An Introduction to Cancer

By Dr. Sajal Kakkar in Cancer Care / Oncology

Jan 31 , 2022 | 2 min read


Cancer is a group of conditions where the body cells begin to grow and reproduce in an uncontrolled manner. These cells can then invade and destroy healthy tissues. The cells become cancerous or malignant because of DNA damage. This damage can be inherited, or can be caused by mistakes happening while the normal cell is reproducing or by an environmental stimulus like tobacco. Cancer cells may travel to other parts of the body, where they begin to grow and form new tumors. This is known as metastases. It happens when cells get into the blood stream or lymph vessels.

How common is cancer

Approximately 12,00,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed in India every year. As per the latest National Cancer Registry data, one in eight men and one in nine women in India will develop some form of cancer. The incidence of cancer and cancer types are influenced by many factors such as age, sex, race, local environmental factors, diet, and genetics. In males, lung followed by oral cavity and throat cancers are the most common, while cervical and breast cancers are the commonest ones diagnosed in females in India.

Check out the bone cancer causes

Types of cancer

There are over 200 types of cancers, but most fit into the following categories:

  1. Carcinoma

    Cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.

  2. Sarcoma

    Cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscles, or other connective tissue.

  3. Leukaemia

    Cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as bone marrow.

  4. Lymphoma & Myeloma

    Cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system. 

Spotting signs of Cancer

It is important to be aware of unexplained changes to your body. The typical sign and symptoms are:

  1. Changes in bowel/bladder habits – Diarrhoea/constipation for no obvious reasons, frequency/urgency while passing urine.
  2. A Sore that doesn’t heal.
  3. Unusual Bleeding or Discharge – Unexplained blood in urine, stool, between periods, in vomit, cough.
  4. Thickening or Lump – Consult a doctor if you notice a lump anywhere in your body.
  5. Indigestion or Difficulty in Swallowing
  6. Obvious change in wart or mole.
  7. Nagging Cough/Breathlessness/Hoarseness - If you have had a cough, breathlessness for more than two weeks, or if you had blood in your phlegm.

What to do if you have worrying symptoms

  1. Consult your doctor – He will ask simple questions, examine you, and may ask for some tests.
  2. If he/she suspects cancer, then he would refer to an Oncologist.

How to reduce your risk of developing cancer

  1. STOP smoking or tobacco use in any form.
  2. Be physically active.
  3. Eat a healthy, less calorie, low fat diet.
  4. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  5. Protect your skin from sun, avoid over-exposure.

Treatment of Cancer

Cancer management is a team work which that involves:

  1. Surgery

    It refers to the total removal of tumor, if possible, with adjacent normal-looking tissue to take care of microscopic disease.

  2. Radiotherapy

    It uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells.

  3. Systemic Therapy

    It uses drugs to destroy cancer cells and includes cancer chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.