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Cancer

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Oral Cancer, as the name itself suggests, refers to cancerous growth in any part of the mouth (oral cavity). It falls under a category of cancers called Head and Neck Cancers. Also known as Mouth Cancer or Oral Cavity Cancer, this type of cancer occurs on the lips, gums, hard and soft palates, inner cheek lining, tongue, the roof of the mouth, under the tongue, and throat. Mouth Cancer can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated immediately. Getting quarterly or biannual dental checkups can help in the early detection and treatment of oral cancer.

Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you spot symptoms such as a lip/mouth sore, a white or red spot in your mouth, a lump in the mouth, difficulty/pain while swallowing, or pain in the mouth. The doctor will ensure if the symptoms are due to other causes such as an infection or any other underlying condition before diagnosing oral cancer.

Who are at risk of getting diagnosed with Oral Cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, men are at a higher risk of getting diagnosed with oral cancer than women. Oral cancer is most prevalent in men over the age of 40-50. Some of the risk factors that lead to the development of oral cancer include:

Smoking: People who have the habit of frequently smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes are more likely to develop oral cancer as compared to people who do not smoke.

Other forms of tobacco use: Apart from smoking, people who consume tobacco by snuffing and chewing are prone to oral cancer in the gums, lips, and inner cheeks.

Alcohol consumption: People who consume excessive amounts of alcohol are six times more likely to get diagnosed with oral cancer as compared to non-drinkers.

Family History: If one or more of your family members are diagnosed with oral cancer, you are more susceptible to the disease.

Weak immune system: It is your immune system that helps your body fight against various illnesses. If your immune system is weak due to certain conditions, you are prone to oral cancer, along with other diseases.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV): The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus that could be a major contributing factor for the development of oral cancer.

What are the precancerous conditions of the oral cavity?

A precancerous condition is a condition that involves abnormal cells which lead to an increased risk of developing cancer. Depending on the type of cancer, the precancerous conditions can be few or many.

In oral cancer, precancerous conditions are the changes that take place in the cells of the mouth. These conditions are not developed into cancer yet. But, if left untreated, there are higher chances that these abnormal changes or mutations might advance into oral cancer.

Oral cancer has the two most common precancerous conditions. They are:

Leukoplakia:

Leukoplakia is an unusual grey or white patch that is visible on the tongue, the gums, the inner cheek linings, or the floor of your mouth. If one has leukoplakia, it is not necessary that he/she will develop oral cancer. Depending on the size and shape of the abnormal cells, this precancerous condition may develop into oral cancer.

Erythroplakia:

Erythroplakia is an abnormal red patch or a group of red spots that is visible on the mucous membrane in the mouth, with no definitive cause. This precancerous condition has higher chances of developing into oral cancer as compared to Leukoplakia. Around 50% of these conditions advance into Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

How can you prevent oral cancer?

Though there are no proven measures to prevent oral cancer. However, there are certain precautions one can take to reduce the risk. They are as follows:

Stopping the consumption of tobacco: As mentioned above, tobacco usage is one of the most common risk factors that lead to oral cancer. If you are a regular consumer of tobacco, put a stop to it. Smoking, chewing, or snuffing tobacco is dangerous as it exposes the cells in your mouth to cancer-inducing chemicals.

Moderate alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the cells in your mouth, making you vulnerable to oral cancer. Hence, alcohol should be consumed in moderate amounts or to be completely avoided to lower the risk of mouth cancer.

Avoid excessive sun exposure: Protect the skin on your lips from excessive sunlight by applying lip balm with sun protection as a part of your regimen. You can also wear a broad-rimmed hat when you step out and stay in the shade as much as possible.

The first step to fighting oral cancer is to be mindful of the risk factors and symptoms. Although oral cancer can become fatal if not treated on time, taking precautions to reduce the risk will help keep oral cancer at bay. Have a regular quarterly/biannual check-up with your dentist and ensure proper oral hygiene, because prevention is better than cure!

