Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by uncontrolled and abnormal cell division and the ability of these cells to invade or spread to other tissues either by direct growth into adjacent tissue or by migration of cells to distant sites (metastasis).
There are over 100 different known cancers that affect humans.
Tobacco use is the cause of about 22 of cancer deaths. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds. These include 60 chemicals that have been found to cause cancer.
Cigarette smoking also causes lung cancer, oral cavity cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer and bladder cancers.
Alcohol causes oral cavity cancer, pharyngeal cancer, laryngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer.
Breast cancer occurs primarily in women. Risk factors includes family history of breast cancer for examples women with mothers, sisters, or daughters who have breast cancer. Breast cancer is rare before 20 years but the risk increases throughout the 20s. The risk rises dramatically during the 30s through mid-70s (majority or cases occur in women 40 years and over).
In cancer of the cervix, a causal association exist between the cancer and infection with human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is sexually transmitted and causes genital warts. The risk of infection increases with an increased number of sexual partners and/ or non-monogamous partners. Higher risk of cervix cancer occurs in women who became sexually active before 17 years.
It is recommended that all women should have annual Pap tests three years after their first vaginal intercourse but not later than age 21.
Skin cancer is related to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. So limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen will prevent skin cancer.
In colorectal cancer, there maybe a positive family history. Diet and lifestyle plays an important part. Increased body mass leads to two fold increase in men. Diet rich in meat and fat may lead to cancer and diet rich in fiber, Vegetables, fruits and calcium may be protective. Lifestyle is important for the development of cancer. Physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, prolonged cigarette smoking and certain may be responsible for its causal.
Some cancers appears to run in families like breast cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, cancer uterus, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma and certain leukemia.
Signs and symptoms of cancer:
- Change in bowel habits or bladder function.
- Hoarseness of voice.
- Indigestion or trouble swallowing.
- Nagging cough.
- Recent change in a wart or mole.
- Sores that do not heal.
- Thickening or lump in any parts of the body.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Unusual bleeding or discharge.
- While these symptoms may indicate cancer they may also occur due to other issues.
- Eat low fat diet and avoid red meat, smoked meat, cured or processed meats.
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Avoid Tobacco.
- Avoid Sun exposure.
- Avoid unnecessary radiation.
- Avoid carcinogens at work.
- Knowing family history of cancer- genetic susceptibility.
Being overweight or obese increases risk of several cancers including colon, breast and ovarian cancer. So, regular exercise and maintain healthy weight throughout life.
Screening for Cancer
Cancer screening examination are tests performed when we are healthy. Early detection provides the best opportunity for successful treatment. Reliable screening tests are available for certain cancers like cancer cervix, breast, colon etc. The treatment modalities consists of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal, Immunotherapy and Biological therapy.
Cancer is staged as stage 1,2,3, and 4 according to its size and how far it spread to the Surrounding tissues. In Stage 1 and 2, the cancer is still in an early stage. The treatment can still cure the cancer whereas for stage 3 and 4, multi modality treatment has to be given to control the cancer.
For stage 4, Palliative treatment is planned for the patient when the disease is no longer responsive to curative treatment. It relieves patient such as pain, bleeding, fungation and foul smelling discharge, incapacitation and psycho social issues.
The aim of Palliative care is achievement of best possible quality of life for patients and their families and good control of symptoms.