What is cancer disease?
Cancer refers to any one of a large number of diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. Cancer often has the ability to spread throughout your body.
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the world. But survival rates are improving for many types of cancer, thanks to improvements in cancer screening, treatment and prevention.
Possible signs and symptoms include a lump, abnormal bleeding, prolonged cough, unexplained weight loss, and a change in bowel movements. While these symptoms may indicate cancer, they can also have other causes. Over 100 types of cancers affect humans.
Cervical, skin, lung and liver, breast cancer are avoidable CANCER:
Facts, causes, prevention, symptoms and treatments Avoid cervical cancer, go for smear test every 2 years, available in the Gambia, avoid skin cancer: stop bleaching your skin, avoid lung cancer: stop smoking, avoid breast cancer; do self-breast examination and go yearly for checkup, avoid liver cancer: eat healthy food, better general hygiene and go for yearly check-up.
African Americans are more likely to die of cancer than people of any other race or ethnicity.
It is believed that cancer risk can be reduced by avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol intake, limiting UV ray exposure from the sun and tanning beds and maintaining a healthy diet, level of fitness and seeking regular medical care.
Screening can locate cervical cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer at an early, treatable stage.
Vaccines such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine assists in preventing some cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and oral cancers. A vaccine for hepatitis B can reduce liver cancer risk.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next 20 years.
The most common sites of cancer among men are lung, prostate, colon, rectum, stomach and liver.
The most common sites of cancer among women are breast, colon, rectum, lung, cervix and stomach.
It is important to say that not all cancers kill you. Overall, more than 50% of people diagnosed with cancer live for more than 5 years. Some cancers have survival rates of more than 90%. Secondly, cancer at an early stage does not kill you. So, a lot of effort is put into early diagnosis when treatment is likely to work best.
Cancers can cause death in more than one way. So, there is no single answer to this question. It really depends on the type of cancer you have and which parts of your body are affected. There are some examples below.
Some types of cancer can spread to take over part of the body that does something essential for life. For example, if a cancer is growing in part of the digestive system, it can block it so that food cannot go through the bowels. If food cannot pass through, then your food can’t be absorbed.
If cancer affects the lungs, then eventually there is not enough healthy lung tissue to allow you to absorb enough oxygen. Or the cancer can block off part of the lung. This part then collapses and often becomes infected. If you have advanced cancer, you may not have the strength to fight off an infection, even with strong antibiotics. So, the infection can eventually lead to death.
The human body has very finely balanced limits of certain body salts and chemicals. A cancer that has spread to the liver or bones can upset this chemical balance. The liver is the chemical factory of the body. It carries out many different tasks and is very important in maintaining the balance of body chemicals.
Cancer in the bones can affect the calcium balance of the body. If calcium levels go up or down in the blood, it upsets the whole chemical balance. Cancer in the bones can cause a lot of calcium to be released into the bloodstream. Normally the body has systems to correct this sort of imbalance. But when the imbalance becomes too great the systems don’t work anymore. There is treatment to bring calcium levels back to normal, but these only work for a limited time. Then unfortunately the calcium levels will rise in the blood. If calcium continues to go up, it will cause you to become unconscious and eventually die.
If cancer cells take over your bone marrow, eventually you won’t have enough healthy bone marrow to make blood cells. If you haven’t got enough red blood cells, you won’t have enough oxygen circulating around your body. A drop in white blood cells means you have less resistance to infection. A drop-in platelet means you are at greater risk of abnormal bleeding. If a blood vessel in a vital part of the body is damaged it can be life threatening. For example, bleeding in the brain is a stroke, which can be fatal if the body can’t control it.
Some cancers make particular substances which upset the body balance. This can cause problems such as severe weight loss or dehydration, which will eventually overwhelm the natural balancing systems of the body.
Many treatments can control cancer for a long time, even if they can’t cure it. But if a cancer continues to grow, then unfortunately it can become too much for the body to cope with.
Although this is a difficult subject for people to talk about (including for some doctors and nurses), it may help you to ask your specialist doctor or nurse about how you or your relative may die. It is something most people worry about at some point. Talking about the way cancer is affecting your body can help to lessen at least some of those worries.
How does cancer actually kill a person?
There are many different kinds of cancer. Most cancers form solid tumours (lump), and these tumours usually start with a series of mutations in one of the body’s own cells. These mutations allow the affected cells to start dividing uncontrollably, and often to avoid the body’s normal defences against them.
Sometimes just the physical presence of the tumour itself is the biggest problem. On the heart or brain, for example, a big tumour can prevent the organ from functioning normally and can even cause death.
More often, however, what ends up killing the cancer patient is what’s known as metastasis. This is when cells from a tumour separate from it, find their way into the lymph system or the bloodstream, and spread throughout the body. When this happens, the tumour is said to be malignant. (Benign tumours are those that do not spread.
They can still cause problems in some cases, like the heart or brain.) Particular types of malignant tumours often “metastasize” to particular organs–for example, colon cancer tumours often metastasize to the liver. But cancer cells from malignant tumours can invade many different tissues, such as bone, lungs, spleen, and more.
Each metastatic cell begins dividing and forming a new tumour in its new location. This is where the real problem is. Our bodies usually can’t support the growth of that many tumours, and the tumours can disrupt the normal function of the organs they’re growing in.
If that happens, and if the disease is left untreated, the patient will die. Treating a patient who has malignant cancer is difficult, because the metastatic cells are actually the patient’s own cells! Chemotherapies are usually designed to kill all rapidly dividing cells, but some rapidly dividing cells are normal, as in hair follicles and the stomach lining.
This is why people taking chemotherapy often lost their hair and become nauseated. So, the goal is to kill enough rapidly dividing cells to kill the tumours, but not so many that the patient is killed.
There are several ways it might. First, cancer cells sprout other cells in the body, thus causing tissue damage to whatever they happen to be growing in., Second, cancer cells physically get in the way of other cells just by being there and not doing the job they are supposed to. Last, all tissues have functions, and the function of a tissue is lost because it is composed of cancer cells, which can be very bad.
How to prevent cancer or find it early
You can lower your risk of getting many common kinds of cancer by making healthy choices. Screening tests can find some cancers early, when treatment works best. Vaccines (shots) can help prevent several kinds of cancer. Learn more about how to lower your risk of getting cancer.
Getting screening tests regularly may find breast, cervical, and colorectal (colon) cancers early, when treatment is likely to work best. Lung cancer screening is recommended for some people who are at high risk.
Vaccines (shots) also help lower cancer risk. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps prevent most cervical cancers and several other kinds of cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine can help lower liver cancer risk.
You can reduce your risk of getting cancer by making healthy choices like keeping a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, limiting the amount of alcohol you drink, and protecting your skin
Cancer mortality is reduced when cases are detected and treated early. There are two components of early detection: early diagnosis and screening.
When identified early, cancer is more likely to respond to treatment and can result in a greater probability of survival with less morbidity, as well as less expensive treatment. Significant improvements can be made in the lives of cancer patients by detecting cancer early and avoiding delays in care.
Early diagnosis consists of three components:
being aware of the symptoms of different forms of cancer and of the importance of seeking medical advice when abnormal findings are observed; access to clinical evaluation and diagnostic services; and
Early diagnosis of symptomatic cancers is relevant in all settings and the majority of cancers. Cancer programmers should be designed to reduce delays in, and barriers to, diagnosis, treatment and supportive care.
[email protected], send text messages only to 002207774469 3-6PM.
Dr Hassan Azadeh, senior lecturer at the University of The Gambia, Clinical Director at Medicare Health Services