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A disease caused due to abnormal and uninhibited proliferation of cells with ability to metastasize (migrate to different parts of body).
Tumour is a nodular structure or swelling formed as a result of abnormal collection of numerous cells. It may also be written as tumor.
No. Tumours are broadly classified into 2 categories – benign or malignant. Only malignant tumours are called cancer as they have ability to spread to other parts of body and make a new tumour there.
Our body is made up of uncountable cells. The number and function of each type of cells is well controlled in our body. In cancer, the cells become immortal and they keep on dividing. Thus making a large collection of abnormal cells (not needed by body), which appears as a tumour. These cells have power to migrate to different parts of body and they form a new tumour at a new place, and then we say that cancer has spread to whole body.
Yes. Cancer arises as a result of mutations (perturbations) in genes so it is called a genetic disease. Genes are made up of DNA and are present on the chromosomes, which are found in nucleus of all cells and they regulate all the functions of cells including cell division. When the mutations occur in cell cycle regulatory genes, cells start dividing in an uncontrolled fashion and the result is cancer.
Please do not confuse with the term ‘genetic’. The disease is called genetic because it arises as a result of mutations in genes.
Based on the pattern of spread in families cancer is divided into 2 categories – sporadic and familial. Sporadic are the tumours which remain confined to an individual and they don’t spread in families. Most of the tumours are sporadic.
Familial tumours have propensity to spread in families i.e. to the siblings and to the children. Only 5 to 10 % of the cancers fall into this category.
Family members need not to take special precautions related to patient care as cancers don’t spread by touching or eating with or caring a cancer patient. We should give a lot of love and support to patient. We should give proper nutrition to patient and should keep him away from the infections. You should discuss the issue of familial cancers to an expert/ cancer specialist.
Yes. The cells of a long standing benign tumour (also called as simple tumour in common language) may acquire new mutations and they may be converted into cancer cells. That’s why it is wise to do surgery at an earlier stage and to take out a benign tumour
There are many chemicals and agents which may cause cancer. Among them all, tobacco is the most important. Intake of tobacco in any forms either smoking for tobacco chewing, always injurious to the health.

Second important factor is alcohol. Taken together tobacco and alcohol have an additive effect.
There are many other factors like sunlight exposure, viruses, hormonal agents, radiations, insecticide or pollutants present in the environment and food
The examination of patient along with various tests is done for the diagnosis of cancer. Final diagnosis is given by looking at the cancer cells in tissue sample through a microscope. So for that biopsy or aspiration cytology is necessary.
This can be done by investigations called FNAC i.e. fine needle aspiration cytology or biopsy. When we see cancer cells in microscope then only we can differentiate between the cancer and non-cancerous tumors.
It’s wrong. Each cancer has got its own speed of spread. If you cut it or you take a small piece of it, the speed does not change. Speed depends on the genetic architecture of cancer cells and the aggressiveness of cancer
Treatment of cancer can be divided into three main categories – Surgery, Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy. Cancer can be cured with surgery or radiotherapy or both if it is in the initial stages and confined to a particular area. If the cancer is spread all over the body then chemotherapy is the treatment of choice.
We decide about the treatment on the basis of the stage of presentation and the biopsy report. We explain everything to the patient and a combined decision is taken by the patient and the doctor.
Surgery and radiotherapy both have power to cure cancer, but they have their own limitations or complications. Where the surgical approach is easy and in the experienced hands, surgery is better than radiotherapy. But if the approach is difficult and the chances of surgical complications are more radiotherapy is better e.g. deep seated brain tumors.
The choice of treatment depends on many factors like biopsy report, extent of tumor, stage of presentation, patient’s nutritional status, patient’s financial status and patient’s choice.
There are a lot of chemotherapy drugs available presently. Few of them are natural products we extract them from trees or other sources, few of them are synthetic products. There is a new variety of agent called the ‘targeted therapy’. These agents are used to inhibit the growth of cancer cells by inhibiting a particular molecule in the cell cycle.

Apart from these there are some hormonal agents that can be used as systemic therapy against few cancers like breast cancer or prostate cancer.
The decision about the chemotherapeutic drugs is taken on the basis of type of the tumor, patient’s condition and cost effectiveness. There are tumors which respond to a particular drug but they may not respond to other drugs.
Chemotherapy brings a lot of side effects which can be divided into systemic effects and local effects. Chemotherapy can destroy the veins in the hands or there can be necrosis of the skin if chemotherapy extravasates. To prevent such complications chemotherapy port are used. These are small chambers put under the skin and the chamber is connected to the superior venacava via silicon catheters. When the drug is given into the chamber, it goes directly to the superior vena cava. Thus both the hands are spared.
Ideally chemotherapy ports should be used in all the patient, but we should discuss all related issues with patient including cost and if he or she agrees then we should use the chemotherapy ports.
It’s not always true. The new drugs which are coming up are very costly but the older drugs are not so. In government hospitals you can have chemotherapy drugs just free of cost and at many places like trust hospitals, cost of drug is much less than the MRP.
This is a very difficult question to answer. When tumor has spread all over the body, only option is chemotherapy. If first line becomes ineffective we should switch over to the second line chemotherapy. Similarly if tumor doesn’t respond to second line, we have to go for the third line and so on. Now few people say that we should stop after second or third line, but others are in favor of giving more therapies. So the decision depends on the type of cancer, patient’s condition, experience of oncologist and patient’s choice
As I told you that cancer treatment has got 3 aspects first is surgery, second is radiotherapy. In all pathies other than allopathy, drugs are given by oral route or by per-rectal route. So they try to treat cancer with the help of those medicines, that means it is a form of chemotherapy. When we are using alternative medicines it should be compared with chemotherapy not with the allopathy as a whole. As compared to surgery or radiotherapy, chemotherapy has got least chance of cure.
So the alternative medicine should be used in place of chemotherapy not in place of surgery or radiotherapy.
When the patient is in stage 4 of disease and we know that we cannot cure the patient then we start palliative (symptomatic) treatment. Here our aim is to decrease the pain of patient, or in other words to decrease the sufferings of the patient, instead of increasing the lifespan.
The cancer can be prevented by avoiding the agents that can cause cancer called the carcinogenic agents e.g. tobacco, alcohol, direct expose to sunlight, insecticide pesticides, carcinogenic viruses and pollutants.
Healthy lifestyle is also important in cancer prevention. Improved immunity helps to fight against cancer.
Detection of early cancer is called ‘screening’. Presently we don’t have a single test to detect any cancer in body. The screening tests are directed towards the most common cancers e.g. among females to detect early breast cancer we advise bilateral mammography after the age of 40 years. For the detection of prostate cancer we advise a blood test called PSA in males.

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