When the body is bogged down by an increase in the number of abnormal cells that divide without any control simultaneously invading the tissues of different organs, you are supposed to be suffering from cancer.
These cells divide rapidly and enter various parts of your body via lymph systems and blood. On an average, nine million cases of cancer are diagnosed annually, all over the globe out of which 4.5 million patients succumb to cancer.
As in India, more than seven lakh people are diagnosed with cancer every year out of which 3.5 lakhs die due to this disease. Sadly, almost 33 percent of cancer is caused due to bad habits such as the use of tobacco.
How Does Cancer Occur?
Cells from the basic unit of life. Cancer attacks this basis of human life, which is why it is very difficult to eliminate cancerous cells from the body.
The normal cells turn into cancerous cells and the cells that were earlier supporting your body system now become destructive and turn against the normal working of your body. Here is a short description how normal cells turn into cancer cells:
Tumors are formed in this way. However, not all the tumors are cancerous. These are two types:
??Types of Cancer
A malignant tumor is the cause of cancer. But cancer cannot be considered as just one disease as it causes problems in different body parts. At present 100 different types of cancer have been found out.
These cancers are named according to the organ from which cancer starts. For example, cancer that begins in the intestine is known as intestinal cancer and so on.
1. Sarcoma Cancer:
This type of cancer starts in fat, cartilage, bone, connective or supportive tissue or blood vessels
This type of cancer begins in the tissues or the skin. Subtypes of carcinoma include basal cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
This type of cancer starts in the immune system cells.
Blood cancer or leukemia starts inside the tissues that form blood such as bone marrow leading to the formation of abnormal blood cells.
This type of cancer starts within the spinal cord or brain tissues.
Stage of cancer refers to the particular stage at which the cancer was first detected or diagnosed. It is very important that the caregiver is sure about the exact stage of cancer because it can play a critical role in the treatment of cancer.
Apart from the regular one, two or three stage, cancer is also detected in 0 or situ stage. Here is a step by step description on different stages of Cancer.
As discussed earlier, cancer is not just one disease but a combination of several diseases and hence can display various symptoms and signs that are sometimes very normal or very serious. Usually, the indications depend upon the organ where cancer has developed initially.
If it is in the first stage, the symptoms will be displayed in that particular organ. However, if the spread is distant then several symptoms will be displayed suggesting problems in different body parts. The cancerous tumour puts pressure on the blood vessels, nerves, and the organs near to it leading to signs and symptoms.
However, sometimes cancer occurs in a place that does not show any indications of its growth and it is only diagnosed usually at the last stages. Pancreatic cancer, cancer of the bile duct and so on does not cause any symptoms until the tumor grows large enough and starts pressing the other nearby organs.
A cancer patient starts losing weight without any reason as cancer progresses. This unexplained weight loss, especially of 10 pounds or even more is considered the first indication of cancer. Such symptoms are mostly associated with lung, stomach, pancreas and esophagus cancer.
Fever is the most common indication of cancer and usually, a patient starts having a fever when cancer has progressed beyond its point of origin. The occurrence of fever is an indication that the body's immune system is trying hard to resist cancerous cells. However, the patients suffering from lymphoma or leukaemia may get fever right from the start of the disease.
In certain types of cancer such as testicular and bone cancers, pain starts at a very early stage. This pain increases as the cancer grow and hence is considered an important symptom that helps in early diagnosis of the disease. For example, a patient suffering from a brain tumour may suffer from a severe headache that is almost incurable. Similarly, pain in the back is an indication of ovary, rectum or colon cancer.
Extreme tiredness that does not go away even after resting for long hours indicates the onset or progress of cancer. This can be an early sign of leukemia or some other type of cancer such as stomach or colon cancer in which blood loss occurs.
There are visible changes in the color and texture of the skin when a patient suffers from skin cancer. These
Note: Just because a patient is suffering from any of the above symptoms or signs does not mean that he is suffering from cancer, as these symptoms are quite common in other general diseases.
Is Cancer Curable?
The curability of cancer depends upon the type of cancer a patient is suffering from. Some types of cancer can be cured when they are diagnosed at a very early stage. On the other hand, there are certain cancers that can be cured at any stage whenever they are diagnosed. For example, blood cancers such as acute leukemia or lymphoma can be cured with the chemotherapy.
