Cancer in Women: Detection is now just a test away!


A woman’s body is likely to change with age, time and environmental factors. Sometimes, the changes that seem normal can be signs of cancer, though.

Some of the cancers that most often affect women are breast, endometrial, ovarian and cervical cancers. Knowing about these cancers and what you can do to help prevent them or find them early may help save one’s life.

The symptoms may be easy to overlook and are usually diagnosed at a late stage when they are generally more difficult to treat. Efforts should be made to detect cancer at a very early stage by educating population about the risk factors.

There are several methods of diagnosing cancer. With advances in technologies that understand cancers better, there is a rise of number of diagnostic tools that can help detect cancers. Once suspected, diagnosis is usually made by pathologists, onco-pathologists and imaging radiologists.

There are a few limitations of attempting to diagnose cancers with conventional biopsy techniques guided by ultrasound or CT, like rupture of the cystic mass when a biopsy needle is inserted with possible spread of the tumor to other sites, or missing cancerous cells since some parts of the cyst may not contain cancer.

At Datar Genetics Scientists have studied innovative methods to detect cancer by identifying markers specific to the disease present in the blood. This method is called ‘Liquid biopsy’, which is simple, safe, sure and works on a highly sensitive platform.

In liquid biopsy, fluid or blood drawn from the individual is examined to find cancer cells and other biomarkers within the blood. The test utilizes gene sequencing to compare genetic markers within the person’s blood sample. Those markers are then contrasted with genetic markers found in common cancers such as ovarian, breast, lung, endometrial and colon cancers. If there are genetic markers that match, then the test has found evidence that the patient is at risk of contracting said cancer in the future. It is particularly helpful when a tissue biopsy can’t be done easily or if tissue is unavailable for any reason or if the original starting point (primary) of cancer is not known.

Liquid Biopsy can be used at various stages – for Cancer diagnosis, for early detection, for guidance on therapy management and for recurrence monitoring. It can also provide therapy guidance and helps monitor therapy success. It also helps to predict the response of patient to a drug and also if tumor has developed resistance to the treatment.

In the field of oncology, where innovations come and go without lasting impact, this novel non-invasive liquid biopsy is a life saver.

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Bad lifestyle choices can lead to cancer

9 New-age lifestyle habits that can increase your risk of cancer


Sure we have all have a certain pace to follow in today’s world without which we can be left behind. We all have to run in the race and make sure we are the winners. However, while following our passion and working hard to make our dreams come true, we often neglect our health. We do not care about our food, exercise, or healthy habits. This leads to various health disorders and one of the scariest threat is that of cancer. Though we do not do it intentionally, these habits affect our health.

Here are some habits that you should avoid –
1. Processed foods

Diet plays a very important role in our overall well-being – physical as well as mental. Nowadays processed food is in and we find it easier to stock our refrigerators with ready-to-cook meals and microwave it just before leaving for work. Charcoaled grilled food is also a trend these days. But the compounds in charred foods are supposed to help the occurrence of breast cancer in women.

Overly processed food
Image credits- teensonline.co.za

2. Sodas and energy drinks

All of us think that no sugar = no health problems; and happily sip on diet coke. However, it’s not just about the sugar. The artificial colours in many sodas are connected to cancer. It is also the case with artificial sweeteners. This is called caramel colouring and it is found in many drinks and processed snacks items. These drinks have high glycemic index and increase the risk of endometrial cancer.

3. Overeating

With so many outlets nearby and food-ordering being so convenient at a tap of our fingers, overeating is bound to happen. It also means no proper intervals between the meals. Overeating leads to obesity and obesity is linked to many types of cancers like colon, breast (postmenopausal), endometrium kidney and esophagus.

4. Cellphones

Radiations from cell phone are dangerous and can lead to cancer. So it’s advised that SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) of the phone should be checked while buying a new phone. It measures the radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body from the cell phone. You need to be more careful when you are in an area with weak signals, because phones work harder to search a signal and thus, emit more radiation.

Mobile radiation and cancer
Image credits- completehealthnews.com

5. Sitting too much

All of us spend a major portion of our day sitting at our computer screens. It not just leads to jammed muscles and body pain, but also increases the risk of cancer. With the urban lifestyle, there’s very less or almost zero physical activity. Thus, it’s advised to do some physical activity at least once a day. It lowers the risk of colorectal, postmenopausal breast, and endometrial cancers.

 6. Working in night shifts

A study has found out that women who have worked at night shifts for more than 30 years have doubled risk of getting a breast cancer as compared to those who haven’t. It is because of the melatonin suppression at night. However, there are other factors too; disturbed sleep, lack of vitamin D, upset body clock, to name a few.

7. Alcohol

This is a no-brainer. Everyone knows the side-effects and after-effects of alcohol. Though occasionally indulging in some drinks is not a problem; making it a habit and having it every day definitely leads to cancer. When alcohol metabolism happens, it produces a carcinogen in the body and increases the risk for breast, mouth, pharynx, liver, and colorectal cancer.

8. Over-exposure to sunlight

Harmful UV rays from sunlight can increase the risk of melanoma skin cancer. The rates of skin cancer have gone up in a last few decades and it can be attributed to the choice of clothing as well as casual amount of sunbathing as a recreational activity.

