Everything you need to know about cancer

Cancer is a disease that is characterized by the abnormal growth of cells which is capable of spreading to other tissues and organs in the body. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide and in 2018, 9.6 million deaths were recorded from diseases. The use of tobacco, excessive intake of alcohol, obesity and physical inactivity are factors that can contribute to the development of cancer.

How is cancer formed?

The cell which is the basic unit of life divides and form new cells when they get old or damaged then new cells take their positions, cancer disrupt this process and make the cells to grow abnormally and uncontrollably. This condition is caused by mutation or DNA changes. The cells grow abnormally and form lumps called “Tumors” and tumors can be cancerous or benign. Cancerous tumors grow and spread to other parts of the body causing serious damage to the tissues and organs while benign tumors only grows on a spot and does not spread to other parts of the body. It is important to note that not all cancer form tumors, example of cancer without tumor is leukaemia (This cancer grow in the blood without forming lumps).

What are the causes of cancer?

The basic cause of cancer is mutation in DNA which makes the cell to grow abnormally and invade vital tissues and organs in the body. Genetic mutation can be inherited from parent to offspring which causes abnormal cell division. However, there are other factors that can contribute to the development of cancer and some of them are preventable.
The following are environmental factors as well as lifestyle that contributes to the development of cancer:

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals such as benzene, nickel, aluminium and nitrosamines
  • Smoking of cigarettes and tobacco
  • Unhealthy weight gain or obesity
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation such as ultraviolet rays from the sunlight and radiation from Alpha, Beta and Gamma rays
  • Lack of physical activities
  • Exposure to certain infectious pathogens such as papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis viruses
  • Poor nutrition

What are the types of cancer?

This health condition is one of the leading cause of death globally and there are over 100 types of cancer that have been reported. Cancer are placed into categories based on where they occur in the body and what they are made of. For instance prostate cancer occur more in men while breast cancer is most common in women. The following are the major types of cancer:

  • Carcinomas: This cancer starts in the skin or the tissue that lines the internal organs. Example of carcinomas are lung cancer, prostrate cancer and breast cancer.
  • Sarcomas: This is the cancer that affects the connective tissue such as bones, muscles, cartilages, joints, nerves and blood vessels.
  • Leukemias : It is referred to as the cancer of the blood and it affects the white blood cells.
  • Lymphomas begins in the immune system.

There are several other types of cancer but this article will discuss more on leukaemia breast and prostate cancer.

Leukaemia

This is the cancer of the blood tissue and bone marrow. leukaemia affects the white blood cells which are responsible for fighting infections in the body. They make the white blood cells to grow and divide abnormally which will result into deficiency of the immune system. The following are the main categories of leukaemia;

  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia(AML): This cancer is very common in children and also affects adults. Acute myelogenous leukaemia affects the mylediod cells and the symptoms they present is based on the type of blood cell they affect. The common symptoms may include bone pains, pale skin, nosebleeds, easy bruising and difficulty in breathing.
  • Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia (CML): This effects adults mostly above the age of 50 in the United States and it is a severe myeloproliferative disorder. The regular symptoms may include anemia, shortness of breath, bone pain, night sweats, fever and fatigue.
  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia (ALL): This cancer is very common in children in the United States and it affects the lymphatic system by creating immature blood rather than mature ones. The symptoms include fatigue, severe nosebleeds, lumps around the neck underarm and abdomen.
  • Chronic Lypmphocytic Leukaemia(CLL): This affects older adult above the age of 55 and the symptoms include rapid weight loss, night sweats, fever and frequent illness.

