Frequently Asked Questions

What is cancer?

Ans. Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the growth is not controlled it can result in death. It may develop in any organ or blood. Cancer cells are out of rhythm with the rest of the body. They may multiply at abnormally fast rates and spread uncontrolled through the tissues. Some begin to spread after as long as 10 years others less than a year, but in all cases early diagnosis and treatment is vital.

What causes cancer?

Ans. External factors:

(a) Pollution of air, water and food, insecticides, chemicals, tobacco smoking & chewing, pan-masala, alcohol, drugs, carcinogens etc.

(b) Radiations like X-Rays, Gamma Rays, U.V. Rays , Atomic Radiations and other Ionizing Radiations.

(c) Viruses as in animals several viral cancers are known. In humans only known viral cancer is Burkitt Lymphoma EPSTEIN BARR VIRUS, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV-1) for cancer of Cervix and Hepatitis B Virus in Liver Cancer.

Internal Factors:

(a) Sedentary Lifestyle, poor diet and hygiene.

(b) Hormones- Breast carcinoma in females and Prostrate cancer in males.

(c) Immune conditions- multiple myeloma.

(d) Inherited Mutations- changes at gene level may lead to production of cancer.

Can cancer be prevented?


(a) All cancer caused by cigarette smoking and heavy use of alcohol could be prevented completely.

(b) Many cancers related to dietary factors could be prevented, one third of total cancer death in U.S.A. is related to nutrition.

(c) Skin cancers could be prevented by avoiding exposure to sun rays.

(d) Detection of cancer at early stages particularly breast, colon, rectum, cervix, prostrate, testes, tongue, mouth and skin are those where early diagnosis & treatment could produce effective cure in high percentage.

Who is at risk of developing cancer ?


(a) Any one.

(b) Adult, middle age and older.

(c) In the U.S. men have a 1 in 2 life time risk.

(d) In women the risk is 1 in 3.

(e) Smokers have a 10 fold relative risk than non smokers.

(f) Women who have a first degree ( mother, sister or daughter) family history of breast cancer have 2 fold increased risk.

How many people alive to day have ever had cancer ?

Ans. Cancer institute (USA) estimates 8 million Americans alive today have history of cancer . Some of these can be considered cured, while other still have evidence of cancer. In India more than 15 million people suffer from cancer at a time.

Do cancer patients get pain ?

Ans.Pain comes too late. In the beginning cancer patients show very ordinary symptoms like any other disease.

How many new cases are expected to occur this year ?

Ans. About 12-28 lakhs cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed. Since 1990 approx. 11 million new cancer cases have been diagnosed. Besides, this year over 1 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year these figures are from U.S.A. Indian figures are not available but around 15 lakh new cases are diagnosed every year in the country.

When should one suspect cancer?

Ans.When one starts experiencing some of the symptoms one should go for cancer check up. Pain comes too late in cancer. In the beginning cancer patients show very ordinary symptoms.

What are these symptoms?

Ans.There are many different symptoms depending upon the organ involved. they may be-

(a) Any persistent cough may be early sign, even a change in voice ,say from normal to hoarse may be a warning symptom.

(b) Any change in size, colour or other features of mole should lead to suspicion, cancerous moles also bleed.

(c) Difficulty in swallowing may have cancer of food pipe (esophagus).

(d) Any change in the pattern of bowel movement like unexplained bouts of indigestion may be a symptom of cancer in the digestive tract.

Does one get pain in the breast if cancer is developing ?

Ans.Not necessarily, Breast cancer is insidious in development some may notice a lump in the breast, bleeding or discharge from nipples, dimpling of skin around nipple like a pitted orange or redness in some part of breast.

When should one suspect cancer of female genital tract?

Ans.Mostly Indian women hide their complaints till they reach a stage of no control. Bleeding in between normal menstrual period can be one of the early signs of cervix cancer. Little spotting of blood after sexual intercourse and excessive bleeding may be a warning sign, post menopausal excessive bleeding may be a sign of cervical or endometrial cancer. Watery discharge, blood stained in the later stages which is foul smelling may arouse suspicion of vaginal cancer.

What about ovarian cancer?

Ans.Usually there are no apparent signs, ovarian cystic tumors (particularly cyst adenoma of ovary) may depict unusual pseudopregnancy by attaining big size.

Can male genitalia may also have cancer?

Ans.Yes, cancer may occur in any organ of the body and male genitalia is not an exception. A hard prostrate, heaviness in rectum, swelling in testicles needs examination. Penis may also have cancer.

What about liver cancer?

Ans. Cancer may occur in liver also which usually goes undetected in early stages. Weight loss, appetite loss accompanied with general weakness may arouse suspicion. Gall bladder cancer is usually symptomless and is detected at a time when patient is operated for gall stones.

Does food pipe may also have cancer?

Ans.Yes, inability to swallow even liquid food is usual symptom. Regurgitation of food speckled with blood, weight loss, anemia and loss of appetite may be some of the symptoms. Pain may arise later on.

What may be the symptoms of stomach cancer ?

Ans. Insidious outset of dyspeptic symptoms gastric enlargements, inability to retain a meal, vomiting, aneroxia loss of weight, anemia, lethargy, tiredness and pallor are some of the symptoms of stomach cancer.

Does cancer develops in the Intestines ?

Ans. Cancer may also develop in the Intestines. Usually it develops in persons above 50 yrs of age. Common symptoms may be a change in bowel habits, blood in stools, pain in the abdomen, diarrhoea, sense of incomplete defecation and bleeding from rectum.