Sun rays and skin cancer risk
Image credits – newgenskin.ie

9. Oral sex

It was quite a shock for everyone when Hollywood actor & producer said that he had got throat cancer because of excessive amount of oral sex. However, it is scientifically proven that oropharyngeal cancer is caused by HPV infection acquired from oral to genital contact. Thus, it’s always advised to be careful while engaging in such sexual behavior.

Above are some of the habits on which you should keep a check on to lead a healthy life. Because it’s rightly said- prevention is always better than cure. And if there’s any doubt you should always get tested for your risk factors so you can take preventive measures.

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Chemotherapy – Not everything you know about it is true!


Battling cancer is a very scary experience- for patients as well as their family members. Many tests, multiple opinions, various course of treatments and so on. There are many options available but lack of knowledge leads to confusion and eventually, threat about the treatments. Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer. However, there are still many patients and their near ones are reluctant to go for it because of many misconceptions. Here are some of the common chemotherapy myths busted.

  1. I must be critically ill if doctor has suggested chemotherapy.

That would have been true a few decades back when it could mean a very poor health condition. However, nowadays chemo is suggested as a supplementary treatment and given after a primary treatment e.g. surgery or a radiation therapy. It is usually suggested to prevent cancer recurrence.

  1. Chemo is a very hectic process.

Nowadays chemo drugs are given through various ways depending on the patients’ need and the condition. Most of the times, the drugs are given through a needle or a catheter. But it can also be given in a liquid or pill form which you can take at home.

  1. Everybody loses their hair.

This is one of the biggest fears anyone has while going through a chemo. However, it’s not really true. With latest chemo drugs, losing hair is becoming uncommon.  Hair loss happens due to the damaged hair follicles which, most of the time is a side effect of the chemo drugs. However, new medications are developed in a way to minimize this effect.

credits- thespiritscience.net/
credits- thespiritscience.net/
4. Chemotherapy only kills cancer cells.

In medical terms, chemotherapy is often referred as cytotoxic (cell-killing) treatment. These drugs are devised to hamper the growth of the cells by attacking their DNA that fosters their growth. However, these drugs also attack the cells which grow in irregular manner, which are not always cancer cells. Thus side effects are seen.

 5. Chemotherapy is same for all.

Chemotherapy is becoming more customized according to the patient’s needs. It is not a standard treatment. There are varieties of therapies used in combination with other medications. It is not a similar treatment for one and all. E.g. two men with lung cancer might not receive the same treatment.

6. Chemo causes high-level of nausea.

Earlier, it was very common amongst patients undergoing chemotherapy to experience nausea. It was one of the major side effects earlier. However, with new anti-nausea drugs like Zofron & Kytril, the symptoms are effectively controlled. It even allows patients to go home after the treatment unlike the earlier days when recovery time was needed.  It is recommended that patients should take meals at short intervals rather than traditional ‘three meals a day’ option

7. Chemotherapy is very painful.

Earlier, it was true. But chemotherapy drugs are so advanced now that there are very negligible or very less side effects- but pain is not the one of those. Nowadays it’s a rare case that patient is admitted to hospital for overnight stay after the treatment.

8. If I’m not sick, the chemo must not be working.

It is the mindset of some patients that if any treatment is not hurting/ causing pain to them; it is not effective. Not just chemo, but otherwise too. However, it is not true. Some people experience side effects of the therapy while others don’t. But lack of side effects does not mean that the treatment is not working.

credits- blogs.sheknows.com
credits- blogs.sheknows.com
9. I won’t be able to have children after chemotherapy.

Chemo can cause a huge effect on pregnancy and it is indeed a complicated decision whether to or not to conceive while receiving chemo. It can cause complications. It is not true that conceiving during chemotherapy is not possible. However, it is strongly recommended that you talk to your specialist about the options before starting the treatment.

10. Chemotherapy makes patient toxic.

The medications used in chemo are indeed very powerful and can prove toxic if not administered correctly. But that does not mean that it makes you toxic. Many people, out of ignorance think that the person undergoing chemo should use different rooms and toilets. That is not true. Chemo does not make patient untouchable.

It is always great to be well-informed. Especially when it concerns ours and our loved ones’ health.

 

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Metastasis – Making the fight against cancer tougher


Cancer in itself is a traumatizing phase in anyone’s life. However, it is more painful when the cancer recurs after the treatment. Cancer recurrence happens due to many reasons. Metastasis is one of those.

About Metastatic Breast Cancer

Sometimes, the cancer spreads to the other parts of the body which are far from the spot where it originated. When breast cancer metastasizes, it is also classified as Stage 4 breast cancer.  It usually spreads to the the lungs, liver, bones or brain. Metastasis is the name of the process by which cancer spreads to the other parts. The chances of metastasis are most amongst breast cancer. The risk of metastatic cancer varies from person to person. Even though cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is still treated as the original cancer. i.e. breast cancer spread to the lungs will still be considered and treated as breast cancer, not lung cancer.

 How does cancer metastasize?

