Myths and Facts about Cancer
The incidence of cancer is on a rise. According to an ICMR publication, the estimated number of incident cases of cancer in India for the year 2022 was found to be 14,61,427. In India, one in nine people are likely to develop cancer in his/her lifetime. Lung and breast cancers were the leading sites of cancer in males and females, respectively. While treating cancer patients, we come across lot of myths related to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. This is an effort to clear the common myths associated with cancer.
Cancer means death sentence?
Absolutely wrong! Many patients and their relatives get tensed up and emotional even if we say that we are suspecting cancer. Let me assure you that in the twenty-first century we have made significant progress in understanding the biology of various cancers as well as in the management of various cancers. The final outcome depends on the stage of disease. Cancer, if detected early, can be cured completely. Today, we can cure even locally advanced cancers with multimodality approach.
Will biopsy of the tumour lead to dissemination of the cancer?
Biopsy doesn’t lead to dissemination of cancer. For majority of the solid organ cancers, biopsy is a pre-requisite to starting the treatment. Biopsy tells us what type of cancer is present in a particular patient. This in turn helps us to decide the exact treatment, e.g. a patient with swelling in the neck may have lymphoma which is treated by chemotherapy. Someone may have cancer in the oral cavity with swelling in the neck where the preferred treatment is surgery.
Does cancer spread to other family members who live in the same house?
Cancer is not a contagious disease. Many patients and relatives keep asking us whether they can play with their grandchildren, whether they can feed them? I assure them that they can continue to lead normal life. Cancer don’t spread through touch, or playing with grandchildren or feeding them.
Is cancer hereditary?
Only about 5% to 10% of the cancers are hereditary, i .e. they occur as a result of genetic defect ( called mutations) inherited from either of the parents. Rest of the cancers are sporadic i.e. occur as a consequence of mutation in that particular individual.
Sometimes, cancer might be more common in some families because they share certain behaviour or exposure that increase cancer risk, such as smoking or because of other risk factors that run in the families, like obesity.
Are all swellings or ulcers in the body due to cancer?
All swellings or ulcers in the body may not be because of cancer. However, it is off utmost importance to consult an oncologist to confirm the nature of the swelling.
Dr. Kumar Vinchurkar
Chief Consultant Surgical Oncologist
KLES Dr Prabhakar Kore hospital & MRC
KLES Belgaum Cancer hospital
Professor and Head,
Dept of Surgical Oncology