Dr. Rakesh MP, Assistant Professor, Medical Oncology, Amrita Hospital shares, “Cancer is one of the biggest masquerades because it can mimic any other disease which leads to a delay in diagnosis. The majority of cases, the signs, symptoms are not apparent until it reaches advanced stages. Medical advice should be sought when anyone has any unusual symptoms that persist such as bleeding, pain, cough, etc. or any recent change in body habits or appearance (weight loss/pallor etc.) as noted by others.”
The role of family history
“Family history remains the most important predictor of cancer risk. However, with the background of family history as well as the age of onset of cancer in an individual, one can predict the susceptibility to cancer in the same individual/relatives through genetic testing. Genetic testing has a major role in cancers such as breast cancer / ovarian cancer / colon cancer / prostate cancer / pancreatic cancers etc. Genetic testing would help the clinician to guide, advise and take appropriate action for individuals at risk of developing cancer,” adds Dr Rakesh MB.
However, doctors also see patients who don’t have an obvious cause. Dr. Gaurav Jain, Consultant Internal Medicine at Dharamshila Narayana Super Specialty Hospital, shares, “Yes, We see such cancer patients for no apparent reason because some research indicates that most cancers are not of genetic origin and that lifestyle factors, such as dietary habits, smoking, alcohol consumption and infections, have a profound effect on their development. Although genetic factors cannot be modified, lifestyle and environmental factors can.”
Dr. Sajjan Rajpurohit, Director, Medical Oncology, BLK-Max Super Specialty Hospital explains, “Cancer without an obvious cause and without a family history is called “sporadic” cancer, and is thought to be caused by random genetic mutations that occur throughout a person’s life. It is important to remember that even if you live a healthy lifestyle, you can still be affected by sporadic cancer, even though lifestyle habits increase your risk of developing cancer. “
Are all cancers preventable?
We would like to think that following a healthy lifestyle will protect them from cancer but unfortunately this is not the case. Dr Vineet Govinda Gupta, Senior Consultant – Medical Oncology (Unit II), Artemis Hospital Gurugram explains, “It is important to note that not all cancers are preventable, and even those with healthy lifestyle habits and no known risk factors may still develop cancer. This is why early detection and screening of cancer is so important, as it can increase the chances of successful treatment.”
While some people may have a strong family history of cancer or known risk factors such as smoking or excessive alcohol intake, others may not have an obvious cause of their cancer. This is because cancer is a complex disease that can develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. First, a person may have hidden risk factors related to lifestyle, diet, exercise, family history, etc. that are not clearly visible. He adds that some exposure to environmental toxins may be invisible, for example exposure to radiation from the environment.
The most common signs of cancer
Cancer often produces confusing symptoms. We asked doctors about some of the most common signs that people tend to ignore, that they are later diagnosed with cancer, and here is a list:
Unexplained weight loss
Changes in bowel habits
an ulcer that does not heal
changing the voice
prolonged cough etc
Abnormal periods or pelvic pain
Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
Frequent fever or infections
Unusual bleeding or discharge
Obvious change in a wart or mole
Advances in treatment
Cancer treatment has improved significantly in recent years. The success of treatments depends on the individual and the type of cancer they have, but doctors and researchers are now able to successfully treat many types of cancer. Dr. Sajjan Rajpurohit says new medications, immunotherapy and personalized medicine have greatly improved the chances of cancer treatment.
The success of treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s general health. However, as of today, two-thirds of all patients diagnosed with cancer are treatable. Among incurable patients, median survival for most cancers increased from a few months to many years with modern treatment. Dr. Vineet Govinda Gupta adds that ongoing research efforts are pushing cancer survival rates higher year after year.
Most common cancers in India
According to official data, head, neck and lung cancers are more common in men, while cervical and breast cancer are more common in women. There is an increasing trend in colon (large bowel) cancers as well.
The most common type of cancer in India is lung cancer, followed by colon cancer and breast cancer. Breast cancer has two major peaks — between ages 17 and 25 and ages 45 and 55. Both are ages of changes in hormonal status, adds Dr. Gaurav Jain.
questions and answers
- What are the risk factors for cancer?
According to the National Cancer Institute, risk factors for cancer include exposure to chemicals or other substances, as well as certain behaviors. Moreover, age, family history of cancer, obesity, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, chronic inflammation, and radiation can also increase the risk of developing cancer.
- What are the most common signs of cancer?
Some of the most common symptoms of cancer include extreme tiredness/fatigue, unexplained weight loss, changes in bowel habits, ulcers that don’t heal, change in voice, prolonged cough, etc., abnormal menstrual cycle or pelvic pain, breast changes, and chronic headaches. Indigestion or trouble swallowing Excessive bruising Frequent fever or infection Bleeding after menopause Unusual bleeding or discharge Obvious change in a wart or mole