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Is Cancer Hereditary?

“Is cancer Hereditary?” If you are asking that question, you are not alone! Cancer has become such a common disease that almost everyone has a relative who has cancer. To put it plainly, almost everyone has a family member suffering from cancer.

Is Cancer Hereditary?

It is true that some cancers are hereditary and their cause is a genetic mutation. This increases the risk of family members developing the disease. It’s scary, right? But don’t panic. There are a lot more factors that you should remember before you panic and jump to conclusions.

While some cancers are hereditary, not all are. Research your family’s medical history to know about genetic mutations. If cancer has been present in your family’s medical history, act.

Now That You Know that Cancer is Hereditary, What Now?

If there is a medical history of cancer in your family, here are 10 things that you should consider: –

Not All Genetic Mutations Are Hereditary

While it is true that genetic mutation is the reason for the occurrence of cancer, it is also true that not all genetic mutations are hereditary. Cancer is caused because of uncontrolled cell division, which leads to the formation of a tumour. However, while this cell division can be hereditary, due to the presence of a mutant gene, it can also be due to other external factors like smoking or consumption of excessive alcohol.

Most of the Common Cancers are because of Inherited Mutant Genes

It is believed that the following cancers are inherited:

a) Ovarian cancer
b) Colon cancer
c) Prostate cancer
d) Breast cancer
e) Pancreas cancer
f) Endometrial cancer
g) Stomach cancer
h) Kidney cancer
i) Melanoma cancer of the skin

Other cancers, though rare, are also inherited. These include BRCA1 and 2. They increase the risk of a number of other cancers.

Signs that Tell You If the Cancer is Hereditary

Smoking is environmental cancer. If your dad died of lung cancer, research a little to find the causes of his cancer. It is probably his heavy smoking. When multiple members of the same family are diagnosed with the same type of cancer before the age of 50, it’s a safe bet that their cancer was inherited. Cancers such as breast or pancreatic and thyroid, to name a few are inherited.

See Who in Your Family Has Cancer

Mutant genes can skip a generation. However, if your grandmother and your mother both have ovarian cancer, then it is a cause for concern – more than a cousin having it.

Some Mutant Genes are Specific in a Group

People, whose ancestors are from Eastern Europe, Russia or Germany, have more risk of having BRCA 1 and 2 mutant genes. Similarly, people who are African Americans, have a higher risk of colon cancer than Caucasians.

Investigate Your Family’s Cancer History

While older relatives are hypochondriacs, not many of them would like to share their medical information. As they grow older, they have newer ‘’medical problems’’ but they will not share information on old serious illnesses. You will need to have ‘’cancer conversations’’ with them to get them to share this information. Write it down. Collect information from as many relatives as you can and write it down. You may need it later in your life.

Not Everyone Needs Testing

People having ethnic background have to be more careful and should schedule routine testing, more than Caucasians. While it is known than only one-third of cancer is inherited, it is true that there is even lesser information on less than 10% of cancers. Cancer cannot be detected if you don’t know where to look.

Get Insurance

If you have a history of cancer in your family, then you will get insurance cover. Save yourself a lot of trouble by consulting a genetic counsellor.

Opt for all Cancer Screenings that is Available under the Insurance

Make use of all the screening tests available under the insurance. That will help detect cancer early and, if detected early, it can be treated. Do get skin checks done if there have been cases of melanoma in your family. Do schedule annual visits to your gynaecologist, if there has been a history of breast or ovarian cancer in your family.

Change Lifestyle to Lower Cancer Risk

If there is a history of cancer in your family, then isn’t it better to opt for a healthy lifestyle to lower the risk? Swap in a healthy lifestyle like quitting smoking or eating unhealthy foods. Cut down on red meat and opt for a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.

Conclusion

If the cancer is inherited, then the mutant gene is present in the sperm or egg that formed the embryo. Since all the cells of the child come from this sperm or egg, it is safe to assume that the gene mutation has been passed down to the child. If the mutation is acquired, it has not been passed from the parent but has come later.

While many cancers are inherited, the most common cancers are caused by the acquired mutant genes. People with cancer in their family should try and learn about their genetic makeup to help them plan their medical care. Inherited mutations can be detected by genetic testing if you are aware of the kind of cancer that runs in your family. This testing would be most helpful.

It is a well-known fact that early detection of cancer is essential for successful treatment. Getting the right insurance cover for genetic testing can help you. Get the advice of a genetic counsellor when you are opting for insurance cover. Learn what tests and illnesses would be covered and plan your health care accordingly. It is important that you understand genetic testing and know what this testing will look for – the kind of mutations that run in your family and the kind of cancer that has already claimed your family members.

Predictive genetic testing will help look for the inherited mutant gene and help in treatment.

All About Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer develops in the throat or mouth tissues. Most of this type of cancer develops in the squamous cells found in the lips, tongue and mouth. It often occurs in people who are over 40 years of age. By the time it is detected, it has usually spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. Like other cancers, early detection is the key to successful treatment.

