Dr Vijay Sharnangat is a Hemato Oncologist and Cancer Chemotherapy Specialist consulting in the Western Suburbs of Mumbai. He underwent training at the prestigious GCRI Institute to diagnose and treat solid organ cancers like Breast, Lung, Ovarian, Prostate, Testicular, Colon and Leukemias and Lymphomas. He holds a special interest in solid and hematological malignancies and has several international publications to his credit.
Nowadays, Breast Cancer is one of the most common cancer types seen not only in our country but around the world. The incidence of Breast Cancer is rising in the younger population also, which is a cause for major concern. Genetic factors and lifestyle habits are the common causes of Breast Cancer. The chances of getting Breast Cancer or uterine cancer increase if a person has two or more family members with the same disease. This can be regulated only through yearly screening tests like mammograms or mammo-sonogram for every woman over the age of 40. Finding cancer early is the key to curing it.
Head and Neck Cancers
The incidence of Head and Neck cancers are very high in our country due to the high Tobacco consumption among our population. Especially in the northern states of our country, like Gujarat and Maharashtra, Tobacco is consumed through various means, all of which is a great risk factor for Head and Neck Cancers. It is very easy to prevent this cancer type as refraining from Tobacco use will bring down the number of cancer cases manifold. Head and Neck Cancer cases are rising in women due to the rise in Tobacco consumption among women and due to HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection, which can also cause some cancers.
Ovarian cancer is another cancer type that is commonly seen in our population. In most cases, Ovarian Cancer is asymptomatic until it reaches an advanced stage, leading to complications during the treatment and lower survival rates. Since ovaries are deep-seated in the abdomen, even if the tumors reach the size of 10-15 cm, it can go unnoticed without symptoms. At this stage, symptoms such as a bulge in the abdomen, weight loss, loss of appetite, excessive fatigue, abdominal Pain and discomfort may be seen. The risk of Ovarian Cancer increases with age and family history. The mutations in the BRACA1 and BRACA2 genes are the main reason for the genetic cause of cancer types such as Ovarian Cancer and Breast Cancer.
As such, it is not possible to prevent ovarian malignancies. Around 90% of all cancer cases are sporadic, and the rest are genetic. We won’t be able to prevent these hereditary cancers, and the best method is for these people to go for preventive surgeries and do regular screening. The best method to prevent sporadic cancer cases is to control your addictions such as Tobacco chewing and smoking, Alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, lifestyle changes, unhealthy food habits and such. 30% of sporadic cancers also occur due to environmental issues such as pollution, harmful sunlight, UV rays and such, and these can also be prevented by taking the necessary precautionary measures.
Prostate cancer is only seen in males and is commonly seen among the elderly population. In patients who don’t have any symptoms or discomforts, we usually do not ask them to undergo regular treatment or screening tests since that can lead to overdiagnosis. If they are showing symptoms, we go for treatment, including Surgery or Radiation therapy.
Leukemia and Lymphoma
Leukemia and other hematological malignancies are a very unpredictable type of malignancies. These cancer types are diagnosed when the patient comes with continuous fever, and we may find some abnormalities in their blood tests, leading to the cancer diagnosis. Nowadays, blood cancers are curable or treatable to a larger extent.
Lymphomas are another malignancy related to blood, where the usual symptoms are swelling in the neck regions or armpits. The lymph nodes will be swollen, and patients may have a fever, decreased appetite, and weight loss. We diagnose this cancer type by sending a portion of the swollen lymph node for Biopsy. Lymphomas are also treatable and curable in the majority of patients.
Testicular cancer is a very rare type of cancer commonly seen in the elderly population. Patients come to us with testicular Pain or enlargement of the testes. We take Imaging tests, CT scans, blood investigations and use them to assess the extent of the disease. The treatment procedure is mainly surgery, and testicular cancer patients usually have higher survival rates.
Colorectal cancer is normally seen in people above the age of 40 and can be due to genetic reasons or lifestyle habits. Individuals who have siblings with Colorectal Cancer have a higher chance of getting Colorectal Cancer.
Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy
Chemotherapy is the major therapy that we use to treat cancer. We use medications that are administered orally or through injection, which goes into the patient’s body and starts killing cancer cells. Chemotherapy normally acts on rapidly dividing cells, where cancer cells have a high growth rate compared to normal body cells. Therefore, Chemotherapy also affects the GI tract and hair follicles, which lead to side effects such as Alopecia(hair fall), sores in the mouth and loose-motions. Side effects of Chemotherapy also include fever, low blood counts, constipation, Nausea and vomiting, Peripheral Neuropathy and in very rare cases, serious issues like heart attacks and sudden deaths. Around 20-25% of patients will have only minimal side effects, and only 5% of total patients will have serious side effects.
Immunotherapy is a comparatively new treatment procedure, which is safer compared to chemotherapies. The side effects are also lesser than chemotherapy, but the downside of Immunotherapy is that it is a very costly treatment procedure. The common side effects of Immunotherapy occur in the endocrine system in organs such as the liver and GI tract.
There are many kinds of hematological malignancies like Lymphomas, Myelomas, Leukemias, and there exist different therapies for different kinds of malignancies. Every cancer type has a unique treatment method, giving them better survival rates and quality of life.
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