Cancer is a group of diseases in which the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer can start in almost any part of the human body. Human cells grow, multiply and die according to the body’s needs this is the normal cycle. Sometimes, this orderly process breaks down, and abnormal growth of some cells takes place, these cells may form tumors that are lumps of tissue. Tumors are of two types, cancerous (malignant) and non-cancerous (benign). Malignant tumors spread into, or invade nearby tissues and can travel to other parts of the body to form new tumors (a process called metastasis). While benign tumors do not spread into or invade nearby tissues.
Cancerous cells and normal cells
Cancer cells grow faster than the body’s normal cells. Also, they do not show contact inhibition. Cancer cells ignore processes such as apoptosis, they get their own supply of oxygen and nutrients from the present blood vessels and remove waste products from tumors. They tell the immune system to help them for staying alive and grow. Cancer cells may create abnormalities in chromosome patterns and numbers.
Types of cancer
Four main types of cancer are –
Following are some common examples of cancer –
Leukemia, breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid cancer, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, sarcoma, uterine cancer, brain tumor, carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma, lung cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, appendix cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, gastrointestinal carcinoid tumor, astrocytoma, etc.
Below are symptoms and signs of cancer –
Mostly, it depends on what part of the body is affected. But not specific to, cancer include –
• Lump that can be felt under the skin.
• Difficulty in swallowing.
• Noticeable changes in weight.
• Changes in skin such as darkening, yellowing, sores that won’t heal, etc.
• Persistent fevers (with unknown cause).
• Unexplained bruising or bleeding.
• Changes in bowel movements, indigestion.
• Not feeling hungry, belly pain or nausea.
• Pain when passing urine or blood in the urine.
• Hearing or vision problems.
Risk factors of cancer includes –
If cancers are common in your family, it is possible that mutations are being passed from generation to generation.
if you are staying in an environment that contains chemicals, it can increase your risk of cancer. Asbestos and benzene are mostly associated risk factors for cancer.
you can get cancer at any age, but cancer can take decades to grow and fully develop that’s why most people diagnosed with it at an older age.
Some chronic health conditions can increase your risk of cancer.
As cancer is a complex group of disorder with many possible causes . below are some common ones –
• Constant exposure to carcinogens such as vinyl chloride, nickel, cadmium, etc.
• Heavy consumption of alcohol.
• Poor nutrition and physical inactivity.
• Excess body weight.
• Genetics, especially mutations.
Diagnosis of cancer
Testing blood, urine or tissues samples, low or high levels of certain substances in your body can indicate cancer. Some tests involve checking samples for tumor markers. Tumor markers produced by cancer cells in high amount in response to cancer.
It uses an X ray machine connected to a screen to take a series of pictures of your organs from different angles, to create a detailed 3-D images.
It uses a high power magnet and radio waves to take pictures of your body in slices. The detailed images can show the difference between healthy an unhealthy tissue.
This may be used to diagnose bone cancer as it check for damage or abnormal areas in the bone.
Also called radionuclide scan, it creates a pictures of bones or organs on a computer screen.
It makes detailed 3-D pictures of areas inside your body where glucose is taken up, as cancer cells use more glucose than normal cells.
It uses high energy sound waves(we can’t hear it) to create pictures of areas inside your body.
It uses a small amount of radiation to create a digital image of tissues, organs, and bones.
A procedure in which tissue sample is checked under the microscope and runs other tests to diagnose cancer.
Below are the ways from which biopsy samples are obtained –
– With endoscopy
– With needle
– With surgery
– Biopsies that requires anesthesia. I.e. regional anesthesia, Local anesthesia and general anesthesia.
To decide a treatment your doctor will need to figure out the stage of your cancer or grade of the tumor.
When to see a doctor –
If you feel any lump or solid mass under your skin, visit a doctor, as starting stages of cancer are easy to cure or get better.
If above mentioned or any other symptoms last longer than 2 weeks see a doctor as soon as possible, especially if you have family history of cancer.
• Tobacco should be avoided in all its forms.
• Avoid exposures to smoke.
• Protect your skin from the sun.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Eat nutritious food.
• Keep yourself physically active.
• Stay away from carcinogenic chemicals.
• Limit your alcohol.
• Get vaccinated to protect your body from HPV like viruses.
• Eat more plant based products.
• Avoid risky behavior , have safe sex and don’t share needles.
What are the treatments for cancer?
It uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
This treatment used to treat the growth of prostate and breast cancers.
It uses high doses of radiation to shrink and kill the cancer cells.
This treatment helps your immune system to get stronger and fight against cancer cells.
Surgery is used to remove the carcinogenic mass or tissues from your body.
When to see a doctor during cancer treatment –
Cancer treatments may cause some side effects that need a serious medical care. As these treatments weaken the body’s immune system which welcomes many opportunistic diseases and infections such as:
• Urinary tract infection
• Infections in the mouth, throat, stomach, intestine or anus.
• Blood infections
• Tumor lysis syndrome.
• Pulmonary embolism (PE)
• Deep vein thrombosis, etc.
Call a doctor if you see any of these or other infections/diseases during cancer treatment.
- Hi there, my name is Subin Joshua, and I am a Medical student. I grew up in a family of teachers and know that being a social worker is my calling. My passion for helping others has been evident in my involvement in helping the poor and needy for the last three years. Through those experiences, I have learned to interact with a diverse group of people, which has increased my ability to relate to others.