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Understanding Cancer on World Cancer Day

Posted by Royal Sundaram on 04 Feb 2011

Cancer is the leading cause of death, worldwide. World Health Organisation (WHO) projects that the global cancer deaths could rise to 12 million by 2030, which is roughly the population of Chennai, Bengaluru and Goa combined!

But, if cancer is detected in an early stage, there is a good chance of treating it. Awareness about the disease is the need of the hour. WHO has earmarked 4th February to encourage people to learn about it.

In this blog post, we hope to contribute for this cause!

What is cancer?

  • Every organ in your body is made up of cells – brain, lungs, heart, skin, etc. These cells are constantly regenerated. In cancer, a group of cells of an organ grow uncontrollably.
  • These cells are abnormal and are different from normal cells of the body. The cancerous cells have an altered shape, properties, chromosomes and grow far more rapidly without stopping.
  • The rate at which the abnormal cells spread, the extent to which it affects other organs, response to treatment varies from person to person.

Different stages of cancer.

  • Different stages of cancer refers to the extent to which the cancer has progressed
  • Disease begins with the corruption of one single cell. Even this transformation takes place in many stages. Once a single cell mutates to a cancerous cell, it slowly begins altering other cells around it. This is Stage 0 of cancer, where only a few cells of the body have been affected.
  • Stage I – The cancerous cells have formed a tumor, but it is still localised. A person may be able to feel a lump in the body. Cancer detected in this stage can be treated effectively.
  • Stage II – Cancer has spread to lymph nodes near the organ (from where it may spread to other organs)
  • Stage III – Cancer has spread further into lymph nodes and extended to area surrounding the tumor. The cells grow and spread at a much faster rate.
  • Stage IV – Cancer has spread to other organs. Several tumors may develop in a short period of time. At this stage, unfortunately, survival rate of the patient is poor.

Causes and prevention:

There is no single cause of cancer. Some of the plausible causes are –

  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • Constant exposure to UV rays
  • Exposure to chemicals such as asbestos, benzene, arsenic
  • Certain viruses, bacteria and parasites
  • Obesity
  • Polluted air

A person may be genetically susceptible to cancer. In some cases, constant irritation to an organ – such as ulcer, jagged teeth, etc, may develop into cancer.

Now that we have a basic understanding of cancer, let’s bust a few myths –


MYTH: Cancer is not treatable.

FACT: Cancer, if detected in early stages can be treated successfully with radiotherapy or surgery, depending on the organ affected. In rare cases, even Stage IV cancer has been treated!

MYTH: People who don’t smoke are immune from cancer.

FACT: There are several causes of cancer, including genetics, certain virus & bacteria, obesity, UV rays. If you notice any lump in body or other abnormality, it’s best to check it with a doctor ASAP.

MYTH: A lump in the body implies cancer.

FACT: A lump in the body may or may not be cancerous. It is best that a doctor ascertains the same.

MYTH: Only women get breast cancer.

FACT: Men may develop breast cancer too!

MYTH: Treatment of cancer is expensive.

FACT: Treatment of cancer is expensive only if one delays seeking treatment. Earlier the better!

We hope you have a better understanding of the disease. Together, we can reduce the incidence of cancer!

Live healthy, love life. But above all, insure yourself, today. The earlier you avail a health insurance, the better protection you can get in the future!

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