Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions

  • About Cancer

  • What is Cancer?

    Cancer is an abnormal growth of a cell or a group of cells in the body. Cancer cells multiply in an uncontrolled manner, forming lumps or tumours. If these tumours are not destroyed or removed, cancer can spread very rapidly, eventually leading to morbidity.

  • How many kinds of tumours are there?

    There are two kinds of tumours – Malignant & Benign. A benign tumour is more common, and is generally harmless as it doesn’t spread to other parts of body. A malignant tumour, on the other hand, never stops growing until treated and can spread to other parts of the body. Cancer is the name given to a malignant growth.

  • Is cancer contagious or infectious?

    No. Cancer is not caused by a germ and it cannot be “caught” or transmitted from one person to another.

  • Is cancer a disease of the blood?

    No. Cancer cells may, however, move through the blood stream to other parts of the body.

  • How does cancer spread?

    Cancer cells either enter the walls of blood vessels and are carried by the blood stream to other parts of the body or they enter the lymphatic stream and are carried to the lymph glands. They can spread directly from one tissue to another.

  • How fast does cancer grow?

    There is no definite rate of growth of cancer tissue. Some cancers grow faster than others.

  • Is cancer a single disease?

    No. The term “cancer” includes all forms of malignant growth. Though we know of a wide variety, cancers have certain characteristics in common 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.

  • How can you tell if you have cancer?

    Though there are 7 early warning signs, the real tragedy is that cancer manifests very minor symptoms at first. 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 or FNAC i.e. examining a small portion of the tissue under a microscope. In advanced cases, physical examination alone may detect it.

  • Are cancer and leprosy related?

    No. Leprosy is caused by a germ. Both the symptoms and treatment for the two diseases are entirely different.

  • Is cancer a modern disease?

    As early as 3,000 BBC, Egyptian historians made references to tumours and ulcers. Mummies from the Gizeb Pyramids were found to have bone cancers . Over the years, our life styles and urbanisation i.e. tobacco, alcohol use, pollution, preserved and junk food etc. have caused an increase in the incidence of cancer.

  • 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, lung and skin are common in Britain and U.S.A. Cancers involving the oral cavity are more prevalent in India. In women, cancer of the breast, uterus and gall bladder are common.

  • What are your chances of getting cancer?

    One out of every 8 Indian develops cancer in his/her lifetime. There are about 8.5 lakh cancer patients in India alone (Year, 2000). Though cancer can occur at any age, the incidence is higher after the age of 40 to 45.

  • What Causes Cancer

  • What causes cancer?

    Though it is very difficult to pinpoint the definite cause,certain substances, known as carcinogens, can definitely increase your chances of getting cancer. For instance, people who smoke or chew tobacco are more prone to mouth, throat and lung cancer. Continued irritation of tissues can lead to cancer. Pollution, preserved food, smoked and junk foods are also contributory. Certain viruses can cause cancer (EBV, Hepatitis B, HPV). Amongst other known causes are inhalation of asbestos, arsenic, pitch, tar and exposure to ultra-violet rays.

  • Is cancer caused by a germ?

    There is no scientific evidence that cancer is directly caused by a germ. Although certain viruses are known to cause cancer, they form less than 2% of the cancer burden.

  • Does cancer come from a single bruise?

    No. A single injury to soft tissue or bone does not give rise to cancer.

  • Food and cancer?

    A high fat, low roughage western diet predisposes a person to colon cancer. A diet rich in animal fats contributes to breast cancer. Green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits contain certain antioxidants which prevent cancer. Recently tomato, ginger and cruciform vegetables have been found to have medicinal antioxidant properties. Avoid junk food, smoked and preserved food. Be vegetarian and prevent cancer!

  • Will irregularity in eating cause cancer of the stomach?

    There is no scientific evidence that it will, since cancer of the stomach may occur in people with regular eating habits.

  • Does eating hot food cause cancer?

