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Explaining the Cancer

Cancer is a disease caused when cells divide uncontrollably and spread into surrounding tissues. Cancer is caused by changes to DNA. Most cancer-causing DNA changes occur in sections of DNA called genes. These changes are also called genetic changes.

A cancer can grow into, or begin to push on nearby organs, blood vessels, and nerves. This pressure causes some of the signs and symptoms of cancer. A cancer may also cause symptoms like fever, extreme tiredness (fatigue), or weight loss. This may be because cancer cells use up much of the body's energy supply.

  • C: Change in bowel or bladder habits. ...

  • A: A sore that does not heal. ...

  • U: Unusual bleeding or discharge. ...

  • T: Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere. ...

  • I: Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing. ...

  • O: Obvious changes in warts or moles. ...

  • N: Nagging cough or hoarseness.

In most situations, a biopsy is the only way to definitively diagnose cancer. In the laboratory, doctors look at cell samples under the microscope. Normal cells look uniform, with similar sizes and orderly organization.

Some of the cancers that most often affect women are breast, colorectal, endometrial, lung, cervical, skin, and ovarian cancers. Knowing about these cancers and what you can do to help prevent them or find them early (when they are small, haven't spread, and might be easier to treat) may help save your life.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, except for skin cancers.

How long does it take to recover from cancer?

Most cancers that are going to come back will do so in the first 2 years or so after treatment. After 5 years, you are even less likely to get a recurrence. For some types of cancer, after 10 years your doctor might say that you are cured. Some types of cancer can come back many years after they were first diagnosed.

What are the chances of healing from cancer?

More than 80% of people diagnosed with cancer types which are easier to diagnose and/or treat survive their cancer for ten years or more (2010-11). Less than 20% of people diagnosed with cancer types which are difficult to diagnose and/or treat survive their cancer for ten years or more (2010-11)

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a complex group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If left untreated, cancer can cause severe illness and death. Understanding cancer involves exploring its causes, types, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

What Causes Cancer?

Cancer begins at the cellular level. The human body is made up of trillions of cells that grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. This process is regulated by the body’s genetic material, or DNA. However, when DNA is damaged or altered, mutations can occur, leading to the formation of cancerous cells. Several factors can contribute to these genetic changes:

  • Genetics: Some people inherit faulty genes from their parents that make them more susceptible to certain types of cancer.

  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to harmful substances, such as tobacco smoke, radiation, and asbestos, can increase the risk of cancer.

  • Lifestyle Choices: Poor diet, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption, and exposure to harmful UV rays can all contribute to cancer development.

  • Infections: Certain viruses and bacteria, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and Helicobacter pylori, are linked to cancer.

Types of Cancer

Cancer can develop in almost any part of the body. There are more than 100 different types of cancer, which are usually classified according to the organ or tissue where they originate. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Carcinomas: These cancers begin in the skin or the tissues that line internal organs. Examples include breast cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer.

  • Sarcomas: These cancers originate in the bones, muscles, fat, or other connective tissues.

  • Leukemias: These cancers start in the blood-forming tissues, such as the bone marrow, and result in the production of large numbers of abnormal blood cells.

  • Lymphomas: These cancers begin in the cells of the immune system, particularly the lymph nodes and lymphatic system.

  • Central Nervous System Cancers: These cancers start in the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms of Cancer

The symptoms of cancer vary widely depending on the type and location of the disease. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Unexplained Weight Loss: Sudden, unexplained weight loss can be a sign of cancer.

  • Fever: Persistent fever without an obvious cause may indicate an underlying condition, such as cancer.

  • Fatigue: Extreme tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest can be a symptom of cancer.

  • Pain: Persistent pain, especially if it’s new or unexplained, can be a sign of cancer.

  • Skin Changes: Changes in the skin, such as yellowing, darkening, or redness, can signal cancer.

  • Changes in Bowel or Bladder Habits: Persistent changes in bowel or bladder habits can be a symptom of cancer.

  • Unusual Bleeding or Discharge: Unexplained bleeding or discharge from any part of the body should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.

Diagnosis of Cancer

Diagnosing cancer usually involves a combination of methods:

  • Physical Examination: A thorough physical exam can reveal abnormalities that may indicate cancer.

  • Imaging Tests: Techniques such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI, and ultrasounds help visualize tumors and determine their location and size.

  • Biopsy: A biopsy involves removing a small sample of tissue for laboratory analysis to determine whether it’s cancerous.

  • Laboratory Tests: Blood, urine, and other tests can help diagnose cancer and monitor its progression.

Treatment of Cancer

Cancer treatment varies depending on the type and stage of the disease, as well as the patient's overall health. Common treatment options include:

  • Surgery: Removing the tumor and surrounding tissue is often the first step in treating cancer.

  • Radiation Therapy: High-energy radiation is used to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors.

  • Chemotherapy: Drugs are used to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.

  • Immunotherapy: This treatment boosts the body’s immune system to help fight cancer.

  • Targeted Therapy: These drugs target specific molecules involved in cancer growth and spread.

  • Hormone Therapy: Used for cancers that are influenced by hormones, such as breast and prostate cancer, to block the body’s ability to produce hormones or interfere with hormone action.

Cancer is a formidable disease that poses significant challenges to global health. However, advancements in medical research and treatment have improved outcomes for many people diagnosed with cancer. Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking early diagnosis and treatment are crucial steps in managing and overcoming cancer. Public awareness and education, along with continued research, are essential in the ongoing fight against this complex and multifaceted disease.


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