Basic facts about cancer and its treatment

Knowledge of certain basic facts about cancer helps the patient to understand the disease, treatment and treatment related side effects in a better way.
  1. What is cancer—cancer is uncontrolled and unregulated growth of any cell of our body. The cells accumulate to form cluster which then later forms a lump or tumor. This can happen to anybody, at any time , however the incidence of developing cancer increases with age. In India, approximately 8 lac new cases are diagnosed every year, unfortunately 70-80% are diagnosed in advanced stages.
  2. Risk factors– Tobacco, smoking and alcohol are the three major risk factors for many types of cancers. Other risk factors are increasing use of pesticides, fertilizers, some viruses and radiation exposure.
  3. Warning signals of cancer—any non healing ulcer or sore, increase in the size of lump which is painless, any unusual bleeding or discharge from any opening of the body, unexplained fever or weight loss.
  4. Treatment –there are three main modalities of treatment in cancer, namely surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The choice of treatment depends on the site and stage of cancer, usually a combination of two or more treatments is required to treat.
  5. Side effects– the side-effects of any particular treatment can be acute or late, however with the advent of advanced targeted therapy the side-effects are very minimal and manageable.
  6. Prevention– prevention can be done by life style changes, routine health checks, regular screening and cancer vaccines. Decreasing stress and keeping a positive attitude are very important for good results during treatment.