28th Jan, 2020

Cancer

Introduction

When dangerous cells start growing almost anywhere in the body, it is said that the person is suffering from cancer, a life-threatening disease. A cluster of these cells end of forming a tumor and can stretch to other body parts. Surgery and chemotherapy are known to be the best methods of curing caners that are not fatal. The people who are aged 50 or above are more prone to cancer compared to other age groups.

Changes in an individual’s genes might cause cancer. The chemicals found in tobacco and the UV rays from the Sun result in the mutation of the DNA of the individual giving rise to the rearranging or the deletion of the information in the genes. As a result, the multiplication of cancerous cells is imminent in the human body. A few cases of cancer can be found amongst people who inherit gene mutations from their biological parents.

This severe disease causes the death of around 165 out of every 100,000 men and women every year according to a survey conducted between 2012 and 2017. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the second leading cause of death universally, and an estimated 9.6 million people died in 2018 after being affected by cancer. The WHO has also conducted a survey which has proved that about 1 in 6 deaths are due to this disease, and that around 7 out of 10 deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Causes of Cancer

Sunlight

The UV radiation from the sun reached land in the forms of UVA and UVB rays both of which can damage the DNA in skin cells, which is one of the major risk factors for skin cancer. Other ways that UV rays may affect the skin are through sunlamps and tanning beds.

Radiation

Found in nature and in artificial equipment, such as imaging tests, scanning machines, and some power plants, X-rays and gamma rays may cause DNA to mutate which may make the individuals prone to cancer.

Tobacco

The smoke from tobacco consists of at least 69 cancer-causing chemicals, including arsenic and formaldehyde. Lung cancer is mainly caused by this smoke; similarly, these chemicals are also known to be connected to cancers of the larynx, esophagus, throat, mouth, liver, kidney, pancreas, stomach, etc. Various research organizations have found out that 70 to 90 per cent of deaths are due to smoking.

Other carcinogens

Asbestos and soot are other chemicals that may be the reason for mutations in the DNA of a person. An individual may be exposed to carcinogens in his neigbourhood or at the workplace.

Symptoms of Cancer

The signs and symptoms for this highly dangerous disease may include a lump, unusual bowel or bladder habits, bleeding or discharge, a lingering cough or hoarseness, and changes in the skin. Fatigue, pain, shortness of breath, etc. are some of the other common signs that you may be suffering from cancer. Although you may be able to notice these types of symptoms during the early stages, there are some instances where the disease may go unnoticed until it is too late. By this time, the tumor may have either grown in size or spread to other parts in the human body.

Trained physicians, in addition, may be able to spot warning signs, such as a lump or lesion on the affected individual’s body, or they may also be able to uncover a surprisingly abnormal mass of cells on an imaging test.

Types of cancer

No area of your body is safe from cancer, and the cancer, in most cases, is named after the organ or tissue where it develops initially. Breast cancer, for example, got its name from the fact that the cancerous cells grow in the breast tissue. On the other hand, in the case of the prostate gland being affected by the growth of these cells, the cancer is known as prostate cancer.

Health professionals and organizations have recorded more than a hundred types of cancers, among which the most common types of cancer diagnosed by doctors are:

  • Bladder cancer

  • Colon and rectal cancer

  • Endometrial cancer

  • Kidney cancer

  • Breast cancer

  • Leukemia

  • Nonmelanoma skin cancer

  • Pancreatic cancer

  • Prostate cancer

  • Thyroid cancer

  • Lung cancer

  • Melanoma

  • Liver cancer

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Stages and Diagnosis of Cancer

Doctors diagnose cancer through a process called “staging”. How much cancer is in the body and which type of treatment the affected individual must receive depends on the “stage” of the cancer. The five stages of cancer are: stage 0 (or, carcinoma in situ), stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, and stage 4. As a rule of thumb, lower-stage cancers are more likely to be cured than later-stage ones.

Treatment of Cancer

After determining which treatment a person should receive based on the type and stage of the cancer, doctors deduce that some affected people may only need one treatment, whereas others will need multiple forms of therapy.

One of the most common types of treatment is surgery which is performed on localized tumors (which have not spread to other parts of the body).

Another method is the radiation therapy which is useful for killing or shrinking cancer cells, and it may used all by itself or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. Since this therapy may damage the nearby cells that are healthy, some patients may experience side effects, such as hair loss, fatigue, nausea, and so on.

There are also some drugs that are used by doctors to kill these cells. The treatment, known as chemotherapy, can be given to the patient intravenously, topically, or orally, in the form of pills or liquids. Nausea and hair loss are found to have been the possible side effects of this treatment.

Similarly, hormone therapy, which is used to treat prostate and breast cancer patients, and immunotherapy – that helps boost an individual’s immune system to fight the disease better – are other options.

Finally, the existence of clinical trials or studies in which experts conduct research to test new methods of treating cancer has allowed some affected individuals to take part in these trials as volunteers in the hope of getting rid of this horrendous disease.

In the absence of a guaranteed cure for cancer, these treatments are bringing hope to the affected people’s lives as these may be able to help put some cancers into remission and perhaps eradicate it altogether

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