In the last few decades, occurrence of non-communicable disease such as cancer is on the rise in India. Cancer harms the body because certain sets of cells divide uncontrollably to form lumps or masses of tissue called tumors. If these tumors grow to a considerable size, they are capable of interfering with body functions and damaging proper functioning of the nervous, circulatory and digestive systems.
Though 80-90% of all cancers are on account of environmental exposures, the most predominant cause is unhealthy lifestyle habits.
- Tobacco : Tobacco consumption either in the form of chewing or smoking accounts for 50% of cancers diagnosed in men.
- Hereditary : Certain types of cancer such as ovarian, breast, colon and prostrate are caused as a result of the genetic predisposition of the individual.
- Diet & Physical Activity : Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as the poor diet, excess alcohol and negligible physical activity coupled with being obese can also increase a person’s cancer risk.
Cancers are categorized based on the type of cells that the tumor cells resemble:-
- Carcinoma : These are cancers derived from epithelial cells – breast, pancreas, lung, prostrate and colon.
- Sarcoma : These are cancers originating from connective tissue such bone, cartilage, fat and nerve.
- Lymphoma or leukemia : These cancers arise from blood-forming cells that leave the bone marrow and mature in the lymph nodes and blood.
- Germ cell tumor : These cancers originate from pluripotent cells such as testicular and ovarian
- Blastoma : These cancers are derived from immature cells or embryonic tissue
Common signs and symptoms of cancer include unexplained weight loss, fever, extreme tiredness, and chronic headaches among others. Most cancers can be cured if detected early, making personalized screening and accurate clinical examination an absolute must.
- Surgical Oncology : Surgery is used to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. Once cancer is detected, staging surgery is carried out to gauge the extent of the spread of cancerous cells. Post this, some of the techniques utilized are laser surgery to burn and destroy harmful cells, cryosurgery using liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill abnormal cells, radiofrequency ablation by sending out radio waves to heat and destroy cancerous growth and many more.
- Radiation Oncology : Radiation therapy involves the usage of ionizing radiation to effectively damage the DNA of cancerous cells and killing them. The radiations vary from low energy x-rays for skin cancers to high-energy ones for internal cancers.
- Chemotherapy : This is the treatment of cancer using cytotoxic or anti-neuplastic drugs in a standardized fashion. These agents act by killing cancerous cells to stop their rapid division. Targeted chemotherapy is a type of treatment that leverages the molecular differences between normal and cancerous cells and inhibits continual growth.
- Prevention Oncology : Preventive or prophylactic surgery is done to remove body tissue that is likely to become cancer – even if there are no signs of cancer at the time of the surgery. In some cases, an entire organ is removed when if there is a high risk of that organ getting infected with cancer. This surgery helps reduce cancer risk , but doesn’t guarantee cancer prevention.
- Palliative Care : Palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach to specialized medical care for people with incurable illnesses. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, physical and mental stress. The goal of such therapy is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family.