Cancer of larynx vocal cards, bronchi and lungs.

Ans.May have persistent hoarse voice and cough which are the warning signs in smokers and workers involved in asbestos, nickel, chromate and uranium industries. Persistent cough, blood tinged sputum and wheezing associated with weight loss may be other symptoms in such cancer.

Does oral cancer is on increase in India and what are the possible reasons for oral cancer ?

Ans.Yes, incidence is increasing particularly in smokers, tobacco chewers and pan-masala addicted people. These substances affect the mouth, lips, cheek, hard or soft palate and pharynx. Initially gradual closure of mouth opening, ulcer or lump in the mouth, spicy feeling or oral sub-mucus fibrosis are the early common symptoms.

What about blood cancer ?

Ans. Normally we call them leukemia. The outset may be abrupt or insidious. Initially there is feeling of ill health, weakness malaise, aneroxia, joint pain and fever. Children may loose their vitality. In adults breathing discomfort may be one of the symptoms.

Is cure of Cancer possible ?

Ans.Yes if it is detected in primary stages.

Can Cancer inflict a person who is not having any bad habit ?

Ans.Yes, cancer may result in any part of body where cells are multiplying, due to mutation.

Does Cancer inflict children ?

Ans.Although rare but Cancer inflicts children also, leukemia is common in children, whose mothers are exposed to X Rays during pregnancy.

Is Cancer same in male and female ?

Ans. Yes except those of sex organs.

Is cancer directly related with age ?

Ans. No, cancer can develop in any person.

In which age group Cancer is more prevalent ?

Ans. In aged people, over 40 years.

Which cancers are common in females ?

Ans. Breast Cancer in Urban areas, Cervix Cancer in Rural areas.

Which cancers are common in males ?

Ans. Oral Cancer

In which part of body cancer cannot occur ?

Ans.Those having dead or non living part of hairs (other than roots), tooth enamel, nails (non living part).

What are the different types of tumors ?

Ans. Benign- harmless, Malignant- Cancer.

Are all cancers tumors ?

Ans. Yes other than Blood Cancer.

Does benign tumor gets converted into malignant, if yes give examples ?

Ans.Yes as in moles, warts and other benign tumors thyroid etc.

Is cancer an infectious disease ?

Ans.Normally not (HPV- cancer cervix, Burkit Lymphoma- Epstein- Barr virus).

Is cancer a communicable (contagious) disease ?

Ans.No it never spreads by touch, sex or sharing meals, cloths etc.

Is prophylaxis/ vaccine available for cancer ?

Ans.No vaccine is available.

Is cancer preventable ?

Ans.Cancer is preventable by Primary Prevention avoiding carcinogens, developing good dietary habits, healthy living habits etc.

How can cancer be controlled ?

Ans.By Primary Prevention and Secondary Prevention i.e. knowing the symptoms in early stage of Cancer, early detection and treatment.

What are the different stages of cancer ?

Ans.Primary Stage tumor is localized, Secondary Stage tumor reaches the surrounding organs (metastasis), Terminal Stages tumor branches throughout the body.

In which stage the treatment of cancer is possible ?

Ans.Best in Primary Stage.

Is cancer genetic, if yes exemplify ?

Ans.Sometimes in families of Breast, thyroid cancers.

Does tobacco cause Cancer ? If yes then in which form ?

Ans.Yes in all forms, chewable, smoked, inhaled.

Why Govt. is not putting a ban on tobacco products ?

Ans. Due to loss of enormous revenue.

What are carcinogens, name some ?

Ans. Nicotine, Asbestos, Coal Tar, Benzene, Aniline Dyes.

How is cancer diagnosed ?

Ans. By X Rays, Ultrasound, CT Scan etc.

What is the role of awareness in cancer detection ?

Ans. Knowing the symptoms helps in self examination and early detection.

How is Cancer confirmed ?

Ans. Biopsy and Cytological Examination.

How is Cancer treated ?

Ans. By Surgery, Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy.

Which areas of normal body are most effected by chemotherapy ?

Ans. All regions where active cell division is taking place like Hair Roots, Bone Marrow etc.

Give some of the side effects of cancer treatment ?

Ans.Loss of Appetite, skin rashes, falling of Hairs, Anemia.

What are the causes of oral cancer ?

Ans. Pan, Masala, Gutka, Tobacco.

What are the causes of breast cancer ?

Ans. Late marriage, late pregnancy, avoidance of breast feeding.

What are the causes of cancer cervix ?

Ans.Early marriage, multiple pregnancies, multiple sex partners, unhealthy genital hygiene.

What are the causes and symptoms of different cancers ?

Ans.Refer Chart.

What is blood Cancer ?

Ans. In Leukemia White Blood Cells increase several times.

How blood cancer differs from other cancers ?

Ans. It is the only non tumerous cancer.

How is blood cancer treated ?

Ans. Bone Marrow transplantation.

What is bone marrow transplant ?

Ans.Transfusion of Blood with stem cells in highly sterile conditions after Immuno depression.

What is gamma knife ?

Ans.Gamma rays used for surgery of vital organs like Brain.

Short wave length rays cause cancer whereas gamma rays (which are again of short wave length) are used in the treatment of cancer, why ?

Ans.Because of their property to destroy living cells completely rather than causing mutations.

What is palliative treatment ?

Ans.Pain relief by medication rather than treatment.