Patient FAQ's

You beat cancer by knowing how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.

About Cancer

Cancer is a common name for a group of diseases characterised by uncontrolled proliferation of abnormal cells. Cell division is the mainstay of human life. Human body is made up of several organs like brain, lung, liver, stomach etc. and each organ is made up of cells. Organs and tissues are constituted by cells characteristic of that organ. Cells divide for growth of an organ, for repairing tissue damage and to maintain functions of the organ. The divided cells are the exact replica of the parent cell. Sometimes due to some faulty mechanism or due to factors which are unknown yet, the divided cells are abnormal i.e., their structure is not the same as that of its parent cells. They cannot discharge the functions like the normal cells but requires the same food as the normal cells. These cells start dividing and a large number of abnormal cells are produced. As a result of the proliferation of abnormal cells the body organs do not function normally and the persons nutrition is impaired rapidly. These cells cluster to form lumps, swellings, and sometimes produce ulcers in the respective organs.

However in the case of blood cancer -- Leukaemia - the abnormal cells start circulating throughout the blood streams so, no visible lump or swellings are observed. (Cancer is known by its different types like sarcoma, lymphoma, leukaemia, myeloma, carcinoma etc.). The most important characterisitc of cancer is that the cancer cells breakaway from the tissue or organ of origin and starts spreading to other parts of the body through lymphatic channels or cavities or blood vessels. They then deposit themselves in other parts of the body where it grows again. This is known as the metastasis. Because of this unique characterisitc it becomes difficult to cure or to control cancer when it has spread.

The exact mechanism of transformation of normal cells to become cancerous is still not known. However, several factors are known to produce cancer-like tobacco in the form of smoking and chewing, alchohol, radiation, asbestos, certain chemicals, excessive fat consumption, viruses etc.
No. A lump can occur in any part of the body which may or may not contain cancer cells. Some of these lumps may grow to large sizes and produce ulcers. Because of this, they interfere with normal functions of nearby organs. However, they will not cause death and they can easily be removed by surgery and usually will not recur. They donot spread to other parts of the body. Such tumours are known as Benign tumours ie. harmless tumours. Cancer also can occur asa lump or tumour. A cancer is known as a malignant tumour. It is characterised specially by its potential to spread to other sites and to infiltrate the organ.
Cancer affects different body organs due to a variety of factors and in India there are variations in the occurence and pattern of cancer. However, in our men, the majority of all cancers are found in mouth and throat, lung, stomach, gullet etc. and in women, they are found in large numbers in uterus[cervix], breast, mouth and throat.
Certain cancers are seen to occur in families. This does not mean that the disease has been transmitted from parent to children through genetic material. The same life style usually run in families and this could as well be the reason.Scientists believe that if there is a hereditary component, its effect is indeed very little.
The best treatment method for cancer depends on several factors, of which the most important are the site of cancer, type of cancer, spread of the disease when diagnosed, general health of the patient etc. Some cancers are best removed by operation and are cured by this method. For some other types the best treatment is radiation: given externally, [Teletherapy] which is administered with Cobalt or Linear accelerator units or by inserting radioactive needles [radium,caesium. Cobalt etc.] into the body [Brachy therapy] or by combining both external and brachy therapy methods. Certain cancers are treated by drugs [chemotherapy] only. Very often some cancers need all the three methods of treatment. The treating doctor choses the best method considering several of the above factors. In some cases surgery will remove a portion of the tumour, then treatment is continued by radiation. Radiation is given also to shrink the tumour so that a removal of the tumour by surgery can be done later.
First it has to be understood that all the side effects are temporary and will vanish in course of time. Depending on the site of radiation treatment, the symptoms will vary. Diarrhoea, dryness of mouth, mouth soreness, difficulty in swallowing, loss of appetite and taste and abdominal cramps are some of the side effects due to radiation. Chemotherapeutic drugs also can cause severe discomfort. Loss of hair, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, anaemia are some of the severe complaints. As in the case of sickness caused by radiotherapy, the sickness caused by chemotherapy also vanishes 2 to 3 weeks after completion of treatment.
If you miss an appointment during your prescribed treatment, it will extend your treatment course by a day. We strongly recommend that you attempt to make all appointments as prescribed by your radiation oncologist. Keep in mind that the treatments are generally given Monday through Friday. Weekend treatments are given in emergency cases.
The side effects of radiation treatment vary from patient to patient. You may have no side effects or only a few mild ones through your course of treatment. Some people do experience serious side effects, however. The side effects that you are likely to have depend primarily on the radiation dose and the part of your body that is treated. Your general health also can affect how your body reacts to radiation therapy and whether you have side effects. Before beginning your treatment, your doctor and nurse will discuss the side effects you might experience, how long they might last, and how serious they might be.

