In simple language, cancer is the abnormal growth of cells. Cancers arise from an organ or body structure and are composed of tiny cells that have lost the ability to stop growing. This growing structure then sticks out from that organ or body structure until it reaches a size large enough to be noticed by a patient or physician. Occasionally, cancer may be detected “incidentally” by a laboratory test or X-ray – that is, the test or X-ray may have been ordered for purposes of routine screening or for an entirely different reason; in such a case, the cancer gets noticed almost by accident. At this point, it may be referred to as a “mass,” a “growth,” a “tumour,” a “nodule,” a “spot,” a “lump,” a “lesion,” or a “malignancy.” Further test would be advised to know if it contains cancer!

Broad classification of cancers:

Lymphomas and leukemias are examples of “liquid tumours” – or cancers originating in body fluids (the blood and bone marrow). Liquid tumours are treated using chemotherapy injections.

“Solid tumours,” including cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, colon and rectum, bladder. They are not related to blood, however, they may release chemicals that are detectable in body fluids. (A person with prostate cancer, for example, may have an elevated level of Prostate-specific Antigen, or PSA, in the blood stream). The main curative treatment for solid tumours is surgery.

Combination therapy gives the best results
The earlier cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the chance of its being cured. Some types of cancer — such as those of the skin, breast, mouth, testicles, prostate, and rectum — may be detected by routine self-exam or other screening measures before the symptoms become serious. Most cases of cancer are detected and diagnosed after a tumour can be felt or when other symptoms develop. Many cancers may have to be treated with combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or immunotherapy, etc. to get best results.

Plan your treatment
Another important thing is managing the costs of cancer treatment which may be difficult for many patients and families coping with cancer and may cause distress and worry and make it more challenging to follow their doctors’ prescribed treatment course. It is essential to have a financial plan to effectively treat cancer. Very often your doctor would be able to give a broad idea about the treatment regime that would be followed and approximate cost that would be involved. However, the specifics may only be known after surgery as the true staging of cancer is only known on microscopic examination of the removed tumour.