Cancer Basics

What is Cancer?
Cancer is the abnormal division of cells. These extra cells form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.

Is a benign tumor a cancer?
No, benign tumors are not cancer. They can often be removed and in most cases do not come back. They are localized and do not spread.

What is a malignant tumor?
Malignant tumors are cancer. The cells in these tumors are abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade nearby tissues and organs. The cells can break away and spread to the rest of the body by entering the blood stream or lymphatic system (metastasis).

What gives you cancer?
There are a few things that give you a greater risk of developing cancer but it doesn’t mean that you will get cancer.

What are these risk factors?
•    Smoking or chewing tobacco.
•    Diet high in animal fat.
•    Ultraviolet radiation.
•    Alcohol consumption
•    Ionizing radiation
•    Some chemicals and other substances (e.g. asbestos).
•    Hormone replacement therapy.
•    Diethylstilbestrol (DES).
•    Close relatives with certain types of cancer.
•    Infection like hepatitis or bilharziasis of bladder or genital viral infections
How do you screen for cancer?
Each type of cancer has specific screening tests

Breast cancer    Have a mammogram every 1-2 years
Cancer of Cervix     PAP smear
Colon/ Rectal Cancer    Fecal occult blood / Colonoscopy/ Barium / Enema /
Digital Rectal Exam   
Prostate Cancer    PSA?blood test
1.7    How do I know when I have to go and see a doctor?
The following are warning symptoms but not necessarily symptoms of cancer. Early cancer doesn’t cause pain.

•    Thickening or lump in the breast or any part of the body.
•    Obvious change in a wart or mole.
•    A sore/ injury that does not heal.
•    Nagging cough / hoarseness of voice.
•    Changes in bowel or bladder habits.
•    Indigestion / difficulty in swallowing.
•    Unexplained changes in weight.
•    Unusual bleeding or discharge from anybody orifice.
•    Severe headache specially if associated with nausea and vomiting and blurring of vision.