Kinds of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is of 6 types as given below:

  • Lips
  • Inner cheeks
  • Tongue
  • Floor of mouth
  • Soft and hard palate
  • Gums

One of the reasons why we should have regular dental checkups is that if there are any signs of oral cancer, the dentist is the first to see them and alert you to the symptoms.

Causes of Oral Cancer

One of the biggest contributing factors to oral cancer is the use of tobacco. This includes use of cigarettes, pipes and cigars. Chewing tobacco is one of the major causes of oral cancer.

Also, people consuming large quantities of tobacco and alcohol are at higher risk. Apart from these, the following also cause oral cancer:

  • HPV Infection
  • Exposure of face skin to sun
  • Previous history of oral cancer
  • Family history of cancer
  • Weak immune system
  • Genetic mutation
  • Bad nutrition
  • Gender (Male)

Men are twice as susceptible to oral cancer than women.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

People suffering from oral cancer exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Mouth or lip sores that do not heal
  • Tissue mass in the mouth
  • Non-stop bleeding in the mouth
  • Mouth ulcers, loose teeth
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Lump in neck
  • Untreatable painful ear
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Numbness of chin, neck, lower lip or face
  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • Stiff or painful jaw
  • Painful tongue
  • Sore throat

Some of these symptoms can also indicate something seasonal like the flu. However, if they do not go away even after taking antibiotics or stay for a long time, it is best to take preventive measures and consult your physician or dentist as soon as you can.

Diagnosis of Oral Cancer

Diagnosing oral cancer involves examination of the floor and roof of the mouth, tongues, cheeks, throat and the neck’s lymph nodes. If there are no symptoms of the mouth, you will be referred to an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist.

If there is any growth, lesions or tumours, the doctor will perform a biopsy so that the cells can be examined in a laboratory. The biopsy will determine if the cells are cancerous.

The following tests may also be recommended by your doctor:

  • CT Scan of the body to determine tumours in the lungs, neck or mouth;
  • X-Ray to determine where the cancer cells have spread;
  • PET Scan for determining if the cancer cells have spread to the neck’s lymph nodes or any other part of the body;
  • Endoscopy for examining sinuses, nasal passages, trachea, windpipe and the inner throat;
  • MRI Scan for precise information on cancer and to determine the stage of cancer.

Stages of Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer has four stages as given below: –

  • Stage 1 – This is the stage in which the size of a tumour is 2 cm or less. The tumour is contained in the specific area and has not spread.
  • Stage 2 – The size of the tumour increases and is 2 cm to 4 cm. The cancer cells are still contained and have not spread
  • Stage 3 – The size of the tumour is immaterial, though it may be 4cm and either less or more. But the deciding factor is where cancer has spread. It may have moved to a lymph node.
  • Stage 4 – The size of the tumour may be big or small. The deciding factor of this stage is determining the location of the cancer cells and where they have spread. It can be to other parts of the body, the tissues or the lymph nodes.

According to a study conducted by National Cancer Institute:

  • If the cancer is localized, then there is 83% of survival rate are for 5 years.
  • If the cancer is now present in the lymph nodes, then there is 64% of survival rate for 5 years.
  • Finally, if cancer has spread to other body parts, then the survival rate for 5 years drastically comes down to 38%.

The earlier the diagnosis, the higher the survival rate for 5 years.

Treatment of Oral Cancer

Treatment of oral cancer is of 6 types and depends on the type of cancer, its location and finally, the stage. Here are the 6 types of treatment for oral cancer:

  • Surgery – Surgery is recommended if the cancer is detected at an early stage. An operation is performed to remove the tumour and the tissues in and around the neck and mouth where the cancer cells are present.
  • Radiation Therapy – The doctor gives radiation on those areas where the tumour and the cancer cells are present. The therapy may be given for up to eight weeks depending on the stage of cancer.
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy kills cancer cells. The medicine is fed inside the body either intravenously or orally. Usually, chemotherapy does not require hospitalization.
  • Targeted Therapy – In targeted therapy, the drugs interfere with the growth of cancerous cells by binding specific proteins on them. It is effective in both the early and later stages of cancer.
  • Nutrition – Nutrition plays a big role in the treatment of oral cancer. After the therapies, it becomes difficult to swallow or eat. The physician will prescribe a change in diet to ensure good health during the treatment.
  • Healthy Mouth – Lastly, it is essential to keep the mouth health during the treatment.

Conclusion

You will need frequent follow-ups after the treatment to ensure recovery. Do not miss those follow-ups as it is during these check-ups that the oncologist notices any abnormality. If you have a routine dental check-up, then please do follow up with the dentist. The dentist will be one of the first people who will observe the changes in your mouth alert you and your oncologist to the fact. And this can be what saves your life.