Cancer Q & A’s

Q1. What is your point of view about cancer?

Neoplasia is a better word, since it avoids conveying any negative thoughts wrongly associated with the word cancer. So autonomous unregulated beyond purpose- multiplication of cells of any of the organs except the nails and the hair shaft is neoplasia. When these cells have the ability to spread to distant places, then the whole process is one of malignant neoplasia. Without this ability it would get classified as benign neoplasia.

Q3. Which kind of cancer is most prominent in Indians? And what are the main reasons?

The commonest cancer in India in the males is Head & Neck variety. Cancers in the oral cavity, tongue, jaws probably initiate in the habit of chewing tobacco and tobacco related products like gutka etc.

Q4. What kind of treatments available in India for cancer?

Indian males predominantly suffer from oral cancer (Head & Neck) where as in the Indian women predominant cancer is still the cancer of the cervix. The main cause of oral cancer in India is the unbriddles usage of tobacco & tobacco related products like pan, beedi, chuna, mainpuri etc.
Viral infections of the Human Papilloma Virus variety as a consequence of overcrowding and lack of genitourinary hygiene is the main reason for fulminant cervical cancers particularly seen in non-urban areas.

Q4. What kind of treatments available in India for cancer?

We are fortunate enough to have treatment centers, though inadequate in number, throughout our country. Apart from Govt run Regional Cancer Centers, we now have the emergence of oncology departments in corporate hospitals. Surgical Oncology, Medical Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Pediatric Oncology and Hematoncology services are available through these institutions.

Q5. Top 10 Indian centers for cancer treatment?

Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai
Apollo Cancer Institute, New Delhi
Adiyar Cancer Centre, Chennai
Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital, Delhi
Institute Cancer Rotary Cancer Centre, Delhi
Apollo Cancer Hospital, Chennai
Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, Bangalore
Regional Cancer Centre, Trivandrum
Apollo Cancer Hospital, Hyderabad

Q6. Best equipments and technology available in India?

Although most of the older oncology units across the country still continue to use Cobalt-60 machines, the newer departments are equipped with state of the art LINAC machines. IMRT and IGRT enabled acceleraters and Gamma Knives are now increasingly becoming available in the tertiary care centers. The most sophisticated Radiation machine–Cyberknife is yet to enter this country. However, comprehensive oncology care is still deficient by an large and so are preventive oncology clinics/screening services as well as palliative centers.

Q7. What kind of approach is expected from patients ones he/she come to know about their illness?

Ideally all the citizens of this country need to come into the ambit of health insurance. However, the right person to see is a Surgical Oncologist (Cancer Surgeon) who shall conduct an outpatient Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology to confirm or disprove the diagnosis. He will then ask for few tests like–x-ray chest, U/s of abdomen, bone scan, mammogram to assess whether the cancer has spread to other parts of body. Depending on the findings he will then decide the treatment

Q8. Can men get Breast cancer? What are the signs of it?

Yes, men get Breast Cancer also, although the incidence is much lower than in women. Family history, mumps, undescended testis, Klinefelter and Cowdens syndrome, Cirrhosis of liver puts them at increased risk to develop this disease. It usually presents as a unilateral painless, hard lump, increases in size slowly and may break through the skin as an ulcer. Bloody discharge from the nipple or painless lump in the armpit are other presentations.

Q9. What is the cost of treatment and how safe it is?

The average cost of treatment varies between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 2.5 Lakh INR. Off late newer anticancer biotech formulations show better results but are very expensive. For instance the cost could go up from 5 lakh to 12 lakh also.

Q10. Is there any kind of financial help available for cancer patients?

The Prime Minister Relief Fund is the only organization apart from a few community based trusts that help with finances. The unfortunate part is that it takes very long to get the money and piles of paperwork. ‘Breast Cancer Patients Benefit Foundation’ is probably the only one which disburses money quickly to the needy.

Q.11 What kind of life style should be adopted to prevent cancer? Or preventive measures?

A balanced diet, comprising fruit, vegetables, animal proteins is vital. Obesity is to be avoided, also consumption of tobacco and related products as well as alcohol more than 3 drinks/wk. excessive spicy food, animal fats, chronic dyspepsia i.e. acidity is to be avoided. Unbridled use of estrogen alone HRT or OCP’s over a long period of time is also to be avoided. Good genitourinary hygiene helps keep cervical cancer at bay. Annual checkup in case of a span family history or 3 yearly checkup otherwise is a very wise option after 35yrs of age.