    There is little evidence that the temperature of food is an important factor in the development of cancer, though recently very hot food has been correlated with food pipe cancer. Very spicy food may be related to stomach cancer as is evident from its high incidence in the Southern parts of India.

  • Does the use of alcohol bear any relation to cancer?

    Alcohol is a predisposing factor to the development of cancer of the oesophagus, laryngopharynx and liver.

  • Is cancer hereditary?

    There are probably some inherited tendencies that may lead to cancers of different types. The presence of cancer in one or both parents and/or close relatives should be a cause for greater alertness in looking for and recognising suspicious symptoms. However, one type of eye cancer known as Retinoblastoma can be inherited. Only 5% of breast cancers are considered hereditary.

  • Can cancer be transmitted by kissing or casual contact between persons and animals?

    No. There is no record of cancer having been transmitted by kissing or by any contact, accidental or otherwise, between individuals or between persons and animals.

  • Do corns become cancerous?

    Cancer may occur in any tissue of the body, but a simple corn does not, as a rule, develop into cancer.

  • Do freckles turn into cancer?

    Simple freckles do not. However, flat moles containing a bluish-black pigment and looking like dark freckles, may become cancerous and should be checked periodically.

  • Do piles turn into cancer?

    No. Piles or haemorrhoids are merely enlarged veins in the rectal wall. Cancer is occasionally found in the tissue above the haemorrhoids. Bleeding piles should be examined carefully to determine whether cancer is present. Rectal bleeding can occur due to cancer.

  • Can one’s mental condition influence the course of cancer?

    Cancer is a disease of the body’s cells. One’s mental condition has no direct effect on the course of the disease since this malignant change is apparently due to a physical process. But positive attitudes, fighting spirits and healthy thinking help you to cope with cancer better. These have an indirect , but definite bearing on response to cancer treatment.

  • Does radiation cause cancer? Do Cell phones cause Cancer?

    Indiscriminate use of X-rays may increase your chances of getting cancer. Lately, there are certain reports quoting higher incidences of Leukaemia and Brain Tumours in persons using Cell phones, but this needs further research.

  • How to Detect It

  • How can you tell if you have cancer without seeing a doctor?

    You are the first line of defence against cancer because you , alone, can recognise a danger signal. A regular thorough physical check-up is your best guard against cancer, plus an examination when one of the seven danger signals or warnings is present.

  • What are some of the early signs of cancer?

    The Seven Danger Signals of Cancer A) Change in bowel or bladder habits. B) A sore that does not heal. C) Unusual bleeding or discharge. D) Thickening or lump in breast or elsewhere. E) Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing. F) Obvious change in a wart or mole. G) Nagging cough or hoarseness You should consult a doctor at once upon the appearance of any of the above signs.

  • Is pain an early symptom of cancer?

    No, except in a cancer involving bone or nerve tissue. Pain usually is a late symptom and when it occurs, the growth is often far advanced.

  • Why should cancer be diagnosed and treated early?

    The sooner it is detected the less likely it is to have spread to other parts of the body. Early cancer can be cured.

  • How long it is safe to wait before consulting a physician?

    Any delay is dangerous. Go at once to a doctor and ask for a thorough examination.

  • Why are periodic examinations necessary?

    The earlier a cancer is treated , the greater are the chances of a cure. Through periodic examinations, cancer may be detected in its early stages, even before the individual has noticed any sign or symptom.

  • Where can you get a Cancer check-up?

    The Indian Cancer Society has all screening facilities. Any individual with or without warning signals can come for a check-up. Indian Cancer Society also operates a Mobile Medical van which offers screening at different locations.

  • What comprises a thorough cancer check-up?

    A thorough cancer check up means examination of all accessible body parts like head and neck, oral cavity, chest, abdomen, breast, vagina and rectum. Cancer screening also includes certain blood tests, X-ray chest, physical examination of the whole abdomen, mammogram, pap smear ( for women) and PSA (for men ). Clinical examination and all investigations are done at nominal rates at our facility.