Cancer usually metastasizes or spreads through one or more of the steps mentioned below-

  • Cancer cells invade healthy cells around them.

When the healthy cell is taken over by the cancer cells, it can replicate more abnormal cells and spread the cancer.

  • Cancer cells penetrate into the circulatory system.

Cancer cells travel through the walls of nearby lymph vessels or blood vessels. Sometimes, they get carried by the lymph system and the bloodstream to other parts of the body and it causes harm.

  • Cancer cells get stuck in capillaries.

Sometimes, cancer cells stop moving as they are lodged in capillaries at a distant location. There, they get divided then migrate into the surrounding tissue.

  • Micro metastases.

Micro metastases are the small tumors formed by cancer cells at the new location. This might make cancer cells spread.

Image credits - http://cache1.bioon.com/
Image credits – http://cache1.bioon.com/

Symptoms of Metastatic Breast Cancer

The symptoms of metastatic breast cancer vary depending on how far the breast cancer has spread and what type of tissue the new cancer growth has invaded. These symptoms may also vary depending on where the cancer has spread to.

Here are some common symptoms of breast cancer metastasis according to the various locations in the body.

Metastasis to the bone:

  • Bones that are more easily fractured or broken
  • Severe, progressive pain
  • Swelling

Metastasis to the brain:

  • Persistent, progressively worsening headache or pressure to the head
  • Vision disturbances
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Behavioral or personality changes

Metastasis to the liver:

  • Jaundice
  • Itchy skin or rash
  • Abnormally high enzymes in the liver
  • Abdominal pain, appetite loss, nausea, and vomiting

Metastasis to the lungs:

  • Chronic cough or inability to get a full breath
  • Abnormal chest X-ray
  • Chest pain

Apart from the above, other nonspecific systemic symptoms of metastatic breast cancer include fatigue, weight loss, and poor appetite.

If these symptoms are noticed in the breast cancer patient, be sure you talk with your physician.

Treatment of metastatic breast cancer is guided by many factors like characteristics of the cancer cells, location where the cancer has spread, its symptoms, and treatments used in past. This treatment is highly personalized and depends on the characteristics of cancer and tolerance of the patient. Side effects are also taken into consideration.

Today, many advanced treatments are available for metastatic breast cancer. Even though the treatments might not guarantee to cure the cancer completely, they definitely help to control it.

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Cancer recurrence – a speedbump on a highway towards cancer-free life


Neelam, a mother of two fought breast cancer for almost three years and survived. After her victory over the disease, she started living her life as a blessing, making each and every moment count. However, when she went to the doctor to check the inflamed skin on her breast, she was shattered after the results came out. She started crying her heart out, because her cancer had come back. Cancer recurrence is indeed a traumatic experience. More than the physical tensions, it attacks patient’s will to live.

Cancer recurrence

Cancer recurrence means that cancer has come back after the treatment and between the times during which the cancer could not be detected. The first cancer has higher chances of coming back. Recurrence starts with cancer cells that were not fully destroyed or removed during the first treatment. However, this does not mean that the treatment was wrong. Neither it means that patient did something which made cancer reoccur. It just means that some cells survived during the treatment at first time. Even though it seems that treatment has got rid of all those cancer cells.

The problem is mainly because the cancer cells those are inactive for many years after the first treatment. But in some cases, suddenly the changes in immune system activate the cells. It can grow and divide to create other cells. Once those cells go on growing and dividing, it becomes big enough for a test to detect it as a recurred cancer. Cancer recurrence is found in one of the five patients. Sometimes, the mutated genes can cause a second type of cancer.

Cancers are more likely to come back if –

  • They are aggressive i.e. fast growing.
  • Advanced cancers i.e. detected in later stages.
  • Cancer is widespread in the body.

Types of cancer recurrence

When the cancer is detected again, it is not necessary that it will be found at a same spot. It can be found anywhere else. Here are the types of cancer recurrence.

  • Local recurrence.

When the cancer appears in the same spot where it was first found, it is called local recurrence. This means that the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

  • Regional recurrence.

When can cancer reappears in the tissues located close in the surroundings of the earlier cancer, it is called as regional recurrence.

  • Distant recurrence.

Sometimes when the cancer reappears, it is nowhere close to the original cancer spot from where it was removed earlier. It is called as distant recurrence.

When the recurrence occurs, the doctor informs the patient about the type of recurrence and the best possible treatments for the same.

Image credits- Corbis
Image credits- Corbis

When does the cancer recur?  

Cancer can reappear any time after the treatment but breast cancer mostly recurs in the first three to five years after initial treatment.  Breast cancer can come back as a local recurrence i.e. in the treated breast or near the mastectomy scar or as a distant recurrence. The most common sites of recurrence are the lymph nodes, the bones, liver, or lungs.

Genetics and cancer recurrence.

Now medical advancements have made it a little easier to gauge the recurrence of cancer. One of such tests is Liquid Biopsy. It is a very sensitive screening which tests for cancer-free DNAs in body and can thus, accurately monitor cancer recurrence.

Though positive or negative attitude does not control the cancer or its recurrence, it definitely helps the patients to gain more strength to fight the battle against cancer.

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