Dealing with cancer can make you feel like you’re on an emotional roller-coaster ride. This is because subconsciously, you associate it with the end of life.
But does it always lead to the end?
On account of the World Cancer Awareness day, let’s discuss the basics of cancer at length..
What does the word ‘Cancer’ mean?
Cancer is a general term used for a large group of diseases, whose cause, characteristics and occurrence vary greatly.
Cancer occurs with the growth of abnormal cells in the body which has the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. However, the right treatment can kill the cancerous cells, stop them from spreading to other parts of the body and cure a person from Cancer.
Cancer Fact Sheet
The cancer burden in India is already high according to the National Institution of Cancer Prevention and Research and is expected to rise even more with increasing life expectancy and changes in lifestyles associated with economic development.
Estimated number of people living with the disease in India is around 2.25 million and every year, new cancer patients registered are over 11,57,294 lakh. According to GLOBOCAN 2018 data, there were 11, 57,294 new cancer cases in 2018 in India, both in men and women.
What happens in Cancer?
Our body have certain genes that protect us from abnormal growth of cells. When some part of these genes is damaged, our body loses the ability to protect us against this abnormal cell growth. The loss of protective genes puts the body into a viscous cycle leading to the development of cancer.
Most common types of Cancer
- Breast cancer
Symptoms of breast cancer include a lump in the breast, blood discharge from the nipple and changes in the shape or texture of the nipple or breast.
- Prostate cancer
Symptoms include difficulty with urination, but sometimes there are no symptoms at all.
- Basal cell cancer
This cancer typically appears as a white, waxy lump or a brown, scaly patch on sun-exposed areas, such as the face and neck.
Symptoms might include a new, unusual growth or a change in an existing mole. Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body.
- Colon cancer
Colorectal cancer symptoms depend on the size and location of the cancer. Some commonly experienced symptoms include changes in bowel habits, changes in stool consistency, blood in the stool and abdominal discomfort.
- Lung cancer
Symptoms include a cough (often with blood), chest pain, wheeze and weight loss. These symptoms often don’t appear until the cancer is advanced.
Many patients with slow-growing types of leukaemia don’t have symptoms. Rapidly growing types of leukaemia may cause symptoms that include fatigue, weight loss, frequent infections and easy bleeding or bruising.
Symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue and weight loss.
Signs and Symptoms
The initial stage of cancer does not produce any symptoms. It might start to appear only when it disrupts the functioning of the organ or produce a visible growth over the area affected.
The signs and symptoms also vary with the type of cancer and the stage at which it is diagnosed. In general the following signs and symptoms can be seen
- Weight loss: Unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more may be one of the first signs of cancer. Weight loss is common in people who have pancreatic, stomach, esophageal, or lung cancer, but can occur with any type of cancer.
- Unexplained Fever: Fevers frequently crop up when a cancer has metastasized. Night sweats often accompany the fevers. Nearly all people with cancer will experience a fever at some point.
- Fatigue: Feeling extremely tired can be a symptom of cancer in your body.
- Lump: A lump or thickening of skin can be an early or late sign of cancer. People with cancers in the breast, lymph nodes, soft tissues, and testicles typically have lumps.
- Skin changes: Yellowing, darkening, or redness of the skin can signal cancer. Also, sores that don’t heal should be checked out. Additionally, moles, freckles, or warts that change in colour, shape, or size could be a sign of skin cancer.
- Pain: Pain may be an early symptom of bone cancer or testicular cancer. But Back pain is common in people with colon, rectal, pancreatic, or ovarian cancer. Those with brain tumours often complain of a headache that doesn’t go away. Pain could also indicate that the cancer is fast spreading.
- Bowel or bladder function changes: Constipation, diarrhea, and other bowel issues may be a sign of colon cancer. People with bladder and prostate cancer may report pain during urination, blood in the urine, or other bladder-function changes.