  • Is the check-up painful?

    The check-up takes only an hour and is completely painless at our facility, 42 Babar Road, New Delhi. You do not need a prior appointment.

  • What is mammography?

    Mammography is a special X-ray examination of the breast tissues. It is a sensitive test that picks up early lesions of the breast.

  • What is a pap smear?

    The papanicolaou Test, (or pap smear) is a microscopic examination of the cells exfoliated from the uterus and cervix. The doctor takes a swab from the tissue surface for examination. This test warns patients of the presence of early pre-cancerous lesions.

  • Is bleeding always a sign of cancer?

    No. However, any unusual bleeding should be promptly and carefully investigated, to determine if it is due to cancer. Unnatural vaginal bleeding, especially after the age of 50 , should definitely be investigated.

  • Does blood in the stool indicate cancer?

    Stool streaked with bright red blood or the occurrence of black or “tarry” stools should lead to prompt and thorough investigation. The assumption that rectal bleeding is merely due to hemorrhoids, or piles, is most dangerous, since such bleeding may be due to multiple causes, including cancer.

  • Does blood in the urine indicate cancer?

    It may. But it may also be caused by conditions other than cancer. A careful examination is essential to rule out cancer.

  • Is it true that cancer generally develops among people in poor health?

    There is no known relation between the status of one’s health and the development of cancer. Poor genital or oral hygiene may be contributory factors.

  • How can we diagnose cancer of the stomach?

    Upper G-I endoscopy is the best investigation for diagnosing stomach cancer. A flexible tube (Endoscope) is passed through the mouth and introduced into the food pipe and stomach for telescopic visualization. A Biopsy will be required if any lesion is found.

  • How are cancers of the head and neck region diagnosed?

    Cancers in the head and neck region can be diagnosed by a simple clinical examination which includes visualisation of the oral cavity and voice box with the help of a head light and mirror. Any growth, ulcer or white patch is biopsied to confirm the clinical diagnosis. This is then reported by an experienced Histo-pathologist in the laboratory. In India more than 40% of male cancers are in mouth and throat.

  • What techniques are used to detect cancer?

    There is no substitute for a good clinical examination. Ultrasound, X-Rays, CT Scan, MRI & Mammography are some diagnostic imaging tools. Various blood tests (PSA, AFP) and endoscopic procedures are also available to clinch the diagnosis. Cytology (FNAC) or Biopsy of lesions is desirable before starting any treatment.

  • How to Treat It

  • How should cancer be treated?

    By surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of all these in the earliest possible stage of the disease. All these methods are available in India at various Hospitals. RGCI & RC provides all diagnostic and treatment facilities under one roof. The emphasis on cancer treatment should be on multimodal management.

  • Are radiation treatments good for all kinds of cancer?

    No. Treatment depends on the type and location of the growth. Some cancers will not respond to radiation but must be treated surgically or with hormones and chemotherapy. Your doctor is the best judge of the line of treatment to be followed.

  • How does Radiation act?

    Though Radiation destroys cancer cells during treatment, normal cells can also be damaged. Today,sophisticated machines are available which spare normal tissue and destroy cancer tissue with more precision.

  • What is Internal Radiation?

    Wires or tubes containing radioactive material are inserted into the cancerous growth or into the tissue surrounding it, and removed on conclusion of treatment. Radio-active material in suitable containers may also be placed in contact with the growth as in cancer of the cervix. Now a days, endo-luminal RT is also available for cancer of tubular structures like bronchus.

  • How effective is Surgery?

    Surgery is most effective in the early stages when cancer has not yet spread. Major advances in plastic and reconstructive surgery and anaesthesiology have ensured a very high degree of success.

  • What is Chemotherapy?

    Chemotherapy implies treatment with anti-cancer drugs and injections. Today we have a large number of highly effective drugs for cancer control.