Clinical trials — also called research studies — test new treatments in people with cancer to find better ways to treat the disease.

Clinical trials test new:

  • Cancer drugs
  • Treatment methods, such as gene therapy

The three phases of clinical trials:

  • Phase I clinical trials are the first step in testing a new treatment in humans. This first phase is where researchers are looking for a better way to help cancer patients.
  • Phase II trials decide whether the new treatment has an anticancer effect.
  • Phase III trials compare the new cancer treatment with the results of standard treatment.
Each cancer research study has certain entry requirements for potential participants. To see if a patient qualifies, the doctor who serves as the study's principal investigator will look at how each patient who applies meets those requirements.
  • You may gain access to new drugs and other treatments, sometimes years before they are widely available.
  • You will be monitored closely for any side effects.
  • You will have the chance to take an active role in your own healthcare.
  • A clinical trial can sometimes require more time and medical attention than normal care. This can include doctor visits, phone calls, more treatments, a hospital stay, or a more complicated treatment regimen. (Ask your doctor for information about the trial you are considering.)
  • The treatment might not work.
  • The treatment might cause serious side effects.
  • Even if a new approach helps some patients, it might not help you.

Patients generally do not have to pay extra out-of-pocket costs for treatments studied as part of a trial. Every trial is different, but the clinical trial’s sponsor usually pays for all research-related costs and any special testing.

Typically, the patient or his or her insurance company is asked to pay for any routine tests, treatments, or procedures that would be required as part of standard cancer treatment. Before you join a clinical trial, you will receive an informed consent document that spells out exactly what you’ll have to pay for and what you won’t.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal, cancerous cells in one or both of the lungs. Lumps of these cells form cancerous tumours that make it difficult for the lung to function properly.

Smoking is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer. Smoking causes around 90% of lung cancers.

There are benefits from quitting, once you stop smoking, your risk of lung cancer starts to go down. 10 years after you've given up, your lung cancer risk is about half that of a smoker.

This is a tricky one because sometimes there aren't any symptoms of lung cancer. One in four people don’t even have symptoms when their lung cancer is advanced. In other people, symptoms that may suggest lung cancer can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing that doesn't go away
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

In some of these people, exposure to secondhand smoke. Yes nonsmokers can - and do - get lung cancer. Some cases of lung cancer develop after a long-time smoker has quit, although the risk decreases with time.

To treat lung cancer, surgery to remove the tumour, radiotherapy (X-rays directed at the site of the tumour that kill or shrink cancer cells), chemotherapy (drugs that kill all fast-growing cells in the body including cancer cells), and experimental treatments are all part of your doctors toolbox. Before deciding on which treatment or combination of treatments is right for you, your doctor will have to determine how advanced your lung cancer is, a process called staging.

The best way to prevent lung cancer is to avoid smoking and to avoid breathing in other people's smoke. If you smoke, quit. While the risk for former smokers remains elevated when compared to a non-smoker, it continues to fall with each year of smoking cessation. In fact, 10 years after you've given up, your lung cancer risk is about half that of a smoker.

There is some evidence that eating a healthy diet rich in fibre, fruit and vegetables may help reduce the risk of lung cancer.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs when a malignant tumor forms in the breast tissue. The cancer can be found in the breast itself or in the ducts and lymph nodes that surround the breast.

When cancer spreads from its original location in the breast to another part of the body such as the brain, it is called metastatic breast cancer, not brain cancer. Doctors sometimes call this "distant" disease.

