Cancer FAQs Symptoms and Treatment.
What is cancer?
Cancer is the name of a group of diseases that form tumors. It develops from the cells of various organs. The tumor develops as a result of rapid, chaotic and uncontrollable cell multiplication. It can affect the skin, mucous membranes, and internal organs.
What causes cancer?
The precise reasons for cancer onset are still unknown. However, nowadays there are factors that are believed to be as causing dysfunction of the structure of the living cells.
The risk factors include:
– Ionizing and UV radiation.
– Chemical substances.
– Hormonal imbalance.
– Viral infections.
– Hereditary predisposition.
A damaged cell acquires the features of a malignant tumor. Repeated exposure to a carcinogen causes irreversible damage to the principles that rule cell division, growth, and specialization.
The most widespread type of cancer both in men and women with the highest mortality rate is lung cancer. It is certain that it can be induced by cigarettes smoking, and exposure to hazardous gases and vapors.
Another widespread type of cancer, colon cancer, is related to an unhealthy diet with a lack of nutrients, an abundance of fast carbohydrates, saturated fats, sugar, red meat, and others.
As for the prevailing type of the disease in females, breast cancer, it commonly develops due to hormonal imbalance.
What are the signs of cancer onset?
They are contingent on the site of the tumor, its growth speed, the stage, and already existing metastases.
General signs of cancer are abrupt weight loss, lack of appetite, fatigue, low-grade fever, which lasts a long time, anemia.
Specific signs appear depending on where the tumor has developed. In particular, lung carcinoma is manifested in a prolonged cough, sore throat and, pain in the stomach. The timbre of the voice changes, there is discomfort when swallowing.
Tightness in the breast, nipple discharge, a change in the shape of the nipple or the look of the breast skin, lumps or dents may be signs of developing cancer.
In late stages, a painless, tight mass in the chest occurs.
How is the cancer diagnosis made?
First of all, the disease is diagnosed via physical and laboratory tests. Blood tests and cancer markers are the simplest analysis methods that ease the diagnosis at the early stages.
But a precise diagnosis is made on the results of a biopsy of tissues taken from an organ. To determine the nature and extent of the spread of the tumor, various studies are additionally carried out. These include ultrasound, x-ray, CT, MRT, and others.
What types of cancer are the most dangerous?
Cancer can affect different organs but statistically, the predominant types are the following:
– Cancer of the intestines and rectum;
– Cancer of the thyroid and pancreas;
– Ovarian cancer.
What are metastases?
Metastasis is the process of development of secondary tumors (metastases) resulting from the spread of cells from the primary focus to other tissues.
Metastasis is the main criterion for tumor malignancy. It is the presence of metastases that makes a complete cure for a cancerous tumor impossible without the removal of metastatic nodules. Often tumors are incurable because of the presence of metastases in the vital organs (liver, brain, etc.).
Should I get checked for cancer if someone from my family has it?
You don’t necessarily need to get tested right away if some of your family members are diagnosed with cancer as it is not contagious. However, it is believed that some types of cancer can develop partially to the genetic predisposition. For instance, there are tests that help to diagnose whether a woman has a specific gene that makes her prone to developing breast cancer. It is beneficial to get checked if your mother has it.
When should I get checked for cancer?
If you have found an unusual lump, changed or a new birthmark, or the signs of cancer listed above, you should go to a doctor.
Besides, it is advised to do certain examinations with a certain periodicity. For instance, women over 40 years old are recommended to undergo a mammogram and once a year. It is in general advised for women to get their reproductive organs checked at gynecologist and via ultrasound once a year and do self-breast exam once a month to identify any possible changes in the breasts at an early stage.
Smokers and individuals who work with gases, vapors, or other harmful substances inhaled are advised to do lung x-ray once a year.
People older than 50 years are advised to do colonoscopy once a year or two years contingent on the present diseases.
In general, if you have any chronic diseases or diseases running in your family, it is advised to get checked at least once a year to identify any negative patterns at an early stage of their development.