  • What is Stem Cell Therapy?

    Stem cell transplant therapy is a treatment to try to cure some types of cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Stem cells are very early blood cells in the bone marrow that develop into RBCs, WBCs and Platelets.

  • Can the spread of cancer be stopped or retarded temporarily?

    Only sometimes. Certain types of cancerous growths which are generally not curable may be controlled temporarily by CT/Hormones/RT. Sooner or later, these growths fail to respond to further treatment.

  • Is cancer curable?

    More than 80% of cancers today are completely curable if treated early. At times, however, cures are sought after the cancers have been present for a long time. The type and stage of cancer have an important bearing on its curability.

  • Is it ever possible to state that a cancer has been completely cured ? If so, how much time must pass before the “cure” is recognised?

    After a patient has been treated and has remained cancer free for a period of five years, the chances for re-appearance of the tumour are slim . Occasionally , cancer recurs ten or twenty years later, so a lifelong follow up is a must for cancer patients.

  • If you have been cured of cancer, can you develop another cancer in the same place, or in some other part of the body?

    Yes. Regardless of a patient’s past medical history including the successful treatment of a previous cancer, he/she should be examined at regular intervals. Because of the tendency for cancer to re-appear at the place of a previously existing growth or nearby, a patient should have a regular follow up as advised by the Doctor. A new cancer may also appear at another location in the body.

  • Is there any known vaccine that can cure cancer?

    No. A vaccine is of value only against a disease caused by a germ. Cancer is not caused by a germ,therefore serums are of no value in its treatment. Nonetheless, research is ongoing to find tumour vaccines for different cancers. The HPV vaccine works on strains of this virus which may lead to cancer.

  • Is it ever safe to rely on salves to “cure” cancer?

    No. Pastes or salves cannot penetrate the tissues deep enough to destroy deep seated cancer cells.

  • What are the side effects of Chemotherapy?

    Chemotherapy has temporary side effects like nausea, vomiting, loss of hair and bone marrow suppression. Side effects of chemotherapy vary with the drug schedule used. They are generally and naturally reversible.

  • Will hormones cure cancer?

    There is evidence to indicate that treatment with certain hormones may prolong life and alleviate pain and suffering in certain breast and prostate cancers. Hormones are also useful as adjuvant after definitive treatment.

  • What is Immunotherapy?

    Immunotherapy is a new development based on the theory that the human body can be taught to defend itself against diseases including cancer. Immunotherapy is being tried in cancers like melanoma, renal cell carcinoma etc.

  • What is the latest and most successful of the recently reported cancer treatments?

    There is no single modality of treatment which can achieve cure. Emphasis is on multimodal treatment e.g. combination of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone treatment. Now gene therapy , stem cell therapy and immunotherapy are upcoming modes of treatment but they are still at the experimental stage.

  • Is any real progress being made in cancer research? Along what lines?

    A lot of progress has been made in cancer research where we have understood cancer behaviour better. Diagnostic facilities , Radiation techniques and Operative methods have improved hugely. Newer chemotherapy drugs have been launched and the time is not far when we will have gene therapy and vaccines for cancer treatment.

  • What are your chances of getting cured?

    More than 80% of patients treated adequately in the early stagescan be cured. Your chances of recovery are excellent if you report immediately and early for treatment.

  • Can you lead a normal life after cancer?

    The sooner you come for treatment, the better the quality of life after cancer. Most cancer patients can return to their normal lives even during treatment.

  • Cancer in Women

  • Do more women than men die of cancer?

    No.The misconception that cancer is primarily a woman’s disease is due to the frequency of cancer of the breast and cancer of the reproductive organs in women in comparison with the more varied occurrence of cancers in men.

  • Does cancer occur more frequently among married or single women?

