Cancer is a group of over one hundred diseases characterized by abnormal, uncontrolled cell growth. In a healthy body – cells grow, die and are replaced in a very controlled way. Damage or change in the genetic material of cells by environmental or internal factors result in cells that don’t die and continue to multiply until a massive cancer or a tumour develops. Most cancer related deaths are due to metastasis, malignant cells that penetrate into the circulatory system and establish colonies in other parts of the body. Great advancements have been made but cancer is still leading cause of death for people under 85.
There are innumerable things which can cause cancer. Some of the commoner causes are as follows:
Nicotine (chewing tobacco or smoking cigarettes etc) - usually causes oral cancer, lung cancer; and cancers of the alimentary tract, pancreas etc. Nicotine can cause cancer of practically any organ in the body.
Genes - Some cancers run in a family. There is inheritance of a faulty gene, which initiates cancer. For example, HBOC (Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer), HNPCC (Hereditary Non Polyposis Colorectal Cancer) etc. Here are 10 myths about cancer busted!
Prolonged sun exposure - causes cancer of the skin
Carcinogens in the environment – There are many substances in the food we eat or water we drink or air we breathe, which have a potential to cause cancer. Like asbestos is known to cause lung cancer (for example, in the city of Mumbai, presently, due to a very rampant construction activity which is completely uncontrolled, there are lot of positively charged particles in the air, including particles of asbestos. All this will show up as a rise in lung cancer cases, even in non-smokers, within the next twenty years). Read in detail about cancer in children.
Foods - contaminated with pesticides have undesirable effects on the body. Certain substances used to make ‘Chinese’ food (especially in roadside stalls and hotels), have harmful effects on the stomach. Smoked foods can cause cancer of alimentary tract. Water contaminated with heavy minerals due to industrial effluents are also harmful.
Viruses - Hepatitis B and C viruses are responsible for 50% of Liver cancers. Human Papilloma virus is responsible for 99.9% cases of cervical cancer.
Radiation exposure - increases the risk of cancer.
Generally, at an overall level, if fever, body ache, a feeling of ill-being and unexplained loss of weight are troubling you for more than three months, one can suspect cancer. Do visit your physician and get your blood tests done. There could also be chronic tiredness & fatigue because in certain cancers, the bone marrow does not produce enough red cells leading to reduced hemoglobin and weakness.
Though we obviously cannot enlist every presenting symptom here as every person is unique and it may present differently every time, we have attempted some of the more common ones:
Here is detailed information on symptoms of cancer you shouldn’t ignore.
- Alternating diarrhea and constipation
- Persistent cough and hoarseness of voice
- Blood in stools
- Blood in urine
- A non-healing ulcer in the mouth
- Prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Blood in sputum/ phlegm along with cough
- Recurring jaundice
- Lump in the breast
- Change in the size of a wart, mole
- Thickening or lump anywhere on the body
Most cancers have 4 stages. They are decided by the TNM system (T – Tumour, N – Node, M – Metastases). The doctor will assess whether the tumour is localized only to the organ, or if it has spread to the nearby nodes or if it has distant metastases (if it has spread to organs far away from the initial site of the cancer through the blood). The reason of segregating patients in stages is that each stage may have some predictable outcome and will have particular type of treatment for that group.
The doctor will assess whether the tumour is localized only to the organ, or if it has spread to the nearby nodes or if it has distant metastases (if it has spread to organs far away from the initial site of the cancer through the blood). The reason of segregating patients in stages is that each stage may have some predictable outcome and will have particular type of treatment for that group. Read about cancer among ten leading causes of deaths in India, still considered as a remote disease.
Cancer treatments are usually of three types – chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. The type of therapy that a doctor will recommend depends on the type of cancer, how far it has progressed and where in the body it is located.
Chemotherapy or cancer drugs are recommended when cancerous cells are present in various parts of the body. Radiation targets the cancerous cells directly and prevents them from replicating while surgery directly removes the cancerous tumour. Doctors usually recommend a combination of these treatments. Here is everything you need to know about latest advances in cancer treatment.
Latest Research in Cancer treatment
10 new antibodies to battle against cancer found:
Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark are reported to have developed 10 new antibodies that can be used in the battle against cancer.
These antibodies work by inhibiting the body’s blood vessel formation close to the tumour which is, thereby, cut off from oxygen and nutrient supply.
5 interesting facts about biological therapy for cancer: Biological therapy is the newest way to treat cancer, and is still in its nascent stages. But the therapy is producing some promising results.
You may also read about 8 signs that signify that the battle against cancer is lost.
Apart from chemotherapy and radition therapy, there are few holistic approaches that can help in dealing with cancer. Some of the common ones are listed below -
- Siddha Medicine
Yoga can help manage and beat several diseases including dreaded ones such as cancer. Here are seven stages of yoga for leading a healthy life with cancer.
Here is a real story about how yoga helped to fight cancer.
- Dynamic Stillness: How to Sit
- Pranayama: How to Breathe
- Meditation: How to Quiet the Mind
- Movement: How to Move with Ease
- Balance: How to Build Focus, Bone, and Strength
- Restorative Yoga: How to Actively Rest
- Savasana: How to Seal It In
Cancer, as any other disease, can be prevented by making some simple lifestyle changes. Here are few tips to prevent cancer -
1. Avoid smoking or exposure to smoke
2. Practice sun safety
3. Include fruits and veggies into your diet
4. Limit red meat consumption
5. Limit alcohol consumption
6. Exercise and keep fit
7. Get regular check-ups if you have a family history of cancer
8. Know your risk factors at your work place
9. Practice safe sex
10. Get annual health check ups