Whereas, other types of common cancers such as pancreatic, colon, lung, prostate, breast cancer are only curable when caught in the early stage-first or the second stage at the most.
Since in the first two stages the cancerous cells have not moved to any other body parts, they can be easily removed from the body through surgery. However, if such type of cancer has spread beyond third or fourth stage it is difficult to cure as it has moved beyond its primary point of origin.
Some of the incurable cancers include certain types of lung cancer, melanoma or skin cancer and more.
There are two main types of tests used to detect cancer. These include:
Usually doctors recommend imaging tests initially for detecting presence of cancer. Some such tests include: Mammograms
This screening test has certain limitations such as overdiagnosis, false-positive results, false-negative results, over treatment and exposure to radiation.
Risk Associated with CT Scan: CT scan exposes your body to harmful sources such as ionizing radiation that can lead to cancer.
Note: Some health experts do not recommend the use of this test as they are of the opinion that the risks are far more than the advantages.
Note: Women who had HPV vaccination should conduct the cervical screening more regularly.
Chances of a complete cure are much better if the disease is detected in its early stages. Here are some of the techniques used to treat different stages of cancer.
Immunotherapy Hormone Therapy Chemotherapy Radiation therapy Surgery
This is the latest treatment that manipulates the regular functioning of the body. During this treatment, the body's immune system is stimulated and given a boost by giving topical medications and injections to fight the cancerous cells.
In hormone therapy, the hormones in the body are manipulated to treat the cancerous cells. The process includes administering drugs and hormones. Doctors sometimes also recommend complete removal of hormone glands to destroy the cancer cells or to prevent the growth of these cells.
This is one of the most effective treatments used for treating cancer. Through chemotherapy, your body is given external help to fight the cancerous cells that have spread in all the parts of the body and where no other treatment can be effective. Dozens of different drugs are also given for oral consumption to the patient during this treatment to support the process of elimination of cancerous cells.
During radiation therapy, the affected part of the body is made to face the attack of radiation energy. The attack is mainly targeted at eliminating the existing cancerous cells and inhibiting their reproduction process. This therapy is also recommended to shrink the size of the tumor so that it can be removed easily through surgery. In case the tumor is small, the cancerous cells can be eliminated even without surgery.
Note: In both chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the normal cells too are affected during the treatment and lead to certain unpleasant side effects such as dryness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, peeling of the skin and more.
It is the most popularly used cure for removing cancerous cells from the body. More than 60 percent of the cancer patients undergo surgery. Surgery is conducted when the cancerous growth is found in its early stages so that the spread of the tumor is restricted. Along with surgery, usually chemotherapy and /or radiation therapy is also recommended.
If you make small changes in your lifestyle, you can prevent the onset of cancer to some extent. Although, no one can guarantee complete prevention, you can certainly minimize the chances of getting afflicted by this disease.
Obesity also has some link with cancer. Hence staying active and indulging in regular exercise for 30 minutes to maintain normal weight helps prevent cancer in the end. The reports of the Mayo Clinic suggest that regular physical activity reduces your chances of getting both colon and breast cancer. Maintaining ideal weight can also reduce the risk of lung, prostate and kidney cancer.
Note: A disciplined and healthy lifestyle ensures that you are saved from not only cancer but also other serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and more.
Several brands in the market claim to reduce the risk of cancer and other serious diseases through their supplements. You should avoid falling prey to such claims and instead use only those supplements and drugs as prescribed by your caregiver.
Specific types of vaccines for cancer are developed for treating the particular type of cancer. So, for different types of cancer, different vaccines are administered. Researchers are underway for preparing one antidote or vaccine for all types of cancer.
This vaccine is known as a universal cancer vaccine and it is expected to be available in coming days. The vaccine works by stimulating the immunity of a patient and producing the particular type of cells that destroy cancer cells and prevent recurrence and their growth. The vaccine contains special antigens or tumors.
Unlike other diseases, vaccine for cancer is only given to a patient after the disease has been detected and not for preventing the onset of this disease in the patient. At present five types of vaccines are available that can help prevent the progress of cancer. These are: " DNA Vaccines Antigen vaccines " " Tumor cell vaccines " " Dendritic cell vaccines " " Anti-idiotype vaccines".
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