Department of Oncological Sciences

1. What is Cancer ?

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor.

2. Basics of Cancer

Cancer is not just one disease

There are many types of cancer. It’s not just one disease. Cancer can start in the lungs, the breast, the colon, or even in the blood. Cancers are alike in some ways, but they are different in the ways they grow and spread.

How are cancers alike?

The cells in our bodies all have certain jobs to do. Normal cells divide in an orderly way. They die when they are worn out or damaged, and new cells take their place. Cancer is when the cells start to grow out of control. The cancer cells keep on growing and making new cells. They crowd out normal cells. This causes problems in the part of the body where the cancer started.

What are tumors?

Most cancers form a lump called a tumor or a growth. But not all lumps are cancer. Doctors take out a piece of the lump and look at it to find out if it’s cancer. Lumps that are not cancer are called benign (be-NINE). Lumps that are cancer are called malignant (muh-LIG-nunt).

What stage is the cancer?

For each type of cancer there are tests that can be done to figure out the stage of the cancer. As a rule, a lower stage (such as a stage 1 or 2) means that the cancer has not spread very much. A higher number (such as a stage 3 or 4) means it has spread more. Stage 4 is the highest stage.

How is cancer treated?

The most common treatments for cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Surgery can be used to take out the cancer. The doctor might also take out some or all of the body part the cancer affects. For breast cancer, part (or all) of the breast might be removed. For prostate cancer, the prostate gland might be taken out. Surgery is not used for all types of cancer.
Chemo (short for chemotherapy) is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. Some chemo can be given by IV (into a vein through a needle), and others are a pill you swallow. Because chemo drugs travel to nearly all parts of the body, they are useful for cancer that has spread.Radiation is also used to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. It can be used alone or with surgery or chemo. Radiation treatment is like getting an x-ray.

What treatment is best for me?

Your cancer treatment will depend on what’s best for you. Some cancers respond better to surgery; others respond better to chemo or radiation. Knowing the type of cancer you have is the first step toward knowing which treatments will work best for you.


3. What are some general signs and symptoms of cancer?

You should know some of the general signs and symptoms of cancer. But remember, having any of these does not mean that you have cancer – many other things cause these signs and symptoms, too. If you have any of these symptoms and they last for a long time or get worse, please see a doctor to find out what’s going on.

Signs and symptoms of certain cancers

  • Change in bowel habits or bladder function
  • Sores that do not heal
  • White patches inside the mouth or white spots on the tongue
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Thickening or lump in the breast or other parts of the body
  • Indigestion or trouble swallowing
  • Recent change in a wart or mole or any new skin change
  • Nagging cough or hoarseness


Unexplained weight loss

Most people with cancer will lose weight at some point. When you lose weight for no known reason, it’s called an unexplained weight loss. An unexplained weight loss of 10 Kgs or more may be the first sign of cancer. This happens most often with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus (swallowing tube), or lung.


Fever

Fever is very common with cancer, but it more often happens after cancer has spread from where it started. Almost all people with cancer will have fever at some time, especially if the cancer or its treatment affects the immune system. (This can make it harder for the body to fight infection.) Less often, fever may be an early sign of cancer, such as blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma.


Fatigue

Fatigue is extreme tiredness that doesn’t get better with rest. It may be an important symptom as cancer grows. But it may happen early in some cancers, like leukemia. Some colon or stomach cancers can cause blood loss that’s not obvious. This is another way cancer can cause fatigue.


Pain

Pain may be an early symptom with some cancers like bone cancers or testicular cancer. A headache that does not go away or get better with treatment may be a symptom of a brain tumor. Back pain can be a symptom of cancer of the colon, rectum, or ovary. Most often, pain due to cancer means it has already spread (metastasized) from where it started.


Skin Changes

Along with skin cancers, some other cancers can cause skin changes that can be seen. These signs and symptoms include:

  • Darker looking skin (hyperpigmentation)
  • Yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Reddened skin (erythema)
  • Itching (pruritis)
  • Excessive hair growth


4. COMMON DISEASE GROUPS

  • Breast Cancer
  • Cervical and Ut erine Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Esophageal and Gastric Cancer
  • Genitourinary Cancers (Prostate, Urinary Bladder, Testicular, etc.)
  • Head & Neck Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Multiple myeloma/li>
  • Palliative Radiation Therapy
  • Soft tissue and bone sarcomas

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