Symptoms of Leukaemia

The different symptoms of leukaemia you may likely experience is based on the type you have. The following are the common symptoms of leukaemia;

  • Joint pains and bone pains
  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Seizures
  • Eye defects
  • Loss of appetite
  • Quick bleeding
  • Frequent infections

Treatment of leukaemia

  • Chemotherapy: It is the commonest treatment of leukaemia and it involves the use of drugs that contains chemicals which destroy leukaemia cells.
  • Targeted therapy: This treatment makes use of drugs that invade and destroy abnormal cancer cells in the blood and bone marrow
  • Radiation therapy: it involves the use of X-rays to inhibits the growth of cancer cells and also destroy them in the blood.
  • Stem cell transplant: This treatment involves replacing the unhealthy bone marrow with healthy ones.
  • Immunotherapy : This treatment involves strengthening your immune system to recognise and destroy leukaemia cells.

Prevention of Leukemia

The prevention of leukaemia is still unclear. However, avoiding exposure to industrial effluent, agricultural influence, pesticides and use of tobacco can reduce your susceptibility to leukaemia.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the cancer that occurs in the cells of the breast. It occurs in both men and women but are most commonly diagnosed in women globally. The survival rate of breast cancer have increased so far and there is reduction in it’s fatality rates due to enlightenment program and funding to enhance diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Types of breast cancer

The following are the types of cancer that develops in the cells of the breast;

  • Doctor carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma
  • Angiosarcoma
  • Male breast cancer
  • Inflammatory breast cancer

Symptoms of breast cancer

The symptoms of breast cancer varies based on the type you have , at early stage breast cancer do not usually cause any symptoms as the tumor may be too small to be felts. The following are the common symptoms of breast cancer:

  • Breast pain
  • Bloody discharge from the nipple
  • Itchy breast
  • Presence/experience of pain on the nipple
  • Changes in the colour of the breast
  • Presence of breast lump
  • Changes in the appearance of the nipple and breast
  • Swelling of the breasts
  • Changes in the shape of the breast
  • When do I need to see a doctor?

When do I need to see a doctor ?

You need to fix an appointment with your doctor for immediate medical attention if; you notice any of the above symptoms or find a lump in your breast or feel abnormal pain in both breast or have itches on the breast.

How to prepare for doctor’s appointment

Before visiting your doctor for breast cancer diagnosis, there are some things you need to put in place so as to make the diagnosis very easy and accurate.
The following are the important measures you need to take before you see your doctor for a breast cancer diagnostic test;

  • Write down the list of symptoms you are currently experiencing
  • Put down your vital personal information in your notes
  • If your family have a medical history of cancer write it down
  • Write down the list of all medications you are using
  • Make a list of all the questions you might want to ask your doctor

Diagnosis of breast cancer

The test that are carried out to detect breast cancer. The test include:

  • Mammogram: This test is useful in early detection of breast cancer. Mammogram is an X-ray of the breast, it is used to screen for the presence of cancer cells in the breast and if any abnormality or lump is detected then further tests will be carried out on you for more accurate diagnosis.
  • Breast ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to create an image of the inner structure of the breast. Ultrasound test is used to differentiate between breast tumor and a benign cyst.
  • Breast biopsy: This is the most accurate diagnostic test for breast cancer as it requires the removal of tissue sample from the best and subjecting it to laboratory test. The doctor uses a sterile needle to remove the tissue sample from the affected part of the breast and send the sample to the laboratory for further test. If the result comes out positive then this indicates that you already have breast cancer.

Treatment of breast cancer

The treatment of breast cancer is based on the degree or severity of damage that has been caused on the breast. Your doctor examimes the breast cancer stage, it’s severity and the size of the tumor to suggest the best treatment for you.
The following are the treatment options for breast cancer based on the severity of the disease:

  • Chemotherapy: They refer to series of drugs that are used to destroy the cells of cancer. This treatment is used alongside with surgery to ensure better results. Chemotherapy has so some side effects therefore it is very crucial to see your doctor before taking it as a choice of treatment.
  • Surgery: There are varieties of surgery method that can be used to remove breast cancer and they include mastectomy, sentinel node, biospy and lumpectomy.

Other treatment options may include radiation therapy, hormone therapy and the use of medications that are primarily designed to eliminate mutations within the cancer cells.

