Cancer is a disease where cells grow abnormally and uncontrollably, damaging body tissues. In benign cancer, cancer cells rarely spread and typically do not pose a threat. However, malignant cancer cells grow and develop, spreading to other organs, a condition known as metastasis. Cancer can be caused by genetic, environmental factors, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and stress. Treatment for cancer often includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and medication. It's important to remember that early diagnosis of cancer is crucial.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a broad group of diseases characterized by the rapid division of abnormal cells that invade other tissues and organs in the body. There are over 200 known types of cancer, and the fast-growing cancer cells can form tumors, disrupting the body's normal functioning. This includes benign, malignant, and precancerous (premalignant) tumors.
Benign tumors typically do not spread to other tissues and do not pose a threat. However, malignant tumors, when they metastasize and spread to other tissues and organs in the body, can become life-threatening.
Precancerous (or premalignant) conditions refer to situations involving abnormal cells that have the potential to develop into cancer or are at risk of doing so. Common and potentially lethal types of cancer include lung, lymphoma, leukemia, prostate, breast, and colon cancer.
What are the cancer types?
There are approximately 200 different types of cancer, and the frequency of these cancers varies from person to person. The most common types of cancer include lung, lymphoma, leukemia, prostate, breast, thyroid, uterine, and colon cancer.
In general, some common types of cancer include:
What are the causes for cancer?
Cancer occurs due to mutations in the DNA inside cells and abnormal growth. Factors that can contribute to cancer, along with structural causes, include genetic factors, environmental factors, intense sunlight exposure, smoking and alcohol consumption, exposure to carcinogens, poor diet, and stress.
The causes of cancer can be grouped under the following headings:
Excessive smoking and alcohol consumption
Intense sunlight exposure
Exposure to carcinogens
Lack of physical activity
What are the stages of cancer?
Many common cancers have four stages. These stages vary depending on the size of the cancer, its aggressiveness, and its location in the body.
The four stages of cancer are as follows:
Stage 1: Cancer is in a small area and has not yet spread to lymph nodes or other tissues.
Stage 2: Cancer has grown and may have partially spread to nearby lymph nodes but has not yet spread to other tissues.
Stage 3: This stage is characterized by the growth of cancer and its spread to lymph nodes and other tissues.
Stage 4: Stage 4 is often referred to as advanced cancer or metastatic cancer. In this stage, cancer cells have spread to other organs and tissues in the body. This stage can be life-threatening.
In addition to these four stages, there is also a stage 0, which is considered the earliest stage. Stage 0 indicates that cancer cells are still localized in the area where cancer originated. Cancers in this stage are often easily treatable and do not pose a significant threat.
What are the symptoms of cancer?
Cancer symptoms can vary from person to person and depending on the type of cancer. However, there are common cancer symptoms that are often encountered across different cancer types.
These common cancer symptoms include:
Unintentional weight loss.
Chronic fatigue and severe tiredness.
Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).
Skin issues such as redness and slow-healing sores.
Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhea, or changes in stool appearance.
Persistent muscle and body aches.
Swelling of lymph nodes leading to the growth of lumps in areas like the armpit or breast.
Fever, especially one that worsens at night.
Unexplained bleeding or bruising in the body.
Blood in urine.
Nausea and vomiting.
Headaches and seizures.
Persistent indigestion after eating.
It's important to note that experiencing one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have cancer, as these symptoms can be caused by various medical conditions. However, if you have concerning symptoms that persist or worsen, it's advisable to seek medical evaluation and guidance for a proper diagnosis. Early detection and timely medical attention are crucial in cancer management.
Nutritional disorder and severe weight loss
Cancer cells that grow in the body require more energy compared to healthy cells, leading to increased calorie consumption even during rest, which weakens cancer patients.
Muscle and body aches
Tumors that develop and spread to tissues exert pressure on nerves, bones, or organs, causing body aches that can be debilitating as the tumors grow.
Chronic fatigue and severe tiredness
In general, tumor growth can lead to fatigue and tiredness in individuals. Other cancer symptoms such as shortness of breath, anemia, pain, or decreased oxygen levels in the blood (hypoxia) can also contribute to fatigue.
Swelling or hardness in lymph nodes
Metastatic cancer, which spreads to other organs, often causes swelling of lymph nodes near the tumor.