All cancers involve changes in a person's genes. Usually, several changes are required before a cancer develops. If a person inherits a genetic mutation (change or defect), from a parent, that person has a higher risk for developing cancer. It is currently believed that less than 10% of breast cancers involve an inherited genetic mutation. Most happen because of genetic mutations that occur during the person's lifetime. If a woman's mother, grandmother, aunts, or sisters developed breast cancer before menopause, she may have a greater chance of getting breast cancer than a woman with no family history. The same gene may increase risk for ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. Genetic testing may help determine if a woman has inherited a breast cancer gene.

A mammogram may be slightly uncomfortable, but it shouldn't hurt. In order to get a clear picture, the breast is compressed between two flat plates. It lasts only a few seconds. It is a good idea to schedule a mammogram after your menstrual period when your breasts are less likely to be tender.

Breast cancer is not contagious. A woman cannot "catch" breast cancer from other women who have the disease. Also, breast cancer is not caused by an injury to the breast. Most women who develop breast cancer do not have any known risk factors or a history of the disease in their families.

Some studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of breast cancer. The benefit appears to be related to how long the woman breastfeeds. This is a difficult thing to study in the U.S., but 1½ years of breastfeeding seems to be needed to impact risk.

Injuries to the breasts do not cause breast cancer to develop. Often injuries lead to the discovery of a tumor because it causes women to pay more attention to their breasts, but bumps and bruises do not cause tumors to appear.

When breast cancer first develops, there may be no symptoms at all. But as the cancer grows, it can cause changes that women should watch for. You can help safeguard your health by learning the following warning signs of breast cancer.

  • a lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
  • a change in the size or shape of the breast
  • a dimple or puckering in the skin of the breast
  • a nipple turned inward into the breast
  • fluid, other than breast milk, from the nipple, especially if it's bloody
  • scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin around the nipple)
  • dimples in the breast that look like the skin of an orange.

Standard treatments for breast cancer include

  • surgery that takes out the cancer and some surrounding tissue
  • radiation therapy that uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors and some surrounding tissue.
  • chemotherapy that uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer most cells
  • hormone therapy that keeps cancer cells from getting most of the hormones they need to survive and grow

Colo-Rectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon and rectum that begins with the development of pre-cancerous polyps from the lining of the colon and rectum.

Polyps are mushroom-like growths that form when cells lining the colon grow, divide and reproduce in an unhealthy, disorderly way. Polyps can become cancerous over time, invading the colon wall and surrounding blood vessels, and spreading to other parts of the body.

The exact causes of colorectal cancer are unknown, but the disease appears to be caused by both inherited and lifestyle factors. Lifestyle factors - such as cigarette smoking, lack of physical exercise, and obesity - may increase the risk of developing the disease. Genetic factors may determine a person's susceptibility to the disease,whereas dietary and other lifestyle factors may determine which at-risk individuals actually go on to develop the disease. Most of the time no identifiable cause is found for the development of colorectal cancer in any given individual, and it is simply due to random genetic changes that have occurred in the cells lining the colon or rectum.

Men and women ages 50 or older are at almost equal risk of developing colorectal cancer. Those who have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps are at higher risk of developing the disease. Anyone who has a long-term personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn's Disease) also is at higher risk.

See your doctor for yearly screenings if you are aged 50 or older. Be sure to maintain a diet low in animal fat and high in fruits, vegetables and fiber. Get regular exercise and avoid cigarette smoking. Keep alcohol consumption in moderation. Colon Cancer screening tests can identify and allow removal of pre-cancerous polyps and prevent the development of cancer.

Screening tests are the best way to find and remove polyps before they become cancerous, or to find an early cancer, when treatment can be most effective. Several screening options exist. These include the fecal occult blood test (FOBT), flexible sigmoidoscopy, double contrast barium enema, and colonoscopy. Patients should talk to their colorectal surgeon or other healthcare provider to find out which screening method is right for them.

Colon and rectal surgeons are experts in the surgical and non-surgical treatment of diseases of the colon, rectum and anus. They have completed advanced surgical training in the treatment of these diseases as well as full general surgical training. Board-certified colon and rectal surgeons complete residencies in general surgery and colon and rectal surgery, and pass intensive examinations conducted by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery. They are well-versed in the treatment of both benign and malignant diseases of the colon, rectum and anus and are able to perform routine screening examinations and surgically treat conditions if indicated to do so.