Cancer is a disease in which cells divide and multiply uncontrollably, invading nearby tissues and organs. This happens when mutations are caused in the genes that control the growth of the cells. Cancer occurs when the cells grow uncontrollably, collectively forming a mass of tissue called a tumor. These tumors can either be cancerous or non-cancerous.

Oral cancer, also known as mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer, falls under a category of cancers called Head and Neck Cancers. Oral cancer occurs when there is a cancerous growth in the mouth or the oral cavity. Oral cancer usually occurs in the lips, tongues, cheeks, throat, hard and soft palate, the roof of the mouth, and on the floor of the mouth (under the tongue). People above the age of 40 are more susceptible to oral cancer.

Oral cancer usually begins in the squamous cells (flat, thin cells in the lining of the lips and inside the mouth). A majority of oral cancers are diagnosed to be Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

What are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

The diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer would be easier if one is aware of the symptoms and the signs of oral cancer. Some of the most common symptoms of oral cancer are:

  • A sore in the mouth or on the lip that doesn’t heal for a long time
  • Mass or lumpy growth anywhere in the mouth
  • A white or reddish patch inside the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain or difficulty in swallowing
  • Earache
  • Mouth ache
  • A lump in the neck
  • Numbness/tenderness in any area of the mouth, face, or neck
  • Sore throat
  • Stiffness or pain in the jaw
  • Drastic weight loss

Looking out for these symptoms and getting them checked immediately would help in effectively treating oral cancer. It is important to make an appointment with your doctor or dentist if you have one or more of these symptoms. Some of these symptoms may indicate another condition/disease/illness apart from oral cancer. Your doctor will look into the symptoms and rule out every other possibility before recommending tests for oral cancer.

How is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?

There are several procedures involved in diagnosing Oral Cancer. The first step is to gauge the reason behind the symptoms to rule out other underlying conditions and ensure that the symptoms are due to oral cancer. Once the patient has been diagnosed with oral cancer, the doctor might perform a further diagnosis to determine the type of cancer – invasive/non-invasive and the extent to which it has spread. Some of the tests and procedures used to diagnose oral cancer include:

Physical Exam: Your doctor will closely examine your lips and mouth to check for abnormalities, especially the roof and floor of your mouth, the back of your throat, your tongue, gums, cheeks, and the lymph nodes on the neck.

Biopsy: In case of a suspicious/infected area in the mouth, your doctor may take a sample of your tissue using a cutting tool or a needle for laboratory testing. This procedure is known as a biopsy.

Once the patient is diagnosed with oral cancer, the doctor will determine the extent (stage) of oral cancer, and how much it has spread. To determine this, the doctor may turn to one of these procedures:

Endoscopy: During this procedure, the doctor may insert a small camera with a light attached to a tube down your throat to determine how cancer has spread beyond the mouth.

X-Ray: The doctor might also suggest an x-ray to check if the cancerous cells have spread to the chest or lungs.

CT scan: The Computed Tomography (CT) scan is an imaging technique that uses a series of x-ray images to get detailed images of the body. The CT scan helps reveal any tumors in the mouth, throat, neck, and lungs.

PET scan: The Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan is an imaging technique that uses a special dye that contains radioactive tracers. This is to determine if cancer has traveled to the lymph nodes or other organs.

MRI scan: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a large magnet to generate images of the body using radio waves. This method also helps to determine the extent to which cancer has spread.

Once diagnosed, Oral cancer is determined in 4 stages.

Stage I: Where the tumor is 2cm or smaller and cancer hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage II: Where the tumor is between 2-4cm, and cancer hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage III: Where the tumor is larger than 4cm but hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes; or tumor is of any size but has spread to one lymph node.

Stage IV: Where the tumors are in any size and the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes, nearby tissues, and other organs.

Oral Cancer Treatment

Depending on the location, stage, and nature of oral cancer, the treatment options will differ. Based on the analysis of your doctor, you may have to undergo one form of treatment or a combination of cancer treatments. Some of the most common and effective treatment options are:

Surgery: If the cancer is in an early stage, the surgeon may cut off the tumor and a margin of the healthy tissues that surround that area to ensure that all the cancerous cells have been removed. Minor surgery is required for small cancerous cells, but, larger tumors require an extensive procedure.