Changes in moles and warts on the skin
Increased number, altered shape, or size changes in existing moles on the skin are among the symptoms of skin cancer. However, not all changes in moles indicate cancer. It is essential to consult a dermatologist for a definitive diagnosis.
High fever that occurs at night
Especially when a high fever occurs at night, it is commonly known as a common symptom of various cancer types, but it can also result from infections. In such cases, it is advisable to consult a doctor.
Persistent productive cough and bloody sputum
Persistent productive cough accompanied by bleeding from the mouth is a common symptom of lung cancer.
Bleeding from the gums
Bleeding from the gums, especially when associated with leukemia, is due to a low platelet count in the blood.
Unhealed or very slow-healing wounds
Unhealed wounds are often associated with skin cancer. If wounds do not heal over an extended period, it is necessary to consult a dermatologist.
Experiencing these symptoms does not necessarily mean that an individual has cancer. Underlying health conditions could be responsible for these symptoms. However, if cancer symptoms do arise, seeking medical attention promptly is crucial for early diagnosis and improved chances of recovery.
How is cancer diagnosed?
Tools used to diagnose cancer typically involve laboratory tests, imaging studies, and other invasive or non-invasive procedures.
Doctors conduct physical examinations to assess lumps, masses, lesions, or changes in skin color that may indicate cancer.
Complete Blood Counts (CBC)
During treatment, abnormalities suggesting anemia, infection, or other complications can be detected through blood values, which may indicate leukemia.
Tumor marker tests
Tumor marker tests are blood tests used to measure substances that tend to rise when cancer is present in the body. These include the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test for detecting prostate cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests used for both breast and ovarian cancer, and the CA-125 test used to detect several cancer types associated with tumors.
Flow cytometry Flow cytometry evaluates cells suspended in a liquid and is useful in diagnosing leukemia or lymphoma from a blood or bone marrow sample.
Biopsy involves taking a sample of tissue or fluid from the body for evaluation under a microscope. Samples can be obtained through fine-needle aspiration (FNA), core needle biopsy, cone biopsy, or surgical means.
Imaging tests are a valuable method for diagnosing cancer. These tests may include X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Nuclear medicine imaging, which uses radioactive tracers, can diagnose specific cancer types, while positron emission tomography can consistently detect metabolic changes.
Genomic testing can help identify a tumor's chromosomal characteristics and assist oncologists in understanding what triggers the disease and selecting the most appropriate drug treatments. Most of these tests are not used solely for cancer diagnosis but also measure a cancer patient's response to treatment.
How to reduce the risk of cancer?
To reduce the risk of cancer in general, it is advisable to quit smoking, engage in regular exercise, maintain a healthy diet, avoid excessive sun exposure, and undergo regular health check-ups.
Here are the general steps to reduce the risk of cancer:
Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
Engage in regular physical exercise.
Maintain a healthy and balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables while reducing processed and red meat consumption.
Protect your skin from excessive sun exposure, using sunscreen and protective clothing.
Schedule and attend regular health check-ups and screenings as recommended by your healthcare provider.
Prioritize a consistent sleep schedule to ensure adequate rest.
Manage and reduce stress through relaxation techniques and mindfulness practices.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CANCER
What is cancer itching?
Cancer itching can result from substances released by the tumor or the body's response to the tumor. This itching can occur anywhere on the body but is more common on the legs and chest. It often decreases when cancer treatment is administered.
What happens in the final stage of cancer?
The final stage of cancer, known as stage four, is characterized by the most intense metastasis, where cancer cells have spread extensively to other organs and tissues.
Which cancer is the most dangerous?
Lung cancer is considered the most common and deadliest type of cancer.
Does stress cause cancer?
While living under intense stress is thought to contribute to cancer, there is no definitive answer to whether stress directly causes cancer. However, stress is considered a factor in the development of many diseases.
Which cancer is the sneakiest?
Pancreatic cancer is often referred to as the sneakiest type of cancer because it may not exhibit any noticeable symptoms and can be challenging to detect.
Who is most susceptible to cancer?
The frequency of cancer occurrence can vary depending on age groups and gender. For example, childhood and adolescent populations are more likely to develop blood cancers, while adult males are more prone to lung cancer, and breast cancer is more common in females.
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