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Cancer Unmasked: Delving into Signs & Symptoms, Types, Stages, Causes and Treatment

Cancer Unmasked: Delving into Signs & Symptoms, Types, Stages, Causes and Treatment

What is Cancer Disease?

Cancer is a collection of illnesses distinguished by the unregulated proliferation and dissemination of anomalous cells.These cells have the potential to invade and damage surrounding tissues and organs, leading to serious health complications. Cancer can develop in almost any part of the body and can affect people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Normally, cells in the body grow, divide, and die in a controlled manner as part of the body's natural processes. However, cancer occurs when this orderly process is disrupted, and cells continue to grow and divide uncontrollably. The accumulation of abnormal cells forms a mass called a tumor.

Symptoms & Signs of Cancer

Here are details about the symptoms and signs of cancer:

  • Unexplained Weight Loss: Unexplained weight loss, particularly significant and unintentional, can be a symptom of various types of cancer. Weight loss may occur due to factors such as loss of appetite, changes in metabolism, or the body's immune response to the presence of cancer.
  • Fatigue: Persistent fatigue or weakness that does not improve with rest can be a symptom of cancer. Cancer-related fatigue is often described as overwhelming and can significantly impact daily activities and quality of life.
  • Pain: Pain can be a symptom of cancer, especially as the disease progresses or affects nearby tissues and organs. The location, severity, and characteristics of pain may vary depending on the type and stage of cancer.
  • Changes in Bowel or Bladder Habits: Changes in bowel habits, such as persistent constipation, diarrhea, or changes in stool size, shape, or color, may be symptoms of colorectal cancer. Similarly, changes in bladder habits, such as blood in the urine or frequent urination, may be signs of bladder or urinary tract cancer.
  • Persistent Cough or Hoarseness: A persistent cough that does not resolve or worsens over time, especially if accompanied by other respiratory symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or coughing up blood, may be a symptom of lung cancer. Hoarseness or voice changes that persist for several weeks may also indicate throat or laryngeal cancer.
  • Unusual Bleeding or Discharge: Unexplained bleeding or discharge from various parts of the body may be symptoms of cancer. This may include blood in the stool or urine (which can indicate colorectal or urinary tract cancer), abnormal vaginal bleeding (which can indicate gynecological cancer), or nipple discharge (which can indicate breast cancer).
  • Skin Changes: Changes in the skin, such as new moles or skin lesions, changes in the size, shape, or color of existing moles, or non-healing sores or wounds, may be signs of skin cancer. Other skin changes, such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin) or unusual bruising or bleeding, may indicate underlying cancers affecting the liver or blood.
  • Lumps or Swellings: The presence of lumps, bumps, or swellings in various parts of the body, such as the breast, testicles, lymph nodes, or soft tissues, may be signs of cancer. These lumps may be painless or tender and may grow over time.
  • Difficulty Swallowing: Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, can be a symptom of cancers affecting the throat, esophagus, or stomach. It may be accompanied by pain, discomfort, or the sensation of food getting stuck in the throat.
  • Changes in Appetite or Digestion: Changes in appetite, such as loss of appetite or early satiety (feeling full after eating small amounts), as well as persistent indigestion, nausea, vomiting, or difficulty digesting food, may be symptoms of gastrointestinal cancers.
  • Other Symptoms: Other symptoms that may be associated with cancer include fever, night sweats, chills, difficulty breathing, bone pain, headaches, neurological symptoms (such as seizures or weakness), and cognitive changes (such as confusion or memory loss).

Types of Cancer

Cancer can develop in almost any part of the body, and there are many different types of cancer, each with its own characteristics, symptoms, and treatment approaches.