Radiation Therapy: This therapy uses high-energy radiation beams at the tumor. If the cancer is in an advanced stage, the doctor might use a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy: This treatment uses chemicals/drugs to kills cancerous cells. The drug is usually administered through an Intravenous (IV) line or orally.

Targeted Therapy: This therapy treats mouth cancer by altering specific aspects of the cancerous cells that interfere with their growth.

Immunotherapy: This treatment uses your immune system to fight cancer cells. Cancerous cells produce proteins that bind the cells in the immune system. This therapy works by interfering with that process.

Though there are several treatment options to treat oral cancer, the best way to fight it would be by reducing the risk and following a healthy oral regimen. Early detection is the key to fight any disease. So be aware of the symptoms and check with your doctor as soon as you see any signs that may develop into oral cancer.

The term cancer can be overwhelming for the majority of people. It can be physically as well as emotionally too much to take in for an individual along with people around them. Hence understanding cancer is very important because having the right information can lead to taking steps at the right time to cut down your risk of cancer. Cancer is a name given to a collection of diseases that are related. It causes body cells to divide rapidly and in some cases can also affect the surrounding tissues. The rapid creation of abnormal cells that grow beyond their boundaries is one of the most defining features of cancer, which can then invade other parts of the body; this process is referred to as Metastasis. The primary cause of death in cancer is Metastases.

Due to advanced technology and medicine, the treatments are constantly improving. With proper diagnosis and treatment, many cancers have a high cure rate. Between 30-50 % of cancer cases can be prevented by avoiding the risk factors and implementing existing prevention strategies.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in the world. After breast cancer, Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the world. It is also one of the most common causes of cancer death in the year 2020. According to World Health organization Statistics, there were 2.21 million cases in 2020 worldwide in which there was 1.80 million death. 

What is Lung cancer?

The two sponge-like organs in the chest are called lungs. The right lung has three sections called upper, middle, and lower lobes. The left lung has two lobes upper and lower lobes, left lung is smaller because the heart takes up more space on that side of the body. When we breathe, through the trachea (windpipe) the air inhaled goes into the lungs. The Trachea divides into tubes called Bronchi, which enters the lungs and is further divided into smaller Bronchi called Bronchioles. At the end of the Bronchioles, there are tiny sacs called alveoli. The main function of Alveoli is absorbing oxygen into the blood and removing carbon dioxide from the blood when you exhale.

Lung cancer can start in any part of the lungs or airways which includes the windpipe the main airway or the lungs themselves. When there is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells inside one or both lungs the cells grow to form a tumor. 

The major risk factor for lung cancer is smoking though not everyone who develops lung cancer has a history of smoking. Lung cancer can be fatal but with proper diagnosis and treatment, the outlook to it could differ.

Types of Lung cancer

Cancer that starts growing in the lungs is called primary lung cancer. If cancer spreads from other parts of your body to the lungs is called Secondary lung cancer.

There are 2 types of Primary lung cancer: 

  • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) 
  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) 

Small cell lung cancer 

Small cell lung cancer is a fast-growing and more aggressive form of lung cancer. Cancer grows and spreads rapidly traveling to other parts of the body or metastasize more easily. Due to this, the condition is usually diagnosed after cancer has spread throughout the body, making recovery doubtful. But if it is detected in an early stage it may be treated effectively before cancer spreads. 

Symptoms for Small cell lung cancer 

SCLC is usually asymptomatic which means it doesn’t show symptoms. Once there are visible symptoms it often indicates that cancer has started growing and has infected other parts of the body. 

Symptoms are: 

  • Wheezing 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Bloody mucus for the lungs 
  • Fatigue 
  • Weight loss 
  • A persistent cough 

If you notice any symptom connect to a doctor immediately. 

Non-small cell lung cancer 

It is the most common and less aggressive than Small cell lung cancer which means it doesn’t spread and grow rapidly. 

