F . A . Q

  • What is Cancer?

    Ans . Cancer is a common name for a group of diseases characterised by uncontrolled proliferation of abnormal cells. Cell division is the mainstay of human life. Human body is made up of several organs like brain, lung, liver, stomach etc. and each organ is made up of cells. Organs and tissues are constituted by cells characteristic of that organ. Cells divide for growth of an organ, for repairing tissue damage and to maintain functions of the organ. The divided cells are the exact replica of the parent cell. Sometimes due to some faulty mechanism or due to factors which are unknown yet, the divided cells are abnormal i.e., their structure is not the same as that of its parent cells. They cannot discharge the functions like the normal cells but requires the same food as the normal cells. These cells start dividing and a large number of abnormal cells are produced. As a result of the proliferation of abnormal cells the body organs do not function normally and the persons nutrition is impaired rapidly. These cells cluster to form lumps, swellings, and sometimes produce ulcers in the respective organs. However in the case of blood cancer -- Leukaemia - the abnormal cells start circulating throughout the blood streams so, no visible lump or swellings are observed. (Cancer is known by its different types like sarcoma, lymphoma, leukaemia, myeloma, carcinoma etc.). The most important characteristic of cancer is that the cancer cells breakaway from the tissue or organ of origin and starts spreading to other parts of the body through lymphatic channels or cavities or blood vessels. They then deposit themselves in other parts of the body where it grows again. This is known as the metastasis. Because of this unique characteristic it becomes difficult to cure or to control cancer when it has spread.

  • How does Cancer start?

    Ans . The exact mechanism of transformation of normal cells to become cancerous is still not known. However, several factors are known to produce cancer-like tobacco in the form of smoking and chewing, alcohol, radiation, asbestos, certain chemicals, excessive fat consumption, viruses etc.

  • Does a lump always mean Cancer?

    Ans . No. A lump can occur in any part of the body which may or may not contain cancer cells. Some of these lumps may grow to large sizes and produce ulcers. Because of this, they interfere with normal functions of nearby organs. However, they will not cause death and they can easily be removed by surgery and usually will not recur. They do not spread to other parts of the body. Such tumours are known as Benign tumours ie. harmless tumours. Cancer also can occur as a lump or tumour. A cancer is known as a malignant tumour. It is characterised specially by its potential to spread to other sites and to infiltrate the organ.

  • What are the most common Cancers seen in Indians?

    Ans . Cancer affects different body organs due to a variety of factors and in India there are variations in the occurrence and pattern of cancer. However, in our men, the majority of all cancers are found in mouth and throat, lung, stomach, gullet etc. and in women, they are found in large numbers in uterus[cervix], breast, mouth and throat

  • Is Cancer increasing in our country?

    Ans . In all Western countries where accurate statistics are available, cancer is seen to increase during the past 40 to 50 years. In our country also this should be true. As more people live upto old ages and with control of other diseases, more people would get cancer. Further, changes to Western life style and environmental pollution due to industrialisation etc. are also likely to contribute to an increase in cancer.

    The occurrence of cancer is measured, in absolute terms, by the incidence rate. This is a population based measure and indicates the number of new cancer cases that occur every year in 100,000 population. In India, such population based rates are not available for the entire country. However they are available for the some large city's populations. According to these annually around 70 new cancer cases will develop per 100, 000 population. This may appear to be a low rate but we consider 80 years as a life span, almost 16% of population will develop cancer if they all live up to this age. Based on these, it is estimated that almost 5 lakhs of persons will develop cancer every year in the country and in any given year there will be almost 15 lakhs cancer patients. As the population increases, this number also will increase. In order to study the cancer occurrences in our country, and to monitor its trends, cancer registries have been started in several places by the Indian Council of Medical Research. These registries study not only the occurrences and pattern of cancer in the community but also the factors that are associated with the disease. Such information is used for formulating and implementing the National Cancer Control plan of India.

  • Are the frequent cancer types similar in different countries?

    Ans . No there are great variations in the occurence and pattern of cancer in different parts of the world. In India, the occurence of mouth and throat cancer is highest when compared to other regions of the world. Stomach cancers occur with high frequency in Japan and some East European countries. Liver cancer is the frequent cancer in Africa. The predominant cancer in certain areas of China is oesophageal cancer, in other places it is Nasopharynx or Liver cancer. Lung, colon and breast cancers predominate in the United States of America.

    There is no scientific proof yet that cancer is a contagious disease.