Cancer

Cancer is a disease that occurs when cells divide uncontrollably. It is not contagious, and in most cases it is not caused by an external pathogen like bacteria or viruses.

 

Here’s a better explanation. Our bodies are made of millions of cells, which each have a specific job to keep our bodies healthy. For example, liver cells remove toxins and poisons from the blood, and keep the contents of the blood clean. When the liver cells are overwhelmed, they cannot remove all of the toxins from the blood, and those toxins then cause damage to other cells throughout the body. This is what happens when someone is poisoned. The liver cells are overwhelmed and unable to filter the blood.

 

When a person has cancer in their liver, the cancerous cells do not help the other liver cells to filter the blood. This causes the other cells to be overwhelmed much more easily, with very small concentrations of toxins. This is made worse by the fact that the cancer cells are rapidly dividing and replicating themselves, forming a tumor that outcompetes the healthy cells for space and nutrients.

Cancer is especially dangerous when it metastasizes, which is when it spreads to other organs. It then becomes very difficult to treat because it is no longer in a singular area, and it may spread to locations and organs where it is difficult to detect or treat, like the brain.

 

Cancer is not uncommon. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime, and that 1 in 5 people will die of an invasive cancer. It is important to watch your body for the warning signs and get screened. The earlier that the cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat and the more likely you will be to survive.

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Warning Signs and Symptoms

There are a variety of potential warning signs for cancer, and it is important to see a doctor promptly if you have persistent warning signs.  However, it is also important to remember that these warning signs are not exclusively signs of cancer, and could be related to another potential medical problem. The warning signs for cancer include:

  • tiredness and fatigue

  • a lump or an area thickening under the skin

  • changes in bowel or bladder habits

  • persistent cough or difficulty breathing

  • difficulty swallowing

  • unintended, drastic weight changes

  • persistent indigestion or discomfort after eating

  • skin changes including changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole or skin lesion, or skin growths and sores that do not heal

  • unexplained bleeding or bruising

  • persistent and unexplained fevers or night sweats

  • persistent and unexplained muscle or joint pain

 

Skin cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US, can be recognized with the change in size, shape, or color of a mole or other skin lesion, or through abnormal skin growths or sores that do not heal.

Risk Factors 

The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, but there are several risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop cancer.

  • family history of cancer

  • age

  • lifestyle and habits

    • smoking

    • lack of physical activity

    • poor diet

    • heavy alcohol consumption

  • pre-existing health conditions

    • obesity

    • ulcerative colitis

  • environment

    • exposure to UV radiation

    • high stress

Treatment

There are many different ways cancer is treated, depending on the type and severity of the specific cancer that a patient has. Below is a list of treatment options that may be available.

  • Surgery

      Surgery is a common method when the tumor, the group of cancerous cells, is located in a place that can be surgically          removed. A well known cancer treatment by surgery is a mastectomy for breast cancer. Surgery is also a common                  method for treating skin cancer.

  • Chemotherapy

      Chemotherapy is the use of medicines to treat cancer, and can be used on nearly all types of cancer.

  • Radiation therapy

      Radiation therapy is the use of radioactive energy beams, like X-rays, to kill the cancer cells. The radiation can come from        an external machine, or can be placed inside the body through a cream or metal.

  • Stem cell transplant

      Stem cells are cells that make other cells. An example of stem cells would be bone marrow, which is the material that              makes blood cells. In stem cell transplants, the cells that are making the cancerous cells are replaced by healthy stem              cells, either from the patient or from a donor.

  • Immunotherapy

      Immunotherapy is when the patient’s immune system is used to treat the cancer. Immunotherapy teaches the body’s                  immune system to see the cancer as a threat and attack it.

  • Hormone therapy

      Some types of cancer, like breast and prostate cancer, are fed by the body’s hormones. Hormone therapy can be used          to stop these types of cancers from growing by removing the hormone the cancer needs, or by blocking the effects of the        hormones.

Prevention

There are many different ways cancer is treated, depending on the type and severity of the specific cancer that a patient has. Below is a list of treatment options that may be available.

  • Surgery

     Surgery is a common method when the tumor, the group of cancerous cells, is located in a place that can be surgically              removed. A well known cancer treatment by surgery is a mastectomy for breast cancer. Surgery is also a common method          for treating skin cancer.

  • Chemotherapy

      Chemotherapy is the use of medicines to treat cancer, and can be used on nearly all types of cancer.

  • Radiation therapy

      Radiation therapy is the use of radioactive energy beams, like X-rays, to kill the cancer cells. The radiation can come from          an external machine, or can be placed inside the body through a cream or metal.

  • Stem cell transplant

     Stem cells are cells that make other cells. An example of stem cells would be bone marrow, which is the material that makes       blood cells. In stem cell transplants, the cells that are making the cancerous cells are replaced by healthy stem cells, either         from the patient or from a donor.

  • Immunotherapy

      Immunotherapy is when the patient’s immune system is used to treat the cancer. Immunotherapy teaches the body’s immune          system to see the cancer as a threat and attack it.

  • Hormone therapy

      Some types of cancer, like breast and prostate cancer, are fed by the body’s hormones. Hormone therapy can be used to          stop these types of cancers from growing by removing the hormone the cancer needs, or by blocking the effects of the              hormones.

Children with Cancer

Cancer is not a disease exclusive to adults. In the US, cancer is the second largest cause of death in children under the age of 15. About 1,190 children are expected to die of cancer in 2021.

 

If you are a parent and your child is constantly sick or presents cancer warning signs, take them to the doctor.

 

Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, accounting for about 28% of childhood cancers. The most recognizable symptoms of leukemia are fever, infection, bleeding and bruising easily, fatigue, and pale skin.

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Sources:

  1. American Cancer Society. (2020). Cancer Facts and Figures 2020. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, GA. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2020/cancer-facts-and-figures-2020.pdf

  2. American Cancer Society. (2021). Key Statistics for Childhood Cancers. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-in-children/key-statistics.html#references

  3. American Cancer Society. (2021). Cancer Facts and Figures 2021. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, GA. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2021/cancer-facts-and-figures-2021.pdf

  4. American Cancer Society. (2021). Lifetime Risk of Developing or Dying from Cancer. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, GA. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-basics/lifetime-probability-of-developing-or-dying-from-cancer.html

  5. Cancer. (2018, December 12). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20370588