NSCLC can be treated successfully with surgery, chemotherapy, and other treatments. 

Smoking is the leading cause of NSCLC and other types of cancer. 

Symptoms for Non-small cell lung cancer

  • Hoariness
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing up phlegm or mucus
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough

 You need to note that some of these symptoms may occur due to other reasons as well.

Risk factors for lung cancer

Anything that increases a person’s chance of getting cancer is classified as a risk factor. Some risk factors can be changed like smoking, but others like family history or a person’s age cannot be changed. ­­­­­

Some of the risk factors are: 

  • Smoking- Smoking remains the number one reason for developing lung cancer. The longer you smoke greater the risk. 
  • Passive smoking: If you are a non-smoker who hangs out with people who smoke, you are still at risk of developing lung cancer. 
  • Air pollution: Air pollution raises the risk of lung cancer especially in cities. 
  • Personal or family history: If you had relatives who suffered from lung cancer then the probability of you developing it increases. 
  • Exposure to Radon: A naturally occurring radioactive gas that results from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks is Radon. Breathing it in can expose you to a small amount of radiation. 

We should be careful and consider all these risk factors to reduce the chances of developing lung cancer.

Coping with a cancer diagnosis can be stressful and difficult. Learn about your condition and treatment by talking to your doctor about it. Online resources can also be useful to understand and gain a sense of control over the situation.

Lung cancer can be fatal but early diagnosis often have a good chance of survival. People who are at high risk of developing lung cancer should consider getting regular screenings. People who are concerned with the risk factor should talk to a healthcare professional.

Cancer is usually caused due to the mutations that take place in the genes that regulate cell growth, leading the cells to divide and multiply uncontrollably. Breast cancer, as the name itself suggests, develops in the breast cells. As per reports, the number of cases of breast cancer in India is on the rise. More than 50% of Indian women suffer from stage 3 or stage 4 breast cancer. Thus, survival becomes difficult at later stages. But the good news is that we can come together and make people aware of the symptoms and help them take precautions about the same. But first, let us understand what breast cancer is.

In breast cancer, usually, the tumors are formed in the ducts or the lobules of the breast. These cancerous cells invade the other healthy tissues and travel to the lymph nodes, leading to the spread of tumors to the other parts of the body.

There are several types of breast cancer but are mainly classified into two categories; “invasive” and “non-invasive”. Invasive breast cancer spreads from the breast cells to other glands and parts of the body, while non-invasive breast cancer does not spread. The different types of breast cancer are as follows:

  • Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS): This type of breast cancer is non-invasive. In this condition, the cancerous cells are confined to the ducts in the breasts and have not spread to the nearby cells and tissues.
  • Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS): This cancer grows in the lobules of the breast. Lobules are the milk-producing glands in the breast. This condition is also non-invasive and does not spread to the nearby tissues
  • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC): This the most common type of breast cancer found in people. It develops in the ducts (tube-like structures that carry milk to the nipples) and invades the nearby tissues. 
  • Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC): Like IDC, this type of breast cancer is also invasive. It develops in the lobules of the breast and spreads to the nearby tissues.  

The Symptoms of Breast Cancer may not be visible at an early stage. Because, at an early stage, a tumor might be too small to be felt. Different types of breast cancer have different symptoms, but the most common symptoms of breast cancer are: 

  • A lump or thickening in the breast 
  • Pain in the breast
  • Red, pitted skin over the breast
  • Peeling or crusting of the pigmented skin around the nipple area
  • A fluid discharge from the nipple apart from breast milk
  • Discharge of blood from the nipple
  • A sudden change in the shape or size of the breast
  • Inverted nipple  

How can one detect breast cancer at an early stage?

Certain symptoms can either be caused by breast cancer or a benign breast condition. To determine if it is breast cancer, you may have to undergo diagnostic tests along with a physical examination of the breast. Some tests that can help diagnose breast cancer are:

Breast Examination: This doctor will physically examine your breast and the lymph nodes in your armpits to detect any signs of breast cancer.

