Cancer is a condition where some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. This condition can attack and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including the body organs.
In general, the human body has healthy cells that regularly divide themselves in a controlled manner. The condition of cancer begins when these cells go through changes and reproduce excessively. This group of abnormal cells is called a tumor.
Tumors have the potential to develop into cancer. However, not all tumors are cancerous. Benign tumors or non-cancerous tumors will not spread to other parts of the body and will not produce new tumors.
On the other hand, malignant and cancerous tumors will encroach on normal cells and interfere with body functions, which takes away nutrients from healthy tissues.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. However, over time, cancer treatment and screening have developed and advanced, which increases the survival rate for cancer patients.
Types of Cancer
- Heart cancer
- Tongue cancer
- Oral cancer
- Eye cancer
- Brain cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Gastric cancer
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Melanoma skin cancer
- Blood cancer (leukemia)
Causes of Cancer
Cancer is triggered by mutations or changes in genes within cells. Those genes are grouped into a large number of individual genes, each of which contains a series of instructions to direct the cell to carry out its functions and have normal growth.
When an error occurs during the cell instruction process, the cells will stop functioning normally and allow the cells to grow into cancer.
Mutations or changes in genes in cells may lead to:
- The growth of cells that divide rapidly, produces new cells with the ability to divide rapidly as well.
- Normal cells fail to control uncontrolled cell growth, so cancer cells will continue to grow and accumulate.
- Genes fail to repair abnormal cells. This failure will lead to other mistakes which, if not corrected, will turn into cancer.
Gene changes or mutations can occur due to:
- Genetic factor that causes a person to have a gene mutation from birth. This condition is a minor factor that causes cancer.
- Gene mutations that occur after birth and are not inherited. Factors causing this gene mutation include smoking, radiation exposure, viruses, obesity, hormones, chronic inflammation, and lack of exercise.
Gene mutations often occur in normal cell growth. However, healthy cells have the ability to recognize when cell growth has gone wrong, and will manage to repair it. Cancer cells can grow if there are such mistakes and these mistakes are not successfully repaired by healthy body cells.
When to See a Doctor for Cancer?
Cancer disease can be consulted with a cancer specialist doctor (oncologist). The sooner the cancer is diagnosed, the more likely it is for the cancer to be cured.
In some cases, oncologists will diagnose cancer when the patient has a routine medical check-up, either a general health check or a specific cancer screening. Cancer screening is only recommended for people with high risk factors of cancer.
To diagnose cancer, the doctor may perform the following tests:
- Physical examinations and medical history. The doctor will feel for areas on the patient’s body that may have a tumor-like lump. Then, the doctor will look for symptoms of cancer such as changes in skin color and enlargement of the organs.
- Laboratory tests done through blood tests and urine tests to identify cell abnormalities that cause cancer.
- Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds (USG). These tests will allow doctors to examine the bones and organs in the body without performing surgery.
- Biopsy. A test performed by taking a sample to be tested in the laboratory. In most cancers, a biopsy is the only method that can diagnose cancer with accuracy.
Symptoms of Cancer
There are varying symptoms of cancer, depending on where the cancer cells develop. Some of the most common characteristics or symptoms are:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent fever.
- Persistent cough and difficulty breathing.
- Bleeding and bruising for no apparent reason
- Lumps felt under the surface of the skin.
- Changes in bowel and urination habits.
- Unexplained constant pain in muscles and joints.
- Changes in skin color, becomes reddish, darkens, or turns yellow.
Bleeding often occurs when the patient performs certain activities, such as when urinating and coughing. Sometimes, excessive bleeding also occurs in the middle of the menstrual period. This may indicate that someone has cancer.
Symptoms of a persistent cough and difficulty breathing do not always indicate a person has cancer. These symptoms are similar to other respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia. Therefore, further tests are required to determine whether these are symptoms of cancer.
Changes in bowel habits can be felt when the cancer patient experiences sudden diarrhea and constipation or a persistent feeling of bloating.
Treatment for Cancer
The primary treatment for cancer is through surgery. The main objective of surgery is to remove the tumor, tissue, or areas covered by cancer cells. In some cases, the cancer removal surgery is the most effective treatment method to cure the cancer completely, especially if the cancer has not spread to other areas in the body.
Surgery has the potential to cause complications like infection. Therefore, cancer patients who undergo surgery will usually be given antibiotics before and after surgery.
The following are common surgical procedures to remove cancer cells:
- Laser Surgery. A surgical procedure to remove cancerous tissue using a laser.
- Electrosurgery. A surgical procedure using an electric current to cut tissue in the body. This method can reduce the chances of the patient experiencing blood loss.
- Cryosurgery. A surgical procedure of destroying tissue affected by cancer using extreme cold temperatures. This method is often used for patients with cancer or skin tumors.
Apart from surgery, there are two other methods that are often used to treat cancer, namely chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment method using medications to kill cancer cells. Normally, these medications are injected through a vein.
The side effects of chemotherapy can vary from person to person. Sometimes, this method may cause long-term side effects, such as infertility and nerve damage. Therefore, this method must be performed very carefully by the doctor.
Radiotherapy is a method of radiation therapy that utilises high-energy rays, like X-rays, to kill cancer cells. Certain cancer patients only need to undergo treatment with radiotherapy. However, most patients undergo radiotherapy along with chemotherapy and surgery as well.
Radiation therapy does not cause pain. However, after therapy, the patient will most likely experience fatigue and have a rash on the radiation-exposed skin area.
Treatment Costs for Cancer
Cancer treatment has a ranging price range, depending on the cancer type, site, its severity, and the method of treatment.
For more information regarding the estimated cost of cancer treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Cancer
There are several preventive ways to help minimize a person’s risk of developing cancer, such as:
- Exercise regularly.
- Quit smoking.
- Consume more healthy food
- Drink normal amounts of alcohol
- Perform regular health screening or cancer screening
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Cancer
After surgery, cancer patients will be allowed to return home. While at home, the patient will begin their recovery period by taking special medicines to reduce the risk of infection.
Cancer patients may get accustomed to regularly taking antibiotics given by doctors to prevent infection after surgery.
Furthermore, patients are also advised to live a healthier lifestyle for better recovery.