The tests which are part of screening and which can detect cancers at an early stage include:
The two important advances are:
1. Organ preservation strategies, where in the entire organ affected by the cancer need not be removed, rather chemotherapy and or radiation is used to shrink the cancer and then a surgery to remove only the affected area is undertaken. This preserves the form and function of the organ and is now standard treatment for breast cancer - the entire breast need not be removed, only a small portion of the breast and the lymph glands in the armpit need be removed to ensure cure.
2. Minimally invasive or 'keyhole surgery' where the radical cancer operation is undertaken through tiny incisions using special long instruments, with vision provided using a high definition camera on a device called the endoscope. This may take one of 2 forms - conventional laparoscopic surgery or robotic surgery. Robotic surgery is an advanced form of laparoscopy using a computer interface to improve the precision of the surgeon's movements to perform a radical operation, which is as radical as open surgery but more delicate and associated with a faster recovery for the patient.
1. Modern chemotherapy is safe, effective and well tolerated. Recent advances include the use of special formulations which reduce the toxicity while retaining or enhancing the efficacy of these drugs, for example, by using nanoparticle coated formulations. The use of intra - arterial chemotherapy to directly inject the drugs at high concentration into a tumour [e.g. in liver cancers] or instillation into the abdominal cavity using a pump which heats and distributes the drugs within the cavity, destroying cancer cells, as can be performed for Ovarian cancer [HIPEC-Hyperthermic Intra PEritoneal Chemotherapy] are cutting edge developments we use in practice.
2. Biologic agents are a new class of drugs which target tumours at the molecular level, acting selectively on tumour cells carrying specific receptors. These drugs bind to these target receptors and selectively block the growth of the cancer or in some cases prevent the growth of blood vessels, which are essential for tumours to grow and spread. They are generally well tolerated and safer than conventional chemotherapy, but more expensive.
Cancer is not communicable - meaning that one does not get cancer by taking care of a person affected by the disease. Cancer patients are at an increased risk of developing infections especially when they are on chemotherapy.
During this period contact with people should be minimized, especially those who have cough/cold or respiratory infections. They should drink boiled water and eat only cooked food - bland and easily digestible such as rice, potato, bread, yoghurt [avoid raw food/salads]. They should peel fruits before eating. They should avoid dust and crowded places such as markets and places of worship.