Here are some common types of cancer:

  • Breast Cancer: Breast cancer originates within the cells of the breast tissue. It is the most common cancer in women worldwide, but it can also occur in men. Symptoms may include a lump in the breast or underarm, changes in breast size or shape, nipple discharge, or changes in the skin over the breast.
  • Lung Cancer: Lung cancer originates in the cells of the lungs and is often associated with smoking or exposure to environmental toxins such as asbestos or radon. Symptoms may include persistent cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, or recurrent respiratory infections.
  • Colorectal Cancer: Colorectal cancer affects the colon or rectum and usually develops from precancerous growths called polyps. Symptoms may include changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or fatigue.
  • Prostate Cancer: Prostate cancer develops in the prostate gland, which is part of the male reproductive system. It is the most common cancer in men, but it often grows slowly and may not cause symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms may include difficulty urinating, blood in the urine or semen, erectile dysfunction, or pain in the pelvis or back.
  • Skin Cancer: Skin cancer develops in the cells of the skin and is often associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. There are three primary forms of skin cancer, namely basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Symptoms may include changes in the size, shape, or color of moles or skin lesions, or the appearance of new growths.
  • Bladder Cancer: Bladder cancer develops in the cells lining the bladder and is often associated with smoking or exposure to certain chemicals. Symptoms may include blood in the urine, frequent urination, pain or burning during urination, or lower back pain.
  • Leukemia: Leukemia is a form of cancer that impacts the blood and bone marrow, the primary site for the production of blood cells. It entails the uncontrollable proliferation of atypical white blood cells. Symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, frequent infections, easy bruising or bleeding, or swollen lymph nodes.
  • Lymphoma: Lymphoma is a malignant disease that impacts the lymphatic system, an integral component of the body's immune system. It involves the uncontrolled growth of abnormal lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). Symptoms may include swollen lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, or fatigue.
  • Pancreatic Cancer: Pancreatic cancer develops in the cells of the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach that produces enzymes and hormones involved in digestion and blood sugar regulation. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), unexplained weight loss, or changes in bowel habits.
  • Ovarian Cancer: Ovarian cancer originates in the ovaries, which form an integral part of the female reproductive system. It is often called the "silent killer" because it may not cause symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms may include abdominal bloating or swelling, pelvic pain or pressure, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or changes in bowel habits. These are just a few examples of the many different types of cancer that can occur. Each type of cancer may have subtypes based on specific characteristics of the cancer cells, and treatment approaches may vary depending on the type and stage of cancer.

Stages of Cancer

The stage of cancer refers to the extent to which cancer has spread in the body. Staging helps healthcare professionals determine the prognosis (likely outcome) and plan the most appropriate treatment. The staging system varies for different types of cancer, but it generally includes the following components:

  • Tumor (T) Size and Extent: This describes the size of the primary tumor and the extent to which it has invaded nearby tissues. The designation T1, T2, T3, or T4 may be used, with higher numbers indicating larger or more invasive tumors.
  • Lymph Nodes (N) Involvement: Lymph nodes, which are small structures resembling beans, have a significant function in the immune system.The N stage indicates whether cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. N0 indicates no lymph node involvement, while higher numbers (N1, N2, N3) indicate increasing levels of lymph node involvement.
  • Metastasis (M): Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to distant organs or tissues. The M stage is designated as M0 if there is no evidence of distant metastasis and M1 if cancer has spread to distant sites. Combining these components provides an overall stage, often expressed as stages I, II, III, or IV: 

Stage I: Cancer is localized and limited to the area where it originated. The cancer has not metastasized to adjacent lymph nodes or distant locations.

Stage II: Cancer has grown larger or invaded nearby tissues, and it may involve nearby lymph nodes. However, it has not yet spread to distant sites.

Stage III: Cancer is locally advanced, having invaded nearby structures or lymph nodes. It may not have spread to distant sites.

Stage IV: Cancer has spread extensively to distant organs or tissues. This is considered advanced or metastatic cancer. Staging helps guide treatment decisions and provides a framework for predicting the likely course of the disease. It also helps healthcare providers communicate with patients about the severity and progression of their cancer.