Prevention of breast cancer

  • Avoid smoking cigarettes and tobacco
  • Improve healthy diet
  • Avoid unhealthy weight gain
  • Make sure you breastfeed your baby exclusively if you are a nursing mother
  • Avoid excessive intake of alcohol
  • Engage in more physical exercise
  • Avoid exposure to sunlight radiation and environmental pollution

Prostrate cancer

Prostate cancer is the kind of cancer that is formed in the prostrate gland. It is most common in men and it is found next to the bladder. The diagnotic test for prostate cancer include prostrate biopsy, prostate specific antigen and digital rectal exam.

Symptoms of prostrate cancer

Postrate cancer do not usually bring up any symptoms at early stage. However, the possible symptoms which might arise may be related to enlargement of prostrate and sometimes the symptoms are not linked to prostrate enlargement. The following are the symptoms of prostrate cancer ;

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Bone pains
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Erectile dyfunction
  • Presence of blood in urine
  • Frequent urination and burning sensation while urinating
  • Weak flow of urine

Risk factors of postrate cancer

The common risk factors that can contribute to development of prostate cancer may include

  • Age factor: It is common among men above the age of 40
  • Family history of the disease
  • Smoking of cigarette and tobacco
  • Excessive drinking of alcohol
  • Poor nutrition or unhealthy diet
  • Exposure to certain infectious organisms such as viruses

Treatments of Postrate Cancer

The following are effective ways of treating prostate cancer

  • Surgery : There are different types of surgery that is used to remove prostate cancer and lymph nodes. The choice of the type of surgery depends on the health status of the man and the severity of the cancer. Therefore, the types of surgery that are used to remove postrate cancer include radical prostatectomy, laparoscopic prostatectomys and bilateral orchiectomy.
  • Radiation therapy: This treatment makes use of high sensitive rays to destroy and eliminate cancerous cells from the prostrate gland. Radiation therapy might presents unwanted side effects such as frequent urination, sexual dysfunction, diarrhoea and rectal bleeding. Therefore make sure you report the symptoms to your doctor during the course of treatment to manage these conditions.

Other treatment of prostate cancer are immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiopharmaceuticals and targeted therapy.

Prevention of prostate cancer

The ultimate remedies to preventing postrate cancer is by taking the following measures:

  • Avoid the usage of tobacco
  • Increase your physical activities
  • Avoid smoking
  • Maintain good nutrition and balanced diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid excessive intake of alcohol

What are the treatments of cancer?

There are different types of cancer treatment and your choice of treatment depends on the type of cancer you have and the severity of the disease. Some people take only one type of treatment while that goes for combinations of treatment methods to enhance better results.
The following are the different treatment options for cancer;

  • Chemotherapy : This is used alongside with other treatment and it has some unwanted side-effects . It works by using drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Surgery: This include surgical operations that are performed to remove the affected parts in the body.
    The different types of surgery that can be used to remove cancerous cells from the body and the type that is selected is decided by your doctor based on the type of cancer you have and the severity of the disease.
  • Radiation therapy : It uses high range of radiation such as X-rays to attack and destroy cancer cells.
    Immunotherapy: This treatment works by increasing your immune system to recognise, destroy and remove cancer cells.
  • Hormone therapy: This is the medical treatment of cancer that involves removing the hormone that triggers cancer development in the body.
  • Targeted drug therapy: This type of treatment targets and remove the abnormally growing cells without harming other cells, tissues and organs in the body.

What are the ways of preventing cancers?

The following are the guidelines to prevent cancers:

  • Avoid smoking cigarette and tobacco
  • Develop and maintain a healthy diet: eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce the consumption of processed meats.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Engage in more physical activities
  • Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals and sunlight rays
  • Get vaccinated against viral infections such as Hepatitis virus and human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Practice safe sex
  • Ensure that you go for medical check up from time to time to know your health status.

About Adebayo Taiwo

Adebayo Taiwo hails from Africa. He's a Microbiologist , Health Safety and Environment Specialist and a Health Advisor who is concerned about the well-being and healthy lifestyle of people around the globe. The health of my people is my pride.

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