What is Cancer?
The term “Cancer” is a broad term, which refers to abnormal cell growth in the human body. The human body is composed of millions of cells, each one specialized to perform a specific function. These cells have a lifespan where each survives and functions for a certain time period, after which it is destroyed by the natural processes of the body.
When, cell growth deviates from the norm and there is abnormal cell growth, where the cells might not have properly formed, they defy the normal bodily systems and grow uncontrollably in any part of the body. This cluster of abnormal cells is known as “Cancer.”
There can be two basic types of growth- benign or non-cancerous tumors, which are mostly slow-growing, well circumscribed and produce mass effects. The other, more ferocious type is the cancerous, malignant type, which often spreads throughout the body through a process known as “Metastasis,” where cancer cells spread from one part of the body to different, distant parts via the blood stream or the lymphatic system.
There are more than 200 types of cancer which can occur in the human body. They could involve the head including the brain, bones, spine, heart, lungs, kidneys, the gastrointestinal tract, liver, the reproductive system, blood, breast cancer etc. Hence, cancer can occur in any part of the human body.
Each type of cancer has specific risk factors, which improve its chances of occurring. However, there are some generalized risk factors, which apply to all types of cancers. These include:
- Smoking and Tobacco Use
- Occupational exposure to chemicals
- UV / Radiation Exposure
- Strong family history
- Diet and Obesity
- Sedentary Lifestyle
- Certain viruses like HIV, HPV
- Exposure to carcinogens
- Excessive Alcohol intake
- Certain medical diseases
Cancer SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS:
There are certain signs and symptoms common to majority of the cancers. These include:
- Unexplained Weight loss – despite adequate nutrient consumption
- Pallor – due to anemia/ blood loss
- Fatigue, lethargy, malaise
- Changes in mood and behavior
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained fever
- Excessive Hair Loss
- A lump or swelling in a specific body part
- Coughing, wheeze, shortness of breath, blood in sputum – in cases of lung cancers
- Seizures, headaches, dizziness, blurring of vision – in cases of head/ brain cancers
- Severe pain in any part of the body
- Change in bowel habits
- Per rectal or per vaginal bleeding in cases of colorectal or reproductive system cancers, respectively.
WHAT TO DO, Cancer Treatment?
If you or anybody you know is suffering from such alarming or unexplained symptoms of cancer, do not hesitate to set an appointment with your local general practitioner. Most of the times, it is a benign condition, which is easily manageable. However, signs such as severe weight loss, lumps, seizures, bleeding, etc., should not be ignored or taken lightly.
Approaching the right medical team in time is going to be ideal in terms of cancer diagnosis, management, and treatment. The doctor will conduct detailed tests and investigations, after which the appropriate medical or surgical treatment options will be offered, depending on the type, classification and stages of cancer. The earlier the treatment is sought, the better are the chances of controlling or curing the disease.