Cancer

Cancer is a chronic disease characterized by intense suffering, weakness of the immune system and high comorbidity( associated illnesses). The mortality rate (death rate) is high evident if the patient is in the advanced stage of illness, hence it is known as one of the dangerous terminal illnesses. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR),  1300 Indians die every day due to different types of cancers. Between the years 2012- 2014, the mortality rate due to cancer was approximately increased by 6%.  In the year 2013, there were 465,169 deaths out of 3,016,628 patients. 

 

Cancer and the lifestyle

In olden days, people use to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. The sedentary and high-risk lifestyle of the modern age has increