Think Beyond Cancer

Cancer is a disease in which cells in a person's body increase rapidly in an uncontrolled way, producing abnormal growths.

A body has about thousand billion cells, which, when healthy, are permanently renewed. Some of these cells die every day and are replaced by new identical cells. When the cells increase at an abnormal rate and there is a discrepancy between new cells and existing cells, these cells become a tumor. As the tumor grows, the organ cannot work normally.

A benign, non-cancerous tumor is result of cell growth but it is not going to increase beyond a certain limit or migrate to other parts of the body. However, malignant or cancerous cells are able to migrate, or metastasize, to other regions of the body, via the circulatory or lymphatic system and form new tumours in new zones.

Cancers take the name of the place where they are born. This zone is called primary zone. The others tumours will be metastases. Example: if a stomach cancer spread to lungs, lung tumor will be a metastasis of stomach cancer. It won't be a lung cancer. Lung tumor is the secondary site of the cancer.

Besides migrating, the modified cells are going to invade and then destroy their surrounding zones, like organs for example.

Cancer can involve any tissue of the body and have many different forms in each body area. Most cancers are named for the type of cell or organ in which they start. If a cancer spreads (metastasizes), the new tumor bears the same name as the original (primary) tumor.

There are various types of cancers, according to the organ, the tissue or the type of cell it occurs in such as:

Carcinomas: A Carcinoma is any malignant cancer that arises from epithelial cells that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover body organs. For example, carcinoma can arise in the breast, colon, liver, lung, prostate, and stomach

Sarcomas: A sarcoma is a type of cancerous tumor that is found in connective tissue. Sarcomas can originate in blood vessels, fat, muscle, bone, cartilage, or other connective tissue.

Lymphomas: Lymphoma is a type of cancer involving cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. Lymphoma is not a single cancer but a group of many related cancers. In fact, there are nearly 30 different types of lymphoma. Broadly, they are grouped under two categories: Hodgkin Disease and Non Hodgkin-lymphoma. These two broad groups may be similar in their symptoms and the tests that are required, but they behave differently when they affect a person

Leukemia: Leukemia is a form of cancer in which the body produces too many white blood cells. Many forms of leukemia have been identified. They are divided into two general types: acute and chronic. An acute condition comes on fairly quickly. A chronic disorder develops more slowly over time

There are other types of cancers, like melanomas (specific cancers of certain skin's cells), mesotheliomas (invasion of pleura's cells), etc.


Based on the cancer registry data it is estimated that there will be about one million800,000 new cancers cases in India every year, and oral and esophageal cancers have the highest rates of the world.

Men are mostly affected by lung, esophagus, stomach and larynx cancers, while women are mostly affected by cervical, breast, ovarian and esophageal cancers.

For most of cancers, prevention may play an important role. Tobacco consumption, unhealthy dietary practices, unhealthy reproductive and sexual practices account for 20-30% of cancers. These cancers are amenable to primary prevention and can be controlled to a large extent. Appropriate changes in lifestyle can reduce the mortality and morbidity from a good proportion of cancer.

In India, the problem is that even though the most prevalent cancers - lung, oral, cervical - are largely preventable or treatable, more than 70% of cancer cases are detected at later stages, when it is too late for effective treatment.

  • Every year about 9,50,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed in India resulting in about 6,40,000 cancer related death every year (WHO Globocan 2008 database figures)
  • India has the highest number of the oral and throat cancer cases in the world. Every third oral cancer patient in the world is from India
  • Stomach cancer is the third most common cancer in South India
  • In males - Oral, Lungs and Stomach cancers are the three most common causes of cancer incidence and death
  • In females - Cervical, Breast and Oral cancers are the three main causes of cancer related illnesses and death
  • Overall cervical cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in India. This is really unfortunate as cervical cancer can be easily prevented and is also relatively easy to diagnosis and treat at an early stage
  • On an average cancers are diagnosed at a much later stages in India

Among the 95,0000 new cases of cancer that occurs each year in India, over 80% are presenting at stage III and IV. Data from cancer centers confirms that two - thirds of patients with cancer are incurable at by the time they are diagnosed and need palliative care. Cancer in India can be easily detected and take care of if patients recognize the symptoms and take effective precautions.

These are the last figures about cancer in India, coming from a study of the World Health Organisation (Globocan 2008 database)

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