- Cough or hoarseness: Persistent cough that does not resolve with regular treatment could indicate that the person might have lung cancer. Change in voice or a swelling in the neck could point to cancer of the larynx, or thyroid cancer.
- Indigestion: Indigestion or problems with swallowing can be a sign of stomach, oesophageal, or throat cancer.
- Bleeding: Unusual bleeding is associated with many different cancers. Coughing up blood may signal lung cancer. Bloody stools could be a sign of colon or rectal cancer. Women with cervical or endometrial cancer may experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. Blood in the urine could mean you have bladder or kidney cancer. Bloody discharge from a woman’s nipple might indicate breast cancer.
- Swollen lymph nodes: Sometimes, enlarged lymph nodes can signal cancer. You should have your doctor check it out if your gland remains swollen for three to four weeks.
IMPORTANCE OF RECOGNIZING CANCER SYMPTOMS
Image source: Loquitur
There are many apprehensions related to Cancer cure. While some say it’s curable, some say that the chances of surviving it are low. However, it varies from person to person and it’s not that if a person is detected with cancer, there’s no hope of survival. Early detection is the key. Certain types of cancer when detected early can be treated and completely cured of it, leading to the person having a higher life expectancy.
Detection of cancer early also minimizes the extent of treatment needed. A large cancer obviously requires more extensive surgery than a smaller tumour. Early detection also minimizes the number of treatments needed and reduces the physical suffering and financial bearing of the family. For instance, in some cases a person might need only surgery or chemotherapy. While for some others, a combination of treatments may be required.
It is usually not possible to know exactly why one person develops cancer and another doesn’t. But research has shown that certain risk factors may increase a person’s chances of developing cancer. There are also factors that are linked to a lower risk of cancer. These are sometimes called protective risk factors, or just protective factors.
- Cancer-Causing Substances
- Chronic Inflammation
- Infectious Agents
HOW TO TREAT CANCER?
Treatment of cancer depends on the goal, which can either be one of the following below:
- Primary treatment which aims at killing the cancer cells in your body.
- Providing adjuvant treatment that aims to kill the cancer cells that are remaining after the primary treatment.
- Giving palliative treatment to give the individual relief from the symptoms associated with cancer.
The most common types of treatment are:
- Surgery:Surgically removes as much of the cancer as possible
- Chemotherapy:Uses medications that are toxic to cells to kill rapidly-dividing cancer cells
- Radiation Therapy:It Uses powerful, focused beams of radiation inside (brachytherapy) or outside (external beam radiation) your body to kill cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy (Biological Therapy):It Uses antibodies to help your body’s immune system recognize cancer so it can fight it off.
- Hormone Therapy:Removes or blocks hormones that fuel certain cancers to stop cancer cells from growing.
SOME Dos and Don’ts TO PREVENT CANCER:
Take comfort in the fact that simple lifestyle changes can make a difference. Consider these cancer-prevention tips.
(a) Adopt a healthy lifestyle
- Ensure you get 7-8 hour sleep
- Adopt a Diet with sufficient nutrients and is less saturated fats
- Regularly exercise or do some physical activity.
- Watch and keep your weight in the normal range and avoid being obese
- Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits
- Be aware of warning signs and symptoms
(b) Avoid/limit exposure to known environmental carcinogens
(c) Go for regular health check-ups and cancer screening
- Do not use tobacco in any form
- Avoid passive smoking
- Quit alcohol
- Avoid spicy, fried, preserved, processed and junk food, salt preserved food like pickles and very hot beverages
- Try and avoid a stressful life
- Targeted Drug Therapy
- Uses drugs to interfere with certain molecules that help cancer cells grow and survive.
Cancer, though a deadly disease, can be cured if detected early. It’s important to adopt a healthy lifestyle as it prevents you from a range of other diseases including cancer. Watch your body and Consult your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms to avoid the risk factors as much as possible. Live healthy, live cancer free.