What is Cancer ?
In simple terms, cancer is an abnormal growth of body cells. Each one of us is born with a potential for cancer. One can not “Catch” it as one would an infection or a cold. When the programming of a cell or a group of cells is affected, growth may become uncontrolled. Some of the factors that can alter the code are chronic irritation, tobacco, smoke and dust, radioactive substances, age, sex, race and heredity . While one cannot control many of these factors , we need to be aware of the ones we can control of. Prevention is definately better than treatment of cancer. No one yet talks of cure, treatment
What is the difference between normal and malignant cells?
Normal cells grow in a well regulated pattern. When cancer sets in, a group of cells suddenly starts multiplying in a haphazard and uncontrolled way, forming lumps or tumours. a malignant tumour never stops growing and can spread to other parts of the body.
Broadly, There are 19 cancers that can be generally related to life style.
- Cancer of the Bladder. This is a slow growing cancer, and responds well to treatment. Tobacco and chronic irritation are prime causes. House Painters, hair dressers, truck drivers, textile workers and printers are at a risk due to the chemicals they are constantly in touch. Blood in urine and painful passing of urine are symptoms to beware.
- Breast Cancer. Women who have mensurated early, with late or no pregnancies, late menopause, who have not breast fed their babies, are particularly at risk. If there is a family history of cancer – your mother, sister, massi or naani – please treat it as an early warning sign. Learn and practice Breast Self Examination, and have Mammograms as recommended by your gynaecologist. Evaluate diet too, too much of fat in your diet is a certain culprit. Selenium found in the soft bones of the fish , as well as whole grain protect against breast cancer. Excercise on regular basis.
- Cervical Cancer. The most common of women’s cancer in India . This is a slow growing cancer that can easily be detected by a Pap smear. Not all Dysplasia become cancerous, women who mensurate early, marry early, with many sex partners, many children and poor anti natal care, as well as poor genital hygiene are likely to get this cancer. Intake of vitamin A and C and B folate are good as preventives. Intake of tobacco increases the chances of getting this cancer by 50%
- Colorectal Cancer. This is linked to high fat and low fibre diet. It is a rich mans’ disease, and prevalent in the richer countries. Diarrhoea, pain in the abdomen, lower back or bladder, or a change in bowel habits are symptoms of this cancer.
- Esophagal Cancer. Tobacco and alcohol predispose you to this cancer. Also pickled foods and too much spice. Symptoms are trouble in swallowing, choking, pain and spasms in the throat. Vitamin A and C are recommended as retardents.
- Cancer In the Eyes. It can be of several types. Intense exposure to U/V rays of the sun may cause it. Light eyed persons are at greater risk of melanoma.
- Kidney Cancer. It affects most men than women. Blood in the urine, backache, fullness or lumps in the upper abdomen, loss of appetite, are signs of Renal Cell Cancer. Renal pelvic cancers affect people over age of 60 years. Battery makers, eletro-platers, and rubber workers are at particular risk. Tobacco, cadmium, high protein and sacchrine are prime suspects.
- Laryngeal Cancers. Hoarseness and discomfort in the throat are symptoms to look out for . Tobacco, alcohol, asbestos and nickel are suspected causes.
- Liver Cancers. They may be primary or secondary. Symptoms are loss of appetite, weigh loss, abdominal swelling, pain , fever and jaundice. Cirrhosis is closely linked with cancer of the liver. Avoid alcohol, vinyl chloride (plastics), drug abuse, aflatoxins from fungus on peanuts.
- Lung Cancers. 90% of these can be attributed to smoking.Women are catching up on men smokers. Pollution in the cities has increased chances lung cancer . To counter the toxicity of pollution, increase intake of green leafy vegetables and yellow and orange fruit. Symptoms may include persistent cough, weight loss and loss of appetite.
- Oral Cancers. They are the most common cancers in India . They include cancers of the mouth, tongue and oral cavity. This is definately a life style induced cancer. Smoking, chewing of tobacco, and alcohol intake, coupled with indequate Vitamin A and B complex are causes.
- Ovarian Cancers. They affect mostly post menopausal women. It affects women with few or no children, with a history of menses problems or other cancers. Symptoms are constipation, flatulence, water retention, a need to urinate, pain , swelling or nausea.
- Cancer of the Pancreas. There is no known cure for this cancer. Symptoms are abdominal pain, jaundice, loss of appetite or weight loss. It is recommended that you abstain from tobacco use, follow a low fat diet, eat fruit and vegetables, moderately fried or grilled foods. Margrine not butter is a suspect
- Prostrate Cancer. The silent killer. Men over 50 years should include PSA (Prostrate Sensitive Antigen) test in their annual medical routine.
- Skin Cancers. They are more common in white skinned people. People with light eyes and hair are at risk. Look out for moles that grow dark and uneven, itch or change color and out line.
- Stomach Cancer. They are slow growing and hard to treat. People with Blood group A and who have pernicious aenemia are at risk. Eat plenty of raw veg-cruciform, or dark green and yellow vegatables with vitamin A and C are best. Avoid highly salted or smoked or pickled foods.
- Testicular Cancer. Men with undescended testicals are at risk. Enlargement of one testicle, dragging ache in the lower abdomen are signs to beware of. Regular Self Examination is strongly recommended.
- Thyroid Cancers. They are common in women of child bearing age. Survivors of nuclear holocasts at Bikini Atoll, Nagasaki and Hiroshima suffered these cancers due to exposure to radiation.
- Uterine Cancer. It affects women over 50 years. Hormone treatment, high fat diets, smoking and drinking, obesity, diabetes and high BP are risk factors. The Pap smear is again an early warning tool.
Indian Cancer Society publishes literature, for information of the lay public, on the mentioned types. These are available on request, free of cost.