What is Cancer?
Cancer is a disease where cells multiply and grow uncontrollably within the body, affecting other tissues and functions. Damaged cells grow irrevocably and spread unusually, leading to cancer. These cells are known as tumors or malignant cells, and they easily penetrate other normal body tissues, destroying how the body functions and affect the body’s immune system.
Cancer is prevalent both in humans and animals. According to WHO (World Health Organization), cancer is one of the top causes of human death worldwide. The study of different types of cancer and their origin is known as Oncology.
Types of Cancer:
There are various types of cancer, approximately 200 variations, depending upon the damaged cells’ origin like breast cancer, colon cancer, or lung cancer. Cells have a unique property of dying once they reach a certain age. But in cancer, the unrepaired cells lose the property of self-damage and self-repair, leading to uncontrolled cancerous growth.
Cancer cells can break away from the point of origin and move via blood to enter other parts of the body and then multiply regularly. The movement of cancerous cells from one organ to the other is known as the cancer cells’ metastatic spread. For example, if lung cancer cells spread to a person’s stomach or mouth, it is termed metastatic lung cancer to the mouth. Remember, mouth cancer is different as its origin should be the mouth.
The following is a list of specific cancer categories:
Carcinoma Cancer: When the cancer cells impact the lining of tissues of internal organs like the skin, colon, pancreas, lungs, or ovaries, they are termed carcinoma cancers.
Sarcoma Cancer: When cancer’s origin occurs in bones, muscles, cartilage, blood vessels, or supportive bone tissues.
Leukemia: When cancer begins in blood, blood tissue, or bone marrow.
Lymphoma: Cancers that affect the immune system like lymphoma, T, or B-cell lymphoma.
CNS Cancers: Cancers in the brain or the spinal cord are termed central nervous system (CNS) cancers.
Oncologists are the doctors who treat all different kinds of cancers and can be a surgeon, medical oncologist, or radiation expert.
There are various common cancers found across men, women, and children. For example, prostate, colorectal, and lung cancers are the most common cancers found in men, whereas breast cancer is most common in women. Children mostly suffer from leukemia and lymphoma cancers.
The exact causes of uncontrolled cell growth cannot be adequately defined, but cells exposed to some chemical, toxic, unknown pathogen, radiation, or genetics may cause cells to grow oddly. The uncontrolled irreversible growth of cells makes cells cancerous. The possible causes of cancers are:
The occurrence of cancer depends on age, race, ethnic origin, genetic defects, a mutation in DNA, pollution, and lifestyle.
Research across the world has listed a few of the major causes and risk factors against cancer:
Toxic Chemicals: Exposure to toxic chemicals like benzene, nickel, aflatoxin, or asbestos, and many more compounds attached to tobacco and smoking lead to some form of cancer.
Radiation: Elements like uranium, UV rays, gamma, alpha, beta, or X-ray emitting radiations.
Pathogens: Various viruses like HPV, hepatitis B and C, and sarcoma.
Genetics: Cancers like ovarian, prostate, and skin have been associated mostly with genes.
The other risk factors include lifestyle eating and choices like having excessive red or processed meats that contain carcinogenic elements, obesity, chronic illness, hormones, etc.
The symptoms of the cancer cells depend on the place of origin inside the body. There have been many conditions where no symptoms were prevalent until cancer reached an advanced stage.
The following are the few symptoms that require a quick holistic body check-up against cancer:
- Unusual bleeding or discharge
- Lumps in body parts like breast, testicles, or anywhere in the body
- Change in the color, size, or shape of a mole
- Irregular bowel habits
- Regular coughing and throat pain
- Inexplicable loss of appetite or weight
- Continuous fatigue or nausea
- Frequent fever and vomiting
- Recurring infections
These are some symptoms that call for a check-up with the doctor. It may or may not lead to cancer but definitely requires attention.
Staging & Diagnosis:
Cancers are diagnosed in routine screening tests conducted at short intervals of the lifecycle. There can be some specific symptoms that lead directly to the cancer diagnosis. The initial steps of diagnosis require a physical screening and the individual’s medical history. An x-ray, MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound are the common imaging techniques that examine the cancer cells’ origin in the body.
Advanced techniques like an endoscopy allow us to visualize the cells and tissues of the different parts of the body like the intestine and throat in detail and identify the cancer cells’ actual point of origin. Radionuclide scanning is applied if there is a probability of cancerous cells inside the bones and lymph nodes. These tests help to identify the exact location of body abnormalities.
A biopsy is conducted where the pathologist screens a sample mass of cells to identify cancerous cells’ presence. A biopsy helps in a definitive diagnosis and identifies the cancer type and stage. Cancer staging is a very crucial step for treatment options. Localized cancer is marked as an early stage when the cancerous cells have not spread to other parts, whereas the advanced stage refers to the spread of cancer from one body part to the other.
The stages of cancer are based on the following criteria:
- Location of the primary damaged cells
- Size and number of tumors
- Lymph node involvement
- Cell type and tumor grade affected
- Metastasis presence
Cancer treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer. Doctors use the following techniques to reduce or prevent cancer:
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Stem cell transplantation
- Hormone therapy
- Immune therapy
- Personalized therapy
In some conditions, the cancer is removed by the surgeon as the ultimate treatment if diagnosed in the early stages. Other conditions require chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery, or a combination of all. Cancer patients who cannot be treated completely by surgery opt for combination therapy to cure their disease and get relief.
A healthy diet with nutrition and vitamins helps in combating cancer or reducing the symptoms. Innovations, clinical research, and experiments are ongoing to find the perfect cure for cancer through various medications and treatment skills.