Frequently Asked Question
is cancer and how does it develop?
Cancer is a disease
in which abnormal (malignant) cells grow out of proportion and results in a lump or tumor.
They may invade the local tissues and spread (metastasize). There is an alteration
(mutation) in the genes that control normal cell growth and death (either hereditary or
due to environmental/acquired factors). Thus abnormal/cancer cells get out of control of
the cell regulatory mechanisms and keep on dividing and do not die, resulting in a tumor.
some people predisposed to cancer?
(first-degree) relatives of patients with certain types of cancers are predisposed to
these cancers. They include cancers of the skin (melanoma), breast, ovary, colon, prostate
and eye cancer (Retinoblastoma). Genetic defects have been found in these people. They
need to have regular check-ups and certain tests to detect cancer in its early stage.
factors predispose to cancer?
factors include tobacco/pollution (lung/bladder cancer), snuff/chewable tobacco (naswaar,
paan used in Pakistan), ultraviolet radiation from the sun (skin cancer), prolonged x-ray
exposure (skin and blood cancers), chemicals/certain industrial pollutants and dyes
(asbestos, benzene, certain pesticides etc), alcohol (cancers of the liver, stomach etc),
certain viruses causing cervix cancer and lymphomas (human papilloma virus (HPV),
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) etc), artificial sweeteners/additives in food etc.
are the signs of cancer?
(a) Unexplained weight loss. (b) Lumps in the neck, armpits, groins etc. (c) Unexplained
fever not responding to medication. (d) Unexplained bleeding or discharge. (e) Non-healing
sore. (f) Hoarseness or severe cough with blood stained sputum. (g) Changes or itching in
a mole. (h) Lump in the breast. (i) Change in bowel/bladder habits etc. These are some of
the signs of cancer but they do not always mean that a person has a cancer. A doctor must
be consulted in such cases.
is cancer diagnosed?
Cancer can be diagnosed by (1) Blood or urine tests (2) X-rays/Scans (3) Tissue
there a cure for cancer?
Yes, certain types of cancers such as Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, Hodgkins
lymphoma, Choriocarcinoma, Kidney tumors in children etc can be cured with modern
medicines. In most of other cases in early stages, life can be prolonged by many years
with proper cancer treatment.
is cancer treated?
Cancer can be treated by (1) Surgery to remove the tumor. (2) Radiation in which high
energy rays are used to kill the cells. It is usually given five days a week for 30-45
days. (3) Chemotherapy in which medicines are used to kill cancer cells. This may be the
only form of treatment for certain cancers. It is usually given in injectable forms at
three weekly intervals. Can be given orally, in the muscles, in the veins or via
catheters. Some cancers respond to radiation while others to medicines so usually the
patient will either be treated with radiation or chemotherapy but a
"combination" of the two may also be used in certain cancers.
The use of medicines for treatment of cancers is known as chemotherapy. These may be
oral or injectables. These drugs stop the abnormal growth of cancer cells and kill cancer
are the side-effects of cancer chemotherapy?
Side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea, mouth
sores, fatigue, fever, chills, sleep disorders. These can usually be controlled with
medication and occur rarely except hair loss. If these side-effects do occur, the treating
oncologist must be contacted immediately. Certain drugs may cause infertility. Discuss
this with your oncologist before treatment starts.
these side-effects be controlled?
Yes, most of these side-effects can be controlled with medicines and good hygiene.
it important to stick to the appointment dates?
It is extremely important to stick to your chemotherapy dates since irregular cycles
will result in disease resistance and a very poor outcome.
do I find an Oncologist or get more information about cancer/particular cancers and their
Please see our section of Related
is cancer staged?
Staging of cancer is as follows:
cancer (which has not spread to or invaded the local tissues/ not metastasized).
STAGE II: Small lump with local spread only in the
organ involved and its draining lymph nodes.
STAGE III: Cancer cells invade the neighboring tissues
as well as lymph nodes.
Cancers cells have
spread to distant tissues in different parts of the body (liver, lungs, bones, brain etc).
The greater the stage
of the cancer the more aggressive the chemotherapy required. Prognosis/outcome of cancer
also depends upon stage of the disease and with increasing stage the prognosis/outcome
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