What is Cancer?
The term cancer is used for certain diseases when there is uncontrollable abnormal growth of cells that are able to invade other tissues. The cancer cells can spread to the different body parts by the means of lymph systems and blood. Cancer cannot be regarded as one disease rather it is made up of many diseases. More than 100 types of cancers are there that are named after the type of cell or organ from where they start.
The types of cancer can be categorized into different groups. Some of the major categories are –
- Central Nervous System Cancers: This type of cancers starts in the tissues of the spinal cord and brain.
- Carcinoma: This type of cancer starts in the tissues or in the skin or can also cover internal organs. Carcinoma cells can be further categorized into different subtypes that include basal cell carcinoma, transitional carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
- Leukemia: This type of cancer begins in blood-forming tissue that includes bone marrow that produces a large number of abnormal blood cells that enter into the blood.
- Sarcoma: This cancer begins in fat, blood vessels, cartilage, bone, muscle or any other supportive or connective tissue.
- Myeloma and Lymphoma: This type of cancers starts from the cells of the immune system.
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Causes of Cancer
Usually cancer develops in many years. The disruption of DNA is the initial phase from where the cancer starts to begin. This disruption is due to many reasons that include use of certain chemicals, diet, reproductive history, sun exposure and tobacco. Also few cells will also come into precancerous phase that is called as dysplasia. The rest left cells will advance into carcinoma in situ state where cancer cells are limited to a microscopic site. These cells are surrounded by a thick covering that do not pose any major threat. A tumor takes about 30 years to grow and produce sufficient symptoms. It has also been seen that not all tumors are cancerous; they are either malignant or benign –
- Malignant Tumors: These tumors are considered as cancerous and they surround the nearby tissues while spreading to different parts of the body.
- Benign Tumors: These tumors are considered as non-cancerous and can also be removed. It has also been seen that after removal they do not come back again. The cells in this type of tumors do not spread to different parts of the body.
Symptoms of Cancer
There are no definite symptoms of cancer as it arises from a variety of sites and develops with a number of conflicting patterns of spread. Cancer is very different from diseases like arthritic disease or heart disease. The primary site of the cancer defines the exact nature of its symptoms. These symptoms also depend on the rate of development, location in an organ and also whether secondary spread is there or not. A lump or swelling is caused when primary tumors develop at an accessible or visible part of the body that includes oral cavity, skin, testicle or breast. The usual swelling caused by is painless at its initial stage, although skin breakdown (ulceration) may occur that can be painful.
Stages of Cancer
There are typically four stages of cancer –
Stage 0: This stage explains cancer in situ that means ‘in place’. These cancers do not spread to other parts of the body and are located at their place from where they have started. In this stage, the cancer is possible to cure by completely removing the tumor with the help of a surgery.
Stage I: In this early stage, the cancer is usually small and the tumor has not developed into the surrounding tissues. These types of cancers do not spread to different parts of the body or to the lymph nodes.
Stage II and III: These two stages define the large size of the tumors. These have grown deep inside the surrounding tissues and have spread only to lymph nodes and not to the different parts of the body.
Stage IV: This stage indicates that the cancer or tumor has spread to different parts of the body. This stage is also known as metastatic or advanced cancer.
Cancer Treatment Options
A number of options are available for treating cancer. These treatments depend on location, stage, type and extent of the cancer. The different therapies include –
Radiation Therapy: In this therapy, cancer and certain diseases are treated with the help of ionizing radiation. The cells and their genetic material are destroyed by ionizing radiation in the area being treated. This therapy makes it impossible for these cells to grow further.
Hormone Therapy: In this therapy, the hormones are used for changing the way these hormones grow in the body that helps cancers to develop.
Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drug cells are used in chemotherapy. These drugs help in destroying the cancer cells by stopping multiplication or growth at a certain point in their life cycles. These drugs are given by injecting into a muscle, applied to the skin, by mouth (orally) or into the vein (intravenously). This depends on the drug and also on the cancer type. This therapy is usually provided in cycles of alternating treatments and rest periods.
Biological Therapy (Immunotherapy): This therapy indirectly or directly uses the immune system of the body in order to fight cancer. This therapy reduces the side effects that have developed due to some other cancer treatments.
Surgery: Here, surgical removal of the tumor is done. Also lymph nodes and nearby tissue can also be removed by the means of surgery. This surgical procedure can either use laser or conventional instruments.
Alternative and Complementary Therapy: This therapy involves homeopathy and acupuncture.
The return of the cancer after its treatment and after a time period when the cancer cannot be detected is known as cancer recurrence. The same cancer can come back again from where it has started to develop and it can also develop from a different part of the body. The reason of this recurrence is due to few cancer cells that have been left in the body and the treatment was unable to get completely rid of them.
Cancer Treatment Aftercare
After the cancer treatment, it is essential to drink clean alkaline water, minimize stress, eating of right food and regular check-ups with your doctor. Aftercare also involves the review of physical exam and medical history of a patient that include endoscopy, imaging procedures and blood work. This aftercare is very important as it helps in determining the changes in health of a patient. Many ongoing problems are also addressed that has been caused by cancer or its treatment. Plus it also checks psychosocial and physical effects that may have developed after the completion of the treatment.