Mammography: This is the most common test that is used to diagnose breast cancer. A mammogram refers to the x-ray of the breast. It is advisable for women of age 40 and above to have an annual mammography screening.

Breast Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of the tissues located deep in the breast. An ultrasound can also help distinguish between a tumor and a benign cyst.

Breast Biopsy: A biopsy is one of the most definitive ways to diagnose breast cancer. A sample of your breast tissues will be removed for testing.

What are the immediate measures one can take after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

Knowing that you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer can be extremely overwhelming. Your next question might probably be “What now?” Here are a few immediate measures that you can take after you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Understand your diagnosis: While the term Breast Cancer is easy enough to understand, there different types that require different treatment. Talk to your doctor and understand the type of tumor, the cancer stage, and how much it has spread. This will help you in further research and also in making an informed decision.

Decide how much you want to know: Though most cancer patients would like to know everything about their condition and the exact chances of survival, some don’t. If you do not prefer to know all the details, you can let your doctor know. You can also seek the help of a trusted family member or a friend to come along with you to the consultation for support.

Explore your treatment options: Depending on the type and stage of cancer, there are various treatment options for you to consider. You can do your research and make your own decisions on the treatment or you can leave it to your doctor to suggest the right treatment for you.

Analyze the risks and benefits involved in the treatment: After understanding your treatment options, it is very important to weigh the pros and cons of each treatment option before you finalize one. You must consider parameters such as side effects and financial costs. You must also consider how treatment might affect your everyday life and take the necessary steps.

Although the cases of breast cancer have been increasing in women, there is always a way to prevent it. Keeping your eyes open for minor symptoms, sharing all the credible knowledge with your loved ones, and building a strong immune system are some of the measures that can be taken into consideration. Last but not the least, having a positive outlook can do wonders!

Over the years, science and medicine has come a long way towards improving healthcare. There was a time when we knew little about ailments like breast cancer, but today, we know that early intervention helps reduce risk significantly. And this intervention begins with you!

Before we get into the technicalities, let us know what breast cancer really is. Simply put, breast cancer is a form of cancer that is found in the breast when the cells grow out of control. These mutated cells cause a tumour, which leads to various health complications.

 Though the disease occurs mainly in women, a few men can fall prey to breast cancer as well. According to the World Health Organization, an estimate of 110 000 cases of breast cancer are recorded every year in both developed and developing countries.

To understand breast cancer better, we need to know a bit about the breast. Broadly put, breasts are made up of three main parts: Connective tissues, Ducts, and Lobules. The lobules are the glands that produce milk. The tube that carries milk to the nipples are called ducts and the connective tissue surrounds and holds everything together. While most forms of breast cancer begin in either the ducts or lobules, there’s always a chance that it forms in another part of the breast.

Through blood vessels and lymph vessels, breast cancer can also spread outside the breast. It is said to have metastasized when cancer spreads to other parts of the body. It is important to know that all breast lumps are not cancerous. In most cases, they are benign and not life-threatening. Non-cancerous tumours grow abnormally but do not spread outside of the breast. But some forms of benign lumps can increase a women’s risk of getting breast cancer. So, it is important to visit a healthcare professional as soon as you notice any changes or lumps.

The Different Forms of Breast Cancer

The most common kinds of breast cancer are: 

  • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma: They grow outside the ducts in other parts of the breast tissue. They can metastasize or spread to other parts of the body. 
  • Invasive Lobular carcinoma: The cancer cells spread from the lobules to the tissues close by and can also spread to other parts of the body.

Some rare forms of breast cancers include Phyllodes tumours and Angiosarcoma

Cancer detection begins with a diagnostic procedure called a biopsy. Once the biopsy is done, the cancer cells are tested for proteins called Estrogen receptors, Progesterone receptors, and HER2. The tumour cells are tested closely in the lab to know which grade it is which helps decide treatment options.