Is it possible to prevent cancer?
There is no a hundred percent certain way to prevent cancer but there are some recommendations following which you can minimize the risks:
– Minimize consumption of carcinogenic substances, i.e. quit smoking, consuming alcohol, ready-to-cook food, fast food, sweets, red meat, and so on.
Smoking is proven to be the main reason for lung cancer development. It can also promote the development of other types of cancer such as oral, esophagus, vocal cords cancer, as well as other health conditions, such as COPD.
The carcinogenic food is believed to be one of the major inducing factors of intestinal cancer and other digestive tract tumors and alcohol can promote the onset of ulcers and subsequently tumors of the stomach and the liver, oral cancer, esophagus, and even breast cancer.
– Minimize exposure to harmful substances. It is advised not to work with hazardous gases, vapors, and other substances without proper protection.
– Incorporate physical exercising in your daily life. It is proven that the lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle, as well as obesity, increase the chance of development of colon and breast cancer.
– Do not go out without sunscreen on the beach, in mountains, and in general where there is an active sun and insufficient shadows. UV is the major reason for melanoma development which develops from regular birthmarks.
– Use vitamins and medications to improve your immune protection to minimize the risk of viruses. An important factor in cancer development plays virus. Hepatitis B raises the likelihood of liver tumor development, and Human papillomavirus significantly raises the probability of uterine cancer development.
Are older people more prone to cancer development?
Yes, it is true. The thing is that the older anyone gets, the more chronic diseases and health conditions a person accumulates; besides, years of consumption of unhealthy food, smoking, drinking alcohol, using medications, and so on elevate the number of changes in the DNA and lowers the immunity protection. These factors contribute to the inability of the body to fight cancer cells effectively which is why around 70% of all newly diagnosed cancers are found in individuals older than 60.
However, the age at which people are getting cancer every year becomes younger so it is highly encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle and do regular checkups from an early age.
What cancer treatments are used today?
The following treatments are currently used:
– Excision of the tumor. It is the optimal way of getting the tumor out of the body. However, because cancerous cells are frequently located also outside the tumor, it must be excised with a margin. On top of that, after cutting out of the tumor, the dissemination of metastasis is promoted and for their prevention, other methods must be added to the therapy. It can be made with traditional surgical instruments, or with the use of new instruments (radiofrequency knife, laser scalpel, etc.). The new surgical technologies help to promote faster recovery and the maintenance of the basic functions which was previously impossible like maintaining voice in laryngoscopy.
– Chemotherapy. This includes the use of potent medicines against rapidly multiplying cells. Medicines used today can suppress DNA replication and prevent the division of the cells. Worth noting that it also affects certain healthy cells such as the cells of the stomach that also divide quickly. Therefore, chemotherapy can cause severe adverse reactions. Luckily, after a course of chemotherapy, healthy cells are recovered.
– Radiotherapy. Irradiation kills cancerous cells while normal cells suffer from less impact.
– Hormone therapy. In some organs, the cells of tumors are responding to hormones. On its own, hormone therapy cannot cure the tumor. But it can extend the life of people with inoperable cancer or better the chances of a cure when combined with other therapies.
The hormonal cancer medicines for men include Casodex (Bicalutamide) by Cipla.
To elevate the success of treatment most frequently the use of a combination of two or more methods is needed.
Additional methods of treatment include cryotherapy, photodynamic therapy and use of medicines to improve the immune response of the body.
For terminally ill patients, analgesics and psychiatric medications (to cope with depression) are used.
Can cancer be cured completely?
Although after the performed therapy a patient can be deemed cancer-free, it is necessary to get checked first every three months, then every six months, and once a year if no metastases are found. It is possible to eliminate cancer but it can return so a repeated therapy is needed.
The success of the treatment and survival greatly depend on the stage of the disease development so it is highly recommended to get checked frequently if you have risk factors and never postpone the prescribed therapy.