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What is cancer ?

Updated: Jul 28, 2021

Took a oath “I pledge to be healthy for myself, my family & community and this is a commitment”, the pledge for health always, with an attentive and chirpy group of ITians in Aundh, where I delivered a talk on Cancer. They inspired me to write about Cancer.

Cancer the most dreaded word!! A disease identified to be associated with debility, painful treatments and death!! Let’s fight it ! Many myths prevail and a lot of fear there in? What is cancer? And can it be prevented or avoided? Let us address this issue here.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease which occurs due to disordered unlimited growth of cells within an organ. Each and every organ in our body is composed of cells which have a specific function to perform within the organ and these cells when come together as group is called as tissue. And various such cells form the organ e.g. the womb of a woman consists of muscles, glandular cells, connecting cells, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels .Each of these have a function to perform but the basic unit of each one of them is a cell . This cell is supposed to multiply and grow .But every growth is limited and within a predetermined boundary. When this growth is unlimited within the organ or outside the confines of the organ which spreads close by or at a distance it is called as cancer or malignancy.

What causes the cell to multiply in such an unlimited way to cause cancer?

Various such stimuli have been identified which influence the nucleus of the cell to cause cancerous unlimited growth. These stimuli are viruses, some chemicals and sometimes some unidentified factors.

What are the indicators of cancer?

Many times there are no indicators of cancer. The signs sometimes can be nonspecific .It’s observed that by the time there are symptoms the disease is usually wide spread. Before indicators it is important to understand the risk factors of cancer. Many cancers have some risk factors.It is smart to understand these risk factors.

What are these risk factors?

Obesity has been identified to be risk factor for cancer of the uterus lining called as the endometrium, cancer of the breast and colon ( large bowel ) .Early age of sexual exposure and pregnancy , tobacco have been identified as risk factors for cancer of the womb . Eating smoked food, alcohol, chronic indigestions and acidity can be risk factors for cancer of the stomach and the colon. Family history of cancer can be responsible for breast cancer and certain colonic and ovarian cancers.

Can we prevent cancer?

Prevention of cancer can be brought about by adopting a healthy lifestyle. As in many instances it seems to be a result of serious culmination of abnormal lifestyle practices. E.g. excessive alcoholism combined with very spicy food and smoking results in built up of hydrocarbons at the very delicate interface of the lining of the gut and predispose to ulcerations leading to cancer. Chronic anemia has been identified to predispose to cancer of the womb neck (cervix) as well as the food pipe (esophagus).Early initiation of sexual exposure (before 19 years of age especially) and multiple sexual partners (also in the male partner) are identified risks also for cancer cervix. .(FOR CANCER CERVIX : READ : Nutritional deficiencies such as folate and vitamin B12 are identified to predispose to cancers.

Vaccinations have been invented to prevent against HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) related cancers of the cervix. It has been discovered some 20 years since that cancer cervix is caused by the HPV which enters in the delicate cervix covering (epithelium) and roost there over a period of time and program the cells of this tissue to undergo unlimited growth leading to ulceration or growth which is called as cancer

Immunity plays an important role in determining the acquisition and the further spread of cancer. It’s our responsibility to ourselves and our family that we maintain good health through strong immunity. Good diet, exercise and stress free living help in achieving a good immunity.

What are the symptoms which are associated with cancer?

In case of breast cancer it can be a lump or a thick fibrous structure felt in the breast tissue. Excessive menstrual bleeding , contact bleeding ( bleeding after sexual intercourse ) ,lump in the tummy , bleeding at stools , bleeding in vomitus , anemia not responding to treatment , acidity vomiting etc. can be some symptoms .Many times it can be diagnosed incidentally when you have been evaluated for some other disorder.

Cancer is known to spread and advanced cancers are serious!?

If this unlimited growth extends  beyond the tissue and the organ it will spread by direct continuity to the close by tissues , through lymphatic channels ( tissue fluid channels in the entire body draining to bean like structure the lymph nodes) or blood to distant organs such as lungs, brain and bones. Based on these levels of spread the cancer is staged and based on its tissue diagnosis it is graded. This guides  the doctor to plan the treatments and predict the feasibly of complete cure or need of any long tem treatment .so diagnosis and detection in the early stages is better.

Can cancer be completely cured?

Yes it can be if detected in its early stages when it is confined within the organ affected and has not spread beyond this at distant organs .Thus early detection is important . This is possible if regular checkups and paying heed to some symptoms is undertaken. E.g. cancer of the cervix can be diagnosed in its early stages if a woman undertakes pap tests ( regularly as suggested by the doctor. Regular breast examination (get a clinical breast examination done and take guidance for the same) done by self-examination or by a clinician can help detect breast cancers early.

Important points to ponder…..

It’s important that we live healthily. Correct weight management, regular exercise is vital. Remember our body needs to be motile we are not trees who are static. We are evolved animals and the penultimate creation of GOD (OR atheists would say evolution). Exercises help in moving the lymph the blood and proper oxygenation. Good nutritive diet helps in enhancing the immunity .These lifestyle disciplines have to be inculcated and adopted as a responsibility for a healthy life.

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