- Why do some people get cancer? Genetic factors play a substantial role. Cancer of breasts in females, colonic cancers, certain blood cancers, prostate cancers can be found in a few individuals of a family. Exposure to tobacco in form of smoking or chewing can cause cancer of the lungs, mouth, throat, urinary bladder, kidneys and many other organs. Certain inherited mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA 2 increase the risk of breast and ovarian Cancers by 75 %.
- Can excess body weight be responsible for cancers? More than 10% of cancers are related to excess body weight. In women, excess weight is associated with postmenopausal breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, gallbladder cancer, endometrial and colorectal cancer. In men, colorectal cancer, cancers of esophagus, kidney, pancreas, and thyroid are related to excess weight.
- What are important cancer prevention tips that we should follow? Our chances of developing cancer are affected by the lifestyle choices that we make. Simple lifestyle changes can make a major difference. Avoiding tobacco and smoking is the most important health decision that you can make. It is an important part of cancer prevention. Exposure to secondhand smoking that is passive smoking is also dangerous. Always eat a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoid obesity, drink alcohol only in moderation and limit processed meat. Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active. To prevent skin cancers avoid exposure to direct sunlight and use sunscreen lotions. Avoid risky behavior and practice safe sex and do not share needles. The more the sexual partners, more the chances of developing HIV or Human Papilloma Virus infection. People with AIDS are more prone to cancer of the liver, lungs, and lymphoma. Sharing needles with an infected drug can lead to HIV, hepatitis B, and C, which can increase the risk of liver cancer.
- Can vaccination help? Vaccination against hepatitis B is necessary. This prevents getting infected against the Hepatitis B virus. This virus can be responsible for liver cancer. Human papillomavirus HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical and other genital cancers as well as squamous cell cancers of the head an neck. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys age 11 and 12 years. It is also available to both men and women 26 or younger who did not have the vaccine as adolescents.
- What are the various cancer screening tests? For breast cancer, mammograms are indicated. Self-breast examination, genetic screening, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging are recommended as per your doctor. For cervical cancers in women, a Pap smear is indicated. Bowel cancers can be suspected if stools are positive for occult blood. Removal of benign polyps can help. Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy may be indicated in selected individuals. The PSA test for prostate cancer can be a screening test for prostate cancer. The current methods of prostate cancer detection by PSA test is not the answer. Many medical groups recommend individualized decisions about PSA testing taking into account the risks, benefits, and patients personal preferences.
- Why so many people are getting cancers these days? Considering the significant inroads we have made in the last 50 years in terms of cancer research, diagnosis and treatment, the good news is that each of us is more likely to survive a cancer diagnosis and go on to enjoy a high quality of life than any time in history. Older people are getting cancer and we are getting older. Obesity opens the door to several types of cancer and obesity will soon overtake tobacco as the No.1 risk factor for cancer. Certain types of cancers are on the rise. Cancers due to human papillomavirus are on the rise. Gastrointestinal cancer and skin cancer are also on the rise. Early diagnosis leads to more successful outcomes. Early diagnosis can increase your likelihood of beating the disease and going on to live a long life.
- What are the breast cancer risk factors? Most of the women with breast cancers are above 45 years. However, this may vary for different races and ethnicities. Having a family history of breast cancer particularly women with a mother, sister or daughter may double the risk. Inherited genetic mutations BRCA 1 and 2 genes may increase your risk. Angelina Jolie’s decision was based on her BRCA 1 test. Obesity, not having children, high breast density, certain breast changes, early menstruation, and late menopause have a slightly higher rate of breast cancer. A sedentary lifestyle and heavy drinking are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Heavy exposure to birth control pills, combined postmenopausal hormone therapy, radiation exposure can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Author: Dr Jay Deshmukh
M.B.B.S., M.C.P.S., F.C.P.S., M.N.A.M.S., MD
(Internal Medicine – Bombay and New Delhi)
Chief Physician and Director, Sunflower Hospital, Nagpur