
avoidance of ill-fitting dental plates, avoidance of tobacco, correction
of chronic constipation in short, elimination of unnecessary abuse of
any tissue is a common sense method of helping to guard against cancer.
What is meant by a
"pre-cancerous lesion"? Any
abnormal condition that, if permitted to continue, may develop into
cancer with passage of time.
What are some of the more
important pre-cancerous lesions? White
spots on mucous (lining) membranes, especially of the mouth; dry, scaly,
itching patches on the skin, particularly the face; sores caused by
jagged teeth and ill-fitting dental plates; dark colored moles subject
to irritation; unrepaired injuries due to childbirth. These should all
be investigated by a physician and adequately treated.
What precautions should be
taken to avoid cancer of the mouth? Keep
the mouth clean. Have jagged teeth filed or removed. Do not use an
ill-fitting dental plate, which causes a sore on the gums or cheek. If
white spots appear in the mouth or on the tongue, stop the use of
tobacco and see a doctor.
What precautions should be
taken to avoid cancer of the Skin? Dark
colored moles and warts, if subject to irritation, should be removed.
Itching, scaly patches on the skin should be treated before they become
open sores. Fair-skinned people, especially, should avoid overexposure
to direct sun rays. Recurrent fever blisters on the lip should be
carefully examined. Keep the skin clean.
Should all moles be
A flat colorless mole is probably as harmless as a freckle. Bluish-black
hairless moles, especially when subject to irritation, should be
removed. Any mole or wart showing changes in size or colour or if
bleeding should be promptly and completely removed and the tissue
examined by a pathologist to determine if cancer is present.
Can immunity to cancer be
acquired as with diptheria or typhoid fever? Production
of immunity is possible only in diseases caused by germs. As cancer is
not caused by germs, immunity cannot be developed against it as far as
our knowledge goes today.
Why do many people wait
before consulting a physician when cancer may be present or suspected? Primarily
because of fear or ignorance of the signs of cancer and of the vital
importance of securing treatment early. Some people also think there is
a social disgrace in having cancer and so hide the fact from their
physicians and often from friends and relatives. This is not a
Can a tuberculous person
ever have cancer? He
can. The presence of tuberculosis or any other disease gives no
assurance that cancer may not also develop.
Why don't the white
corpuscles in the blood kill cancer? The
chief function of white blood corpuscles is to protect the body against
bacteria or germs. They kill germs and combat infection. Current
research is being undertaken to promote such activity by certain kinds
of white blood corpuscles.
How can we control cancer? By
a prompt visit to a physician, when suspicious signs or
symptoms appear. Intelligent alertness by the individual may well save
his life. By having complete, annual physical examinations, as a
routine. Women over 35 should be examined twice a year. By confirming
diagnosis at the earliest possible moment, followed by adequate
treatment. By a widespread knowledge, both lay and professional, of the
character of cancer, its causes, methods of spread, and by recognizing
the value of early diagnosis and adequate treatment, as the means of
5.How To Treat It
How should cancer be
By surgery, chemotherapy, X-ray or cobalt therapy and high density
electron therapy or a combination of all these in the earliest
possible stage of the disease. All these methods are available in
India at various Hospitals.
Are X-ray treatments
good for all kinds of cancer? No.
Treatment depends on type and location of the growth. Some cancers
will not respond to X-ray or radium treatment but must be treated by
surgery or with hormones and Radioactive isotopes.
What is the difference
in the action of X-rays and radium or cancer tissue? There
is no essential difference. When correctly used both will destroy
cancer cells without seriously injuring the normal cells with which
they come in contact.
How are radium or
radioactive isotopes used? Radium
in hollow needles radioactive isotope wires are inserted into the
cancerous growth are in the tissue surrounding it, and removed after
treatment is concluded. Radium or radioactive isotopes in suitable
containers may also he placed in contact with the growth as in cancer
of the skin or cervix. In larger quantities they may be used at a
distance from the body, the rays passing through an opening in the
container into the cancerous growth.
How effective is
is most effective in the early stages when cancer has not yet spread.
Major advances in plastic and reconstructive surgery, and
anaesthesiology have ensured a very high degree of success.
What is chemotherapy? Chemotherapy
implies treatment with anticancer drugs and injections. Today we have
a large number of highly effective drugs for cancer control.
Can the spread of cancer
be stopped or retarded temporarily? At
times only. Certain types of cancerous growths, which can not be
expected to be curable, may be controlled temporarily by proper
treatment. Sooner or later, however, these growths may fail to respond
to further treatment.
What should you do if
you think you may have cancer? Report
at once for a thorough physical examination.
Is cancer curable? More
than 80% of cancers today are completely curable if treated early. At
times, however, cures have been obtained after the cancers have been
present for a long time. The type of cancer always has an important
bearing on its curability.
Is it ever possible to
state that a cancer has been completely cured? If so, how much time
must pass before the "cure" is recognized? After
a cancer patient has been treated and has remained free of recurrence
of disease for a period of five years, the chances for reappearance of
the tumor are extremely small. (In a few rare instances however cancer
has recurred ten or twenty years later, so that a semi-annual physical
examination is a must for cancer patients).
If you have been cured
of cancer, can you develop another cancer? In the same place? In some
other part of the body? Yes.
Regardless of a patient's past medical history, including the
successful treatment of a previous cancer, he/she should be examined
at regular intervals. Because of the tendency for cancer to reappear at the place of
a previously existing growth or nearby, a patient should have a
regular follow-up at least every six months. A new cancer may also
appear at in another part of the body.
Is there any known
vaccine cure for cancer? No.
A vaccine is of value only against a disease due to a germ. Cancer is
not caused by a germ; therefore, serums are of no value in its
Is it ever safe to rely
on salves to "cure" cancer? No.
No a paste or salve can not penetrate the tissues far enough to destroy
deep-seated cancer cells.
Is there any chemical
that destroys cancerous tissue? There
is some evidence that a few chemical substances such as the nitrogen
mustards and other chemicals can destroy certain kinds of cancers.
This treatment is known as chemotherapy.
Will hormones cure
is evidence today to indicate that treatment with certain hormones may
prolong life, and alleviate pain and suffering in certain breast and
uterine cancers and in prostate cancers.
What is Immunotherapy? Immunotherapy
is new development based on the theory that the human body can be
taught to defend itself against diseases including cancer.
What is the latest and
most successful of the recently reported cancer treatments? While
many "cures" are constantly being evaluated by various
laboratories, surgery, X-ray treatment, and chemotherapy remain the
chief weapons in the physicians' fight to cure cancer. Certain
hormones and isotopes also offer some promise of assistance in their
fight but it is much too early to claim that they can be called
Is any real process
being made in cancer research? Along what lines? Real
progress is being made in cancer research, which has thrown much new
light on normal and abnormal growth processes. However, the goal of
finding the cause of cancer and thus its prevention is still in the
future. Various avenues of investigations have recently opened up on
all sides: in chemistry by a study of the hormones and chemicals and
the complex role they play in cancer; in physics by application of
radioactive materials and the development of X-rays of very high
voltages; in surgery by more radical excision of tumors; and of
through a study of enzymes, genetics, nutrition, cytochemistry, etc.
Scientific disciplines of various types are being utilized to study
the complex nature of cancer.
What are your chances of
getting cured? More
than 80% of the patients treated adequately in the early stages can be
cured. Your chances of recovery are excellent, if you report for
treatment very early after cancer has arisen.
Can you lead a normal
life after cancer? The
sooner you come for treatment, the better the quality of life after
cancer. Most cancer patients can return to their normal lives, even
7.Cancer in Women
Do more women than men
die of cancer?
No. The misconception that cancer is primarily a woman's disease is
due to the frequency of cancer of the breast and cancer of the
reproductive organs in women, in comparison with the more varied
occurrence of cancer in men. Cancer in men often occurs in the less
accessible areas of the body and is sometimes more difficult to
diagnose and treat than cancer in women.
Does cancer occur more
frequently among married or unmarried women? Reports
from death certificates show that above the age of 40, the cancer
death rate is higher among single women than among married women of
the same ages. Single women have higher death rates from cancer of the
breast and married women have more cancer of the uterus. Physicians
believe that having the first child around the age of 20 is a
preventive against cancer of the breast and that injury at childbirth
or having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of cancer of the
Is there danger in
watching a lump in the breast to see what happens? Yes,
a very grave danger. Time is the most important factor in the control
of cancer and waiting to "see what happens" may permit a
curable cancer to become incurable by preventing it to spread to other
Are all breast lumps
only a small percentage of lumps are cancerous. A careful pathological
examination of the excised lump can definitely determine if it is due
What precautions should
be taken to avoid cancer of the breast? Do
not wear garments that press the breast tissue tightly against the
chest wall. Every woman should have her breasts examined semiannually
by a physician. She should request her physician to instruct her in
the proper technique for examining her own breasts in the
erect and reclining positions and should examine her breasts once a
month shortly after her "period".
How should you examine
·Sit or stand in front of a mirror, with your
arms relaxed at your sides, and examine your breasts carefully for any
changes in size and shape. Look for any puckering or dimpling of the skin,
and for any discharge or change in the nipples. Compare one breast with the
·Raise both your arms over your head, and look
for exactly the same changes. See if there's been any change since you last
examined your breasts.
·Note :From Step 3 to Step 8, you should feel
for a lump or thickening in the breast tissues.Lie down on your bed, or on
the floor, put a pillow or a bath towel under your left shoulder, and place
your left hand under your head. With the fingers of your right hand held
together flat, press gently but firmly with small circular motions to feel
the inner, upper quarter of your left breast, starting at your breastbone
and going outward toward the nipple line. Also feel the area around the
·With the same gentle pressure next feel the
lower, inner parts of your breast.
·Now bring your left arm down to your side, and
still using the flat part of your fingers, feel under your armpit.
·Use the same gentle pressure to feel the upper,
outer quarter of your breast from the nipple line to where your arm is
·And finally, feel the lower, outer section of
your breast, proceeding from the outer part to the nipple.
·Repent the entire procedure, from Step 3 as
described above, for the right breast.
What precautions should
be taken to avoid cancer of the uterus (womb)? Have
all birth injuries repaired soon after they occur. Have all unnatural
vaginal discharges investigated. Up to the age of
thirty-five have an annual examination; thereafter a semi-annual
one. Bleeding after the change of life calls for a physician's
examination at once. Avoid multiple sex partners.
Do uterine fibroids ever
tumors only very rarely undergo malignant change.
9.Cancer and You
How can cancer deaths be
By four means:
·Early diagnosis; the responsibility of the
patient in having himself/herself regularly checked by a physician; and the
responsibility of the physician in recognizing the possibility of cancer
and referring for further diagnostic procedures and proper treatment.
·Adequate and prompt treatment.
·Discoveries of newer and more effective means
·The ultimate discovery of the various causes of
cancer. These last two will come from research laboratories and clinical
investigators. From these stem the basic principles of the cancer control
programme of education, research and service of the Indian Cancer Society.
Is there any disgrace in
having cancer? There
is no more disgrace in having cancer than in having a broken arm.
Does cancer usually cost
more to cure, than other major diseases? It
often does. Here again, it depends upon the type of cancer you have
and how much must be done to treat it. Many hospitals provide free
treatment to those who cannot afford to pay.
Why are quacks
the following reasons, among others:
·Few quacks are medically trained; therefore,
they have no fundamental knowledge about cancer.
·They cause the patient to lose valuable time
that should be used to obtain correct treatment.
·The pastes and "medicines" used by
quacks have no value in curing cancer.
·The quack takes the patient's money under false
pretenses, thus depriving him of the means for obtaining competent
treatment in time to enable him or her to be cured.
How can I tell a quack
from a reputable physician? If
a person advertises a cure, guarantees a cure, or employs a method of
diagnosis or treatment not generally accepted or endorsed by the
medical profession, may he classed as a quack. No reputable, ethical
physician will do any of these things.
Is cancer frightening? Only
if you neglect it. Today more and more people are not only winning
their fight against cancer, they are also able to lead normal, active