Though we have all heard the term "Cancer" through many sources, the exact facts and details of the disease is not very widely known. Cancer is one of the world's deadliest diseases and is a completely curable if detected at an early age. It is therefore a must to possess awareness about it and this article is a consolidation of the facts and details related to this disease.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is not a single disease but a class of diseases which are typically characterized by random and out-of-control growth in the human body cells. These random cell growth leads to invasion of other normal cells around them leading to their destruction. The cancerous cells divide in an uncontrollable fashion and form lumps or tissue masses known as tumors. These tumors affect the body part where they grow and disrupt their normal functioning. The cancerous cells also spread to other parts of the body through blood or lymph and cause further cell destruction.
Oncologists are physicians or researchers who study about the diagnosis, treatment and sure of cancer. The study of cancer is by itself known as oncology.
Types of Cancer
Cancer can typically affect every organ of the body and spread the disease by destroying the neighbouring cells. The various cancers are named typically after the place where they originate in the body. For example, Breast cancer is cancer that originates in the cells of the breast. With about more than 100 types of cancer, this class of diseases is divided into five broad categories.
* Cancer that originates in the skin or in the tissues that cover the internal organs is known as Carcinoma.
* Cancer that starts in the bone, fat muscle, cartilage or blood vessels are known as Sarcoma.
* Cancer in the blood forming tissues like the bone marrow is known as Leukaemia. This type of cancer enters the blood stream and spreads to all the parts of the body.
* Cancer that begins in the immune system of the body is known as Lymphoma and Myeloma.
* Cancer in the cells of the brain and spinal cord are known as Central nervous system cancer.
Symptoms of Cancer
The symptoms of cancer are an important factor in the early detection, though some types of cancer do not exhibit any symptoms at all unless they are in the advanced state. Though each type of cancer exhibits different types of symptoms there are few symptoms that are common to most of the cancers. The patient can exhibit a broad spectrum of symptoms which might not be very specific to the type of cancer like fatigue, unintentional weight loss, fever, bowel changes and chronic cough. Pain is most of the times a symptom of cancer in the advanced form. Pain in the lower back can be symptoms of colon or ovarian cancer while shoulder pain can be a symptom of lung cancer. Though stomach pain can be normally caused by many reasons, stomach cancer is also associated with acute stomach pain.
How harmful is the cancer?
The disease cancer claims the lives of millions of people around the world every year. It is dangerous and life-threatening when it develops as tumors and starts spreading around. The cells may move through the body through lymph systems or the blood and can destroy the other healthy cells in the body. Such a process is known invasion and affects other internal organs other than its place of cancerous origin. Such a tumor that grows, invades and spreads destroying other tissues is known as a metastasized tumor and is a very serious condition which is at times beyond treatment levels.
How is Cancer caused?
The disease cancer is majorly an environmental disease where about 90-95% of the scenarios are caused due to factors like lifestyle and environmental conditions. Only about 5-10% of the cases are caused by genetic disorders. The common factors that lead to environmental causes of cancer are tobacco, obesity, infections, radiation and environmental pollutants. These factors affect the basic underlying genetic cell material leading to the disease.
Treatment course of Cancer
The definitive diagnosis of cancer requires clinical examination of the biopsy specimen. Sometimes initial indication of the malignancy can be through symptomatic or by radiographic imaging abnormalities. Once diagnosed, cancer is normally treated by chemotherapy, surgery or radiation or a mixture of two or more methods. Treatment also depends on the types of cancer and the stage in which the disease has progressed. There are many specific treatment methods that are followed based on the type of cancer and medical advancement has bought in many new types of targeted therapies for the specific kind of cancer. The targeted therapy also works on cancerous cells showcasing abnormal behaviour and reduces the damage caused to normal cells.
How can your effectively prevent cancer?
Cancer prevention is easier than cancer treatment. Though there are many factors that can cause cancer, a few simple changes to your lifestyle can help you prevent them. The below are few methods that you can accommodate or follow to ensure prevention or early detection of cancer.
* Avoid direct or indirect form of smoking
* Look out for skin changes and take care to avoid harmful exposure to the sun
* Maintain a healthy diet of natural fruits and vegetables and limit fat contents
* Keep your alcohol intake within limits
* Remember a healthy exercised body keeps out cancer better
* Learn about any genetic disorders in the family and take necessary screenings
* Beware of harmful substances in your work environment
* Follow safe sexual methods
* Obtain regular cancer screening to detect at early stage
Cancer Research is one of the major scientific efforts that is being undertaken to understand the disease better and find possible therapies. There are many national and international cancer institutes that have been established for this purpose. Since 1971, major advancements have been made in the field of molecular biology and cellular biology leading to many new and advanced treatment modes for cancer.
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