Here are a few frequently asked questions on cancer. Awareness makes it easy to live with less worry, take precautions and develop a healthy lifestyle.
Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by out-of-control cell growth. There are over 100 different types of cancer, and each is classified by the type of cell that is initially affected.
Cancer harms the body when altered cells divide uncontrollably to form lumps or masses of tissue called tumors (except in the case of leukemia where cancer prohibits normal blood function by abnormal cell division in the blood stream). Tumors can grow and interfere with the digestive, nervous, and circulatory systems, and they can release hormones that alter body function. Tumors that stay in one spot and demonstrate limited growth are generally considered to be benign.
More dangerous, or malignant, tumors form when two things occur:
<li>A cancerous cell manages to move throughout the body using the blood or lymphatic systems, destroying healthy tissue in a process called invasion</li>
<li>That cell manages to divide and grow, making new blood vessels to feed itself in a process called angiogenesis.</li>
When a tumor successfully spreads to other parts of the body and grows, invading and destroying other healthy tissues, it is said to have metastasized. This process itself is called metastasis, and the result is a serious condition that is very difficult to treat.
<b>Cancer is the second most common cause of death.</b>
<b><u>Causes of cancer</u></b>
Cancer is ultimately the result of cells that uncontrollably grow and do not die. Normal cells in the body follow an orderly path of growth, division, and death. Programmed cell death is called apoptosis, and when this process breaks down, cancer begins to form. Unlike regular cells, cancer cells do not experience programmatic death and instead continue to grow and divide. This leads to a mass of abnormal cells that grows out of control.
The three main types of cancer treatment are: Surgery Surgery is often the first treatment used if the cancer can be taken out of the body. And sometimes there may be risks to doing surgery for a cancer removal. Radiation or Chemo might be used to shrink the cancer before or after the surgery. Chemotherapy Doctors use chemo drugs to kill the cancer cells that have spread away from the tumour. The drugs are given intravenously (IV or into vein) or taken as a pill by mouth. Radiation therapy It is a treatment with high energy rays to kill or shrink cancer cells. The radiation may be of external, a process lot like getting an x-ray; and it may be from internal known as implant radiation in which the radioactive materials are placed right into tumour. Other types of treatment include targeted therapy, stem cell or bone marrow transplant, and immunotherapy.
Doctors consider each patient as an individual with personal preferences, and then make recommendations based on things like their own personal experience, current research, and current cancer treatment guidelines.
Remission is a period of time when the cancer is responding to treatment or is under control. In a complete remission, all the signs and symptoms of cancer go away and cancer cells can’t be detected by any of the tests available for that cancer. It’s also possible for a patient to have a partial remission where the cancer shrinks but doesn’t completely disappear. Complete remissions may go on for years and overtime the cancer may be considered cured. If the cancer recurs (returns), another remission may be possible with more treatment.
Not necessarily. Cancer is caused by harmful changes (mutations) in genes. Only about 5 to 10 percent of cancers are caused by harmful mutations that are inherited from a person’s parents. In families with an inherited cancer-causing mutation, multiple family members will often develop the same type of cancer. These cancers are called “familial” or “hereditary” cancers.
The remaining 90 to 95 percent of cancers are caused by mutations that happen during a person’s lifetime as a natural result of aging and exposure to environmental factors, such as tobacco smoke and radiation. These cancers are called “non-hereditary” or “spontaneous” cancers.
The chance that surgery will cause cancer to spread to other parts of the body is extremely low. Following standard procedures, surgeons use special methods and take many steps to prevent cancer cells from spreading during biopsies or surgery to remove tumors. For example, if they must remove tissue from more than one area of the body, they use different surgical tools for each area.
Each type of cancer treatment has different side effects and it’s hard to predict what side effects a person will have as even when people get the same treatment each can have different side effects. But cancer treatment side effects can be treated. Chemo Side Effects Short-term side-effects of chemo can include things like nausea and vomiting, appetite loss, hair loss and mouth sores. Cancer care teams work carefully with patients to manage the side effects of chemo and most of them go away after the treatment ends. Radiation Side Effects Radiation treatments are much like the x-rays and not painful. The most common side effect is skin irritation in treatment area and fatigue (a feeling of extreme tiredness and low energy that doesn’t get better with rest). These generally lasts for few weeks.
No. Although some studies suggest that alternative or complementary therapies, including some herbs, may help patients cope with the side effects of cancer treatment, no herbal products have been shown to be effective for treating cancer. In fact, some herbal products may be harmful when taken during chemotherapy or radiation therapy because they may interfere with how these treatments work. Cancer patients should talk with their doctor about any complementary and alternative medicine products—including vitamins and herbal supplements—they may be using.
To date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that links a person’s “attitude” to his or her risk of developing or dying from cancer. If you have cancer, it’s normal to feel sad, angry, or discouraged sometimes and positive or upbeat at other times. People with a positive attitude may be more likely to maintain social connections and stay active, and physical activity and emotional support may help you cope with your cancer.