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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are all the queries about Cancer answered for you.

When cancer cells break away from a tumor, they can travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymph system (Lymph vessels are much like blood vessels, except they carry a clear fluid and immune system cells).

No. However, men are more susceptible to lung, testes, prostate and oral cancers and women to breast and cervix cancers.

Cancer of the mouth, throat, gullet, stomach, rectum, larynx, lung, skin and brain are all more common in men than in women. Gallbladder and thyroid cancers are more frequent in women.

Common cancers in men are:

  • Lip/oral cavity
  • Lung
  • Colorectum
  • Prostate
  • Pharynx

While among women most common cancers are:

  • Breast
  • Cervix
  • Colorectum
  • Ovary
  • Lip/oral cavity

Largely, no. There are probably some inherited tendencies that may lead to cancers of different types. The presence of cancer in one or both parents and/or close relatives should be a cause for greater alertness in looking for and recognising suspicious symptoms. However, one type of eye cancer known as Retinoblastoma can be inherited.

Some cancers are genetically linked and may run in families but not all the cancers are hereditary. Cancer is a common disease and many families have at least a few members who have had cancer. This is because family members have certain risk factors in common, such as smoking, which can cause many types of cancer. It can also be due to other factors, like obesity, that tend to run in families and influence cancer risk. But most cancers are not clearly linked to the genes we inherit from our parents. Some features of genetically linked cancers are:

  • Cancers occurring at younger ages than usual (like colon cancer in a 20 year old)
  • More than one type of cancer in a single person (like a woman with both breast and ovarian cancer)
  • Cancers occurring in both of a pair of organs (both eyes, both kidneys, both breasts)
  • More than one childhood cancer in a set of siblings (like sarcoma in both a brother and a sister)
Cancer is not a contagious or infectious disease that easily spreads from person to person. It cannot spread through close contact like touching, sharing meals or breathing the same air

A person can lead a normal life after cancer but one has to go for regular checkups and follow up. But beyond initial recovery, there are ways to improve long-term health so that one can enjoy the years to come.

The recommendations for cancer survivors are similar to healthy individuals i.e. balanced diet, exercise, healthy weight, reduce stress, good sleep, avoid tobacco and limit the amount of alcohol.

Cancer does not develop more quickly in children and is much more common in older people. The commonest cancers in children in India are leukemia and lymphoma.

Eating a healthy balanced diet is important for keeping a healthy body weight as obesity increases the risk of cancer.

Some foods can also affect cancer risk:

  • Foods like fruits, vegetables and foods high in fibre can reduce the risk of cancer
  • Salt preserved foods can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer
  • A diet high in processed and red meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer
Alcohol is a predisposing factor to the development of cancer of the oesophagus, laryngopharynx and liver.
There is no scientific evidence that cancer is directly caused by a germ. Although certain viruses are known to cause cancer, they form less than 2% of the cancer burden.
Cancer cannot result from sexual intercourse but Human PapillomaVirus (HPV) which increases the risk of certain cancers is transmitted through sexual contact. However not everyone who has HPV will develop cancer because of it. Other factors are also involved.

It is best to schedule a mammogram a week after the menstrual period as the breasts are least likely to be tender during this period. Also, it is best to avoid using deodorants, antiperspirants, powder etc on the day of the mammogram as metallic particles in deodorants and powders can show up on mammograms and at times cause confusion.

Preparation prior to a Pap smear test includes the avoidance of sexual intercourse, douching or using vaginal medicines for two days prior to the test in order to avoid the abnormal cells from being washed away.

Prior to undertaking the faecal occult blood test, it is best to speak to your doctor as vitamin tablets and anti-inflammatory drugs may need to be withheld for two to three days.

Women:

  • Cervical Cancer: 21 yrs and above
  • Breast Cancer: 40 yrs and above

Men:

  • Lung Cancer: 50 yrs and above
  • Rectal and Colon Cancer: 50 yrs and above
For health check-ups, within the maximum limit of Rs. 25,000 or Rs. 30,000, the preventive health check-ups get a benefit of up to Rs. 5,000. This means, if you pay premium of Rs. 20,000 towards Mediclaim and undergo a health check-up costing Rs. 5,000, the total of Rs. 25,000 can be availed under section 80D.
Piles do not turn into cancer. Piles or haemorrhoids are merely enlarged veins in the rectal wall. Cancer is occasionally found in the tissue above the haemorrhoids. Cancer is occasionally found in the tissue above the haemorrhoids. Bleeding piles should be examined carefully to determine whether cancer is present. It is good to go to a doctor if one has bleeding per anus to rule out cancer which also presents with bleeding and other symptoms.

Lung cancer can be frequently misdiagnosed as tuberculosis, especially in India.

There are many similarities between both diseases like they both are very common, have high prevalence, involve lung parenchyma and above all, characterised by similar symptoms. But, there are many differences between these two entities like they have different etiologies (pulmonary tuberculosis is infectious while lung cancer is non-infectious disease), different consequences, and altogether different management. Delay in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer results in poorer outcome and lower survival.

Person with TB can have cancer like any other person without TB.

People with AIDS have an increased risk of developing certain cancers as kaposi’s sarcoma, non Hodgkin’s lymphoma and cervical cancer. The exact reason is not known but most likely the weakened immune system.
Leprosy is an infectious disease, often treatable with antibiotics. Cancer is a different disease altogether and the two are not related.

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