FAQ's about Cancer

1. What It Is

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 normal and 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".

Is cancer contagious or infectious?

No. 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 blood cells.

How does cancer spread?

In 3 ways:

  • Cancer cells grow through the walls of blood vessels and are carried by the blood stream to 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 disease?

No. 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.