- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Cancer Info - Types, Statistics, Symptoms, Signs, Treatment & Prevention Tips
What is Cancer - Definition
Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by out-of-control cell growth. Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.
Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer. Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start - for example, cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer; cancer that begins in basal cells of the skin is called basal cell carcinoma.
Cancer harms the body when damaged cells divide uncontrollably to form lumps or masses of tissue called tumors (except in the case of leukemia where cancer prohibits normal blood function by abnormal cell division in the blood stream). Tumors can grow and interfere with the digestive, nervous, and circulatory systems, and they can release hormones that alter body function. Tumors that stay in 1 spot and demonstrate limited growth are generally considered to be benign.
More dangerous, or malignant, tumors form when two things occur:
- A cancerous cell manages to move throughout the body using the blood / lymph systems, destroying healthy tissue in a process called invasion
- That cell manages to divide and grow, making new blood vessels to feed itself in a process called angiogenesis.
When a tumor successfully spreads to other parts of the body and grows, invading and destroying other healthy tissues, it is said to have metastasized. This process itself is called metastasis, and the result is a serious condition that is very difficult to treat.
Types of Cancer:
The 3 most common cancers in men are:
- Prostate cancer
- Lung cancer
- Colon cancer
In women, the 3 most common cancers are:
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Lung cancer
Some other types of cancers include:
- Brain cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Skin cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Ovarian cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Hodgkin's lymphoma
Estimated new cases & deaths from bladder cancer in the United States in 2010:
- New cases: 70,530
- Deaths: 14,680
Estimated new cases & deaths from leukemia in the United States in 2010:
- New cases: 43,050
- Deaths: 21,840
Cancer Causes & Factors:
Cancer grows out of normal cells in the body. Normal cells multiply when the body needs them, and die when the body doesn't need them. Cancer appears to occur when the growth of cells in the body is out of control and cells divide too quickly. It can also occur when cells forget how to die.
There are many different kinds of cancers. Cancer can develop in almost any organ or tissue, such as the lung, colon, breast, skin, bones, or nerve tissue.
There are many causes of cancers, including:
- Benzene and other chemicals
- Drinking excess alcohol
- Environmental toxins, such as certain poisonous mushrooms
- Excessive sunlight exposure
- Genetic problems
However, the cause of many cancers remains unknown.
The most common cause of cancer-related death is lung cancer. Cancer-causing substances, carcinogens. A carcinogen is something that can help to cause cancer. Tobacco smoke is a powerful carcinogen. But not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer. So there must be other factors at work as well as carcinogens.
- Genetic make up
- The immune system
- Bodyweight, diet and physical activity
- Day to day environment
- Bacterial infection
Symptoms of cancer depend on the type and location of the cancer. For example, lung cancer can cause coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Colon cancer often causes diarrhea, constipation, and blood in the stool.
Some cancers may not have any symptoms at all. In certain cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, symptoms often do not start until the disease has reached an advanced stage.
The following symptoms can occur with most cancers:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
Signs and Tests:
Like symptoms, the signs of cancer vary based on the type and location of the tumor. Common tests include the following:
- Biopsy of the tumor
- Blood tests
- Bone marrow biopsy (for lymphoma / leukemia)
- Chest x-ray
- Complete Blood Count
- CT scan
- MRI scan
Mainly cancers are diagnosed by biopsy however biopsy may be a simple procedure or a serious operation. Usually CT scans are used to identify the exact location & size of tumors.
A cancer diagnosis is difficult to cope with. It is important, however, that you discuss the type, size, and location of the cancer with your doctor when you are diagnosed. You also will want to ask about treatment options, along with their benefits and risks.
Treatment varies based on the type of cancer and its stage. The stage of a cancer refers to how much it has grown and whether the tumor has spread from its original location.
- If the cancer is confined to one location and has not spread, the most common treatment approach is surgery to cure the cancer. This is often the case with skin cancers, as well as cancers of the lung, breast, and colon.
- If the tumor has spread to local lymph nodes only, sometimes these can be removed.
- If surgery cannot remove all of the cancer, the options for treatment include radiation, chemotherapy, or both. Some cancers require a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
- Lymphoma (lymph glands cancer) is rarely treated with surgery. Chemotherapy & radiation therapy are best ways to treat lymphoma.
There are many ways to fight caner however it's well aware that treatment for cancer is difficult. If you've radiation treatment, know that:
- Radiation treatment is painless.
- Treatment is usually scheduled every weekday.
- You should allow 30 minutes for each treatment session, although the treatment itself usually takes only a few minutes.
- You should get plenty of rest and eat a well-balanced diet during the course of your radiation therapy.
- Skin in the treated area may become sensitive and easily irritated.
- Side effects of radiation treatment are usually temporary. They vary depending on the area of the body that is being treated.
If you are going through chemotherapy, you should eat right. Chemotherapy causes your immune system to weaken, so you should avoid people with colds or the flu. You should also get plenty of rest, and don't feel as though you have to accomplish tasks all at once.
It will help you to talk with family, friends, or a support group about your feelings. Work with your health care providers throughout your treatment. Helping yourself can make you feel more in control.
You can reduce the risk of getting a cancerous by:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Limiting/Stop alcohol
- Maintaining a healthy weight (avoid under or over weight)
- Minimizing your exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals
- No smoking or chewing tobacco
- Reduce sun exposure, especially if you skin burn easily
Mammography is a tool that used to examination for breast cancer. Colonoscopy is a procedure for colon cancer. These may help catch these cancers at early stages and are treatable.