What is Cancer?

The human body is made up of cells. There is a constant and unrestricted division of Cells going on in the body and it is a normal process occuring in the lifetime of every person. At a certain point of time the body sends a message to the cells to stop their division and they stop, but the problem begins when the cells do not stop and instead start multiplying themselves to an extent where they start affecting and obstructing the functions of the vital organs of the body and usually in the form of a ‘TUMOUR’ or a ‘LUMP’. This condition is known as Cancer.

What happens in Cancer?

Cancer is a disease which is characterized by abnormal growth of damaged cells and these cells group together to form a lump or a tumour [mass of tissue]. There are many types of Cancers and it is diagnosed by the type of cell which is affected. In the case of Blood Cancer, there is no formation of lumps or tumours, but the Cancer affects the normal blood function by abnormal multiplication of cells in the blood stream. Tumours and Lumps grow and interfere with the functions of the main systems of the body, like the digestive system.

What causes Cancer?

Cancer is a complex disease where the causes in 90% of the cases are environmental factors and lifestyle, whereas only some cases are results of genetic disposition. The chief causes of Cancer include:

Tobacco: Use of tobacco by smoking of cigarettes and chewing of tobacco and its products increase the risk of Cancer.

Lifestyle: A sedentary or adverse lifestyle like lack of exercise, diet, use of Alcohol may be the cause of certain cancers.

Excessive exposure to Ultraviolet rays of the Sun: May be the cause behind skin cancer.

Exposure to Radiation: Includes long term exposure to radiation emitting from nuclear units.

Other Carcinogens: Carcinogens include substances which go inside the human system and cause constant irritation leading to certain Cancers.

Genetic /Heredity factor: The most common cause is family history but there may not be many cases of Cancer in the family.

What are the different types of Cancers?

The different types of Cancer are:

Skin, Lungs, Stomach, Pancreas, Blood Cancer or Leukaemia, Colon, Ovarian, Liver, Breast, Oesophagus, Peritoneal, Testicular and Thyroid.

Most of the types of Cancers can be treated if detected early. Early detection and prevention helps in fighting Cancers of many types. Whenever any abnormality is detected or any persistent pain or fever is there then please consult your Doctor and do not ignore the symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Cancer?

Cancer in most of the cases is characterized by Lumps and tumours’. So look out for the following signs:

  • The first and foremost sign is a tumour

  • Change in bowel habits [dark stools and more than normal calls]

  • Difficulty in swallowing food [Oral Cancer]

  • Difficulty in breathing and pneumonia[lung Cancer]

  • Coughing and vomiting of blood

  • Constant loss of weight

  • Coarse voice and harshness in voice. [Oesophageal cancer] are some are the vital signs to look out for seeking urgent medical advice

How is Cancer diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing of Cancer is a thorough physical examination to feel for the presence of lumps and tumours.

  • Family and medical history.

  • Blood, Urine and stool test to check for abnormalities.

  • X-Rays, MRI, CT, Ultrasound imaging will determine the exact location and size of the tumour which in turn will determine the stage of Cancer.

A biopsy is performed where a tissue from the tumour is removed for presence of Cancer cells.

Is Cancer curable? What is the possible line of treatment for Cancer?

Cancers grow in stages. Cancer can be cured if detected early. Early diagnosis goes a long way in helping a cancer afflicted person to lead quality life. The experts who treat Cancers are Oncologists. The line of treatment involves:

Chemotherapy: Treatment is by drugs.

Radiation: Using X-Rays, Radiation therapy

Surgery: Removal of the tumour or the affected organ.

New research in medications involves Targeted therapy, Immunotherapy, Hormonal therapy and Angiogenesis inhibitors.

How can one prevent Cancer?

Cancer can be prevented by following certain good habits like:

  • Stop smoking/ Chewing of tobacco and tobacco products

  • Healthy diet which includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Limit fat rich foods

  • Physical exercise like walking for 30 minutes per day.

  • Say no to alcohol and avoid Stress.

How to cope with Cancer?

Many cancer patients after treatment develop side effects which affect tgheir looks or function. Comfort, care and support go a long way to help in the healing process. Family members, friends and caregivers play a very important role in the healing process. Talking and interacting with people who have recovered from Cancer is a big support and morale booster.

Cancer can affect anyone and it has no social or economic boundaries.

Walt Elias Disney [1901-1966] the famous animator, who is responsible for creating the famous Disney Land and Amusement Parks the world over and also founder of Walt Disney Productions which made cartoon films for children, was afflicted with Lung Cancer, but he still lives.

Kylie Minogue the famous singer, had breast cancer at the age of 36 but she fought it and still sings at the age of 44 and has won many awards.

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