    There is evidence that above the age of 40, the cancer death rate is higher among single women compared to that of married women . Single women have higher death rates from cancer of the breast and married women have more cancer of the cervix. Physicians believe that having the first child around the age of 25 is a preventive against cancer of the breast. Multiple sexual partners increase the risk of cancer of the cervix.

  • Is there danger in watching a lump in the breast to “see what happens?”

    Yes, a very grave danger. Time is the most important factor in the control of cancer and waiting to “see what happens” may permit a curable cancer to become incurable. This may allow it to spread to other parts of body and make the treatment more difficult.

  • Are all breast lumps cancerous?

    No. Only a small percentage of lumps are cancerous. Careful physical examination and mammography can differentiate benign from malignant lumps. Biopsy & FNAC of lumps by a competent pathologist can clinch the diagnosis.

  • What precautions should be taken to avoid cancer of the breast?

    Every women above the age of 35 should be taught how to examine her own breasts every month, after her periods. Screening Mammography , once every two years, should be encouraged for women 40 years of age onwards . Soon we will have genetic markers to detect high risk in women who are likely to develop breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

  • How should you examine your breasts?

    Self examination of the breast should be done in the following ways after periods are over. Post menopausal women should also examine their breasts once a month. i) Sit or stand in front of a mirror. With your arms relaxed at your sides, examine your breasts carefully for any changes in size and shape. Look for any puckering or dimpling of the skin, and for any discharge or change in the nipples. Compare one breast with the other. ii) Raise both your arms over your head and look for exactly the same changes. See if there is any change since you last examined your breasts. iii) Feel for a lump or thickening in the breast tissues. Lie on your bed or on the floor. Put a pillow or a bath towel under your left shoulder and place your left hand under your head. With the fingers of your right hand held together flat, press gently but firmly with small circular motions to feel the inner and upper quarter of your left breast, starting at your breast bone and going outward toward the nipple. Now feel the areas around the nipple. iv) With the same gentle pressure, feel the lower and inner parts of your breast. v) Now bring your left arm down to your side, and still using the flat part of your fingers,feel under your armpit. vi) Use the same gentle pressure to feel the upper, outer quarter of your breast from the nipple line to where your arm is resting. vii) And finally, feel the lower, outer section of your breast, proceeding from the outer part to the nipple. Repeat the entire procedure, for the right breast.

  • What precautions should be taken to avoid cancer of the uterus (womb)?

    Have all unnatural vaginal discharges investigated. Up to the age of thirty-five , have an annual examination by a Gynaecologist. Bleeding after the age of 50 yrs.(after menopause) calls for an immediate examination by a physician. Avoid multiple sex partners. Cervix cancer can be prevented by regular screening.

  • Do uterine fibroids ever become cancerous?

    Fibroid tumours only very rarely undergo malignant changes.

  • Cancer and You

  • Does cancer usually cost more to cure than other major diseases?

    It often does, depending upon the type of cancer you have and how much must be done to treat it. Many hospitals provide free treatment to those who cannot afford to pay.

  • Why are quacks dangerous?

    For the following reasons, among others : i) Few quacks are medically trained; therefore, they have no fundamental knowledge about cancer. ii) Going to a quack causes the patient to lose valuable time that should be used in obtaining correct treatment. iii) The pastes and “medicines” used by quacks have no value in curing cancer. iV) The quack takes the patient’s money under false pretences, thus depriving him of the means for obtaining competent, timely treatment.

  • How can I differentiate between a quack and a reputable physician?

    A person advertising a guaranteed cure or employing a method of diagnosis or treatment not generally accepted or endorsed by the medical profession, may be classed a Quack. No reputed, ethical physician will do any of these things.

  • What is Home Care Service?

    Home Care Services are provided to those patients vwho are terminally ill and with whom all treatment modalities have been exhausted. These facilities are provided free of cost. Doctors, Psychologists, Nursing Staff and Technicians visit the homes of these patients and provide advice regarding nursing care, medicines etc.

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