Types of breast cancer surgery

Once your doctor looks at the biopsy reports, they decide on surgical intervention basis several factors. These include:

  • The cancer size
  • The location of the cancer lump in your breast
  • The size of the breast
  • The grade of your cancer

Moving to the surgical table:

Basis the factors mentioned above, your doctor may present you with surgical options which may be from one of the below –

  • Lumpectomy: A Lumpectomy is also known as a breast conversing surgery because only a portion of the breast is removed. In this surgery, the surgeon removes the tumour along with other abnormal tissues while leaving behind the healthy tissues. Along with the surgery, your doctor may also suggest radiation therapy to kill any remaining abnormal cells.

While a Lumpectomy is pretty straightforward, there are chances that cancer in your breast is at a complicated stage. At such times, your doctor may suggest you undergo a Mastectomy. A Mastectomy usually involves the removal of the whole breast.

There are various kinds of Mastectomy surgeries. These include –

  1. Simple or total mastectomy: The entire breast is removed, the surgeon does not perform axillary lymph node dissection, which is, the removal of lymph nodes in the underarm area. No muscles are removed beneath the breast.
  2. Modified radical mastectomy: The entire breast is removed and the surgeon performs axillary dissection and no muscles are removed from beneath the breast. 
  3. Radical Mastectomy: The entire breast is removed along with levels 1, 2, and 3 of the underarm lymph nodes and the surgeon also removes the chest wall muscles under the breast. Radical mastectomy is recommended only when cancer has spread to the chest and muscles under the breast.
  4. Partial mastectomy: Only the cancerous part of the breast is removed along with normal tissues around it. More tissues are removed in partial mastectomy compared to lumpectomy.
  5. Nipple-sparing mastectomy: All of the breast tissue is removed but the nipple is left alone. 
  • Lymph node removal and analysis

Cancer can be found in cells of Axillary lymph nodes in some cancer cases. Hence it is important to find out whether the lymph nodes near the breast contain cancer. This helps in treatment and prognosis. The procedure includes –

  1. Sentinel lymph node biopsy: The sentinel nodes are the first few lymph nodes into which a tumour drains. Sentinel node biopsy is a surgical procedure to determine whether cancer has spread beyond a primary tumour.
  2. Axillary lymph node dissection: Axillary lymph node dissection is a surgical procedure that removes nodes in levels 1 and 2 for women with invasive breast cancer.  
  • Reconstructive surgery

After Mastectomy, doctors might suggest a reconstruction of the breast. This is a surgery to recreate the breast using the tissue taken from another part of the body or synthetic implants. It is usually performed by a plastic surgeon.

Can Side Effects Occur Post Surgery?

Like any other major surgery, breast cancer surgery may present symptoms post the operation. These side effects include –

  • Fatigue: Fatigue or Cancer tiredness is the most common side effects of cancer treatment. Though the emotional impact of the diagnosis may continue for a few weeks or months, it is paramount to be physically active.
  • Shoulder stiffness: Gentle arm and shoulder exercise can prevent this, ask your doctor when you can start exercising. 
  • Numbness and tingling: Bruising or injury to nerves can be caused due to surgery which can lead to numbness and tingling in the armpit, upper arm, or chest area.
  • Seroma: This is most common after a mastectomy. The fluid collects in or around the surgical scar and causes a balloon-like swelling.
  • Change in nipple, breast, or arm sensation: It is temporary but might be permanent in few patients. 
  • Lymphedema: After the lymph nodes surgery, fluid building up in the tissue of the arm and the breast may cause swelling.

Some of the late side effects of the surgery are:

  • Loss of fertility
  • Weight gain
  • Early-onset of menopause
  • Anxiety
  • Problems of intimacy and sexual behaviour
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Problems in bone health
  • Hot flashes

So, should you be worried about Breast Cancer Surgery?

While there are, a few risks involved, our understanding of Breast Cancer has grown significantly over the years. So, if your doctor advises you to undergo surgery, do consider it. Indeed, certain side effects, either short term or long term, may present. But in most cases, it far outweighs the risk that breast cancer presents. Even if you aren’t suffering from Breast Cancer yet, you must do a self-check from time to time so that you can stay ahead of the ailment!