Know More About Cancer

Myths and Facts About Cancer

Though cancer has existed since very long, its detailed knowledge is just over a century old in the history of medicine. And in spite of its significant prevalence and adequate efforts to spread cancer awareness amongst the common man, by all concerned, there are still a large number of myths existing, regarding cancer even in the mind of educated people.
  • Age:- Cancer is not the disease of old age only, it can occur in any age and at times .Even a   baby can be born with cancer.
  • Survival and Cure Diagnosis of Cancer does not mean a death warrant. Cancer can be cured if detected early and a large number of patients survive several years and at times even normal life after having cancer
  • Spread:- Cancer is not contagious, It does not spread by staying in the same house or by touch .
  • Use of Knife:- People feel that use of knife for biopsy or surgery can spread cancer, but it is not so. Biopsy is essential to diagnose most cancers and plan treatment and surgery where ever possible is the most effective method of treatment in majority of cancers. It removes or decreases the diseased part and makes chemotherapy and radiotherapy more effective
Early signs of Cancer
Early detection of cancer is the most important way of curing it. So we must all be very careful of early signs of Cancer. They can be summarized as follows
  • C hange in bowel or bladder habits
  • A sore that does not heal
  • U nusual bleeding or discharge
  • T hickening or lump in breast or elsewhere
  • I ndigestion or difficulty in swallowing
  • O bvious change in an existing wart or mole
  • N agging cough or hoarseness of voice
Besides the above Cancer warning signals, one should consult a doctor in the eventuality of unexplained weight loss, continuous prolonged fever, or general weakness. Patients with family history of cancer or those who have had cancer in the past ,or who have had exposure to radiation or are working in an industry where they are in contact with chemicals are at high risk for cancer and should be careful, and undergo periodic checkups.

The routine checkups advised in our country for common cancers is as follows
  • Cancer of Cervix - PAP Smear Test every 2-5 years from the age of 35
  • Cancer Breast -Mammography every 5 years from the age of 35 years
  • Self Breast Examination every month
  • Breast examination by the doctor every 2-5 years
  • Prostate - PSA (Prostatic Specific Antigen ) every 5 years from the age of 45years
  • Colon and Rectum  -Stool for occult blood and per rectal examination every 2-5 years from the age of 45 years
Stages of Cancer
The first question that every patient or the relative ask after diagnosis of cancer is that what is the stage of cancer?  Though all cancers have their specific staging systems, there are following four broad stages. Stages 1 and 2 have very good chances of cure, but unluckily more than  half of the patients in our country report for treatment in stage three and four due to lack of facilities and ignorance.
Stage 1    The cancer is restricted to the organ or site of origin
Stage 2    The cancer has spread locally outside the organ or site of origin
Stage 3    The Cancer has spread to the nodes
Stage 4    The Cancer has spread to distant organs ( Metastatic Cancer)

Diagnosis of Cancer
Proper diagnosis of cancer is essential for starting correct treatment, and diagnosis can be achieved by various methods.
The two common methods are Cytology and Histopathology
Here the diagnosis is made by seeing cancer cells in the material sent for testing
  • Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology or Biopsy (FNA/FNAB):- Here cells are aspirated from the tumor or cancerous lump by a thin (FNAB) needle and seen under a microscope, This is a very simple test, done without anesthesia or hospitalization and has significantly high accuracy. This is generally done for growths which are under the skin, specially cancer of the breast, thyroid, liver etc. FNAC on cancers of deeper or small organs can be done under guidance of ultrasound or CT Scan
  • Cytology of Fluids:- In certain cases cancer can also be diagnosed on finding cancer cells in fluids collected in the body cavity, like the abdomen or thorax or in urine
This is the best method of diagnosis. Here a biopsy is taken from the cancerous part for diagnosis. A node, complete growth or a part of it can be removed and biopised
  • Endoscopic Biopsy:- Biopsy of the foodpipe, stomach and intestines is done by endoscopy and colonoscopy and of the airway by bronchoscopy
  • Stereostatic Biopsy:- Biopsy of small lesions or lesions in structures like brain are done after being localalised by fine needles under CT Scan guidance.
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