Cancer is a disease that affects just about everyone at some point in their lives. The chances are that you have known someone during your lifetime that has had some form of cancer. Here is everything that you might want to know about the disease.
What is Cancer?
Cancer can be described as an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells inside of the body. It develops when a person's normal control mechanism no longer works. Old cells don't die and end up growing out of control. They form new, abnormal cells. These cells can often form a mass of tissue which is called a tumor. There are some cancers, however, that tumors do not form like leukemia.
Cancer can occur in the body anywhere. Breast cancer is the most common type for woman. Prostate cancer is most common for men. Men and women are both affected by colorectal cancer and lung cancer in high numbers. More than 100 different types of cancer exist. Cancer falls into five main categories:
- Carcinomas start in the tissue that lines internal organs or in the skin.
- Sarcomas develop in cartilage, muscle, fat, bone, or other connective tissues.
- Leukemia begins in bone marrow or the blood.
- Lymphomas begin in the immune system.
- Central nervous system cancer develops in the spinal cord or brain.
How is Cancer Treated?
The treatment options available all depend on the type of cancer, what stage it is in, if the cancer has already spread, and the patient's overall health. The goal of the treatment is to destroy as many damaged cells as possible while avoiding damage to the healthy cells that are found nearby. Many advances in technology have made this possible. The three main cancer treatments are:
- Surgery is used to directly remove the cancerous tumor.
- Chemotherapy uses chemicals to destroy cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy uses x-rays to destroy cancer cells.
Cancer in one person can be very different than the same type of cancer in another person. Researchers have discovered cancer subtypes requiring different treatment approaches.
Managing the Side-Effects of Cancer Treatment
A broad range of therapies are available to help combat the side-effects of cancer treatment. These supportive care services help to focus on not only the cancer but the pain, depression, and fatigue associated with the treatment. Some supportive care services are:
- Nutrition therapy is used to help prevent malnutrition and to help reduce side-effects.
- Naturopathic medicine uses natural remedies boosting energy and reducing side-effects.
- Oncology rehabilitation helps rebuild strength to overcome the physical effects of cancer treatment.
- Mind-body medicine helps improve the emotional well-being through stress management, counseling, and support groups.
Cancer is caused by genes that are supposed to control how our cells function and how they divide and grow. Genetic changes can be inherited from your parents. They are also able to arise during a person's life as a result of some errors occurring as cells divide or because of damaged DNA caused by environmental exposure. Environmental exposures that cause cancer include certain substances, like chemicals in tobacco smoke, and radiation, including ultraviolet rays.
Early Cancer Detection Methods
Many cancers can be found early, before having the chance to grow and spread. Cancer screening can help you detect this disease early allowing for a better chance at recovery. These screening tests can be used to find cancer before any symptoms are present.
- For breast cancer woman should start having an annual breast cancer screening at the age of 40. By 45 they should have mammograms every year to detect any cancer. At the age of 55, a woman can switch to mammograms every two years or continue with a yearly screening. Any change to the way a woman's breast looks or feels should be reported to a doctor immediately.
- For colon and rectal cancer, men and women should both start seeing a doctor if they wish to detect cancer early. They should schedule a colonoscopy every ten years, a CT colonography, a flexible sigmoidoscopy, or a double-contrast barium enema every five years. They can also have a fecal immunochemical test every year, guaiac-based fecal occult blood test yearly, or a stool DNA test every three years.
The most important thing is that you get tested. Talk to a physician about which test might be the best option for you. If you are at high risk for cancer, you may want to schedule these tests more often. Discuss your family history when it comes to cancer and other diseases with your doctor, and they will help you to choose what testing plan might be best for you. It might save your life.