Causes of Cancer

Cancer is a complex disease, and its development is influenced by a combination of factors, including genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. While the exact causes of cancer may vary depending on the type of cancer.

Here are some common factors that can contribute to the development of cancer:

  • Genetic Factors: Certain types of cancer can be more likely to occur due to genetic mutations that are inherited. These mutations can be passed down from parents to their children and may predispose individuals to develop cancer at a younger age or with a higher likelihood. Examples of genetic syndromes associated with an increased risk of cancer include hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations), Lynch syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer), and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
  • Environmental Exposures: Exposure to certain environmental factors and carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) can increase the risk of cancer. These may include: 

Tobacco smoke: Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes is a major risk factor for lung cancer, as well as cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, bladder, kidney, and cervix. 
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation: Excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. 
Ionizing radiation: Exposure to elevated levels of ionizing radiation, such as those encountered during medical imaging procedures (e.g., X-rays, CT scans) or radiation therapy for cancer treatment, can heighten the likelihood of cancer development. Specifically, it may increase the risk of leukemia, thyroid cancer, and breast cancer. 
Chemicals and toxins: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as asbestos, benzene, arsenic, formaldehyde, and certain pesticides, can increase the risk of developing cancer, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, leukemia, and bladder cancer. 
Air pollution: Prolonged exposure to air pollution, including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), may increase the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory cancers.

  • Lifestyle Choices: Certain lifestyle choices and behaviors can contribute to the development of cancer. These may include: 

Unhealthy diet:Consuming a diet high in processed foods, red and processed meats, saturated fats, sugar, and low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber may increase the risk of developing certain cancers, including colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. 
Lack of physical activity: Sedentary behavior and a lack of regular physical activity can increase the risk of obesity and certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer. 
Excessive alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption, particularly of alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and spirits, is associated with an increased risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast, and colorectum. 
Tobacco use: Smoking tobacco in any form (cigarettes, cigars, pipes) and using smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco, snuff) is a leading cause of cancer, responsible for a significant proportion of cancer deaths worldwide.

  • Infectious Agents: Certain infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites, can cause chronic infections that increase the risk of cancer. Examples include: 

Human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV infection is a major risk factor for cervical cancer, as well as other cancers of the genital area, anus, mouth, throat, and oropharynx. 
Helicobacter pylori: Infection with H. pylori bacteria is a major risk factor for stomach (gastric) cancer and gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma. 
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV): Chronic infection with HBV or HCV increases the risk of developing liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). 
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): EBV infection is associated with several types of cancer, including Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. 
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): People with HIV infection have an increased risk of developing certain cancers, particularly Kaposi sarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cervical cancer (in women).

  • Hormonal Factors: Hormonal factors, such as hormonal imbalances or exposure to hormones, may increase the risk of certain cancers. For example: 

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy, particularly estrogen plus progestin, is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women. 
Reproductive factors: Early age at first menstruation (menarche), late age at menopause, nulliparity (never giving birth), and late age at first childbirth may influence the risk of developing breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers. 
Hormonal contraceptives: Use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs) may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, although the risk is considered small and temporary.

  • Chronic Inflammation: Chronic inflammation, which can result from conditions such as chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity, may contribute to the development of cancer. Prolonged inflammation can promote DNA damage, cell proliferation, and tumor growth, increasing the risk of cancer in affected tissues.
  • Age, Gender, and Family History: Age, gender, and family history of cancer can influence an individual's risk of developing cancer. While advancing age is a significant risk factor for cancer, certain cancers may occur more frequently in specific age groups or genders. Additionally, a family history of certain cancers, particularly in first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children), may increase an individual's risk of developing cancer.

Treatment of Cancer

The treatment of cancer depends on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, the individual's overall health, and personal preferences.

Treatment plans are often individualized and may include one or more of the following approaches:

1. Surgery: Surgery involves the removal of cancerous tissue and nearby lymph nodes, if necessary. It is often used to remove tumors that are localized and have not spread to other parts of the body. Surgery may be curative if the cancer is caught early, or it may be used to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life in advanced stages.

2. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy employs medications to eradicate cancer cells or impede their proliferation and division.It can be administered orally or through intravenous infusion and is frequently employed in the management of metastatic cancer or as adjuvant therapy post-surgery to minimize the likelihood of cancer recurrence.

3. Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. It may be delivered externally (external beam radiation therapy) or internally (brachytherapy) and is often used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy.

4. Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy boosts the inherent immune system of the body to fight against cancer. It may involve the use of monoclonal antibodies, immune checkpoint inhibitors, cytokines, or cancer vaccines. Immunotherapy has shown promising results in treating certain types of cancer, particularly melanoma, lung cancer, and kidney cancer.

5. Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances to specifically target cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells. It works by interfering with specific molecules involved in the growth, progression, and spread of cancer. Targeted therapy is often used to treat cancers that have specific genetic mutations or molecular characteristics.

6. Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapy is employed in the treatment of hormone-responsive tumors, including breast and prostate cancer.It works by blocking the production or action of hormones that fuel the growth of cancer cells.

7. Stem Cell Transplantation: Stem cell transplantation, also known as bone marrow transplantation, may be used to treat certain types of cancer, particularly leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. It involves replacing damaged or diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells to restore normal blood cell production.

8. Palliative Care: Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life for patients with cancer. It may include pain management, emotional support, nutritional support, and assistance with practical matters.

9. Clinical Trials: Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate new treatments or treatment combinations for cancer. Participation in clinical trials may offer access to experimental therapies that are not yet widely available.

Best Cancer Treatment Services At Apollo Sage Hospitals

The Oncology Department of Apollo Sage Hospitals, Bhopal, is a trailblazer in Cancer Care. It is widely recognized as one of the finest Cancer Hospitals, equipped with cutting-edge and groundbreaking approaches to cancer care and clinical oncology.

Moreover, it is not an exaggeration to say that this hospital is playing a crucial role in revolutionizing healthcare excellence in Central India. It has also gained recognition for its ability to successfully treat patients from neighboring and distant countries, achieving a remarkable 100 percent success rate.

Distinguished oncologists and cancer specialists from around the globe are an integral part of our Apollo Cancer Centres network. Their expertise is unparalleled, and they consistently provide exceptional care and achieve successful outcomes for our patients. Let us explore the factors that contribute to the esteemed reputation of Apollo Sage Hospitals, Bhopal in the field of cancer care.


  • 1. How does cancer start?

Answer: Cancer initiates when cells within the body commence an uncontrolled growth. Typically, cells undergo a regulated process of growth, division, and death. However, if a cell's DNA sustains damage, it can lead to the development of cancer. This occurrence can be attributed to various factors such as smoking, exposure to radiation, or genetic mutations. Once cancerous, cells persistently divide and may give rise to a tumor that has the potential to metastasize to different regions of the body.

  • 2. What are 4 main types of cancer?  

Answer: There are four primary categories of cancer:
1.Carcinomas: Carcinomas are a type of cancer that begins in the skin or the lining of internal organs.
2.Sarcomas: Sarcomas are cancers that originate in the bones, muscles, or connective tissues.
3.Leukemias: Leukemias are a group of cancers that impact the blood and bone marrow, resulting in the production of abnormal blood cells.
4.Lymphomas: Originate in the lymphatic system, a component of the body's immune system.

  • 3. What is cancer diseases?

Answer: Cancer is characterized by the uncontrolled growth and division of cells within the body, leading to the formation of tumors and potential spread to different areas of the body.

  • 4. Is cancer is Genetic?

Answer: Cancer may be influenced by genetic factors, although not all types of cancer are inherited. Certain genetic mutations can elevate the chances of developing cancer, but lifestyle choices and environmental factors also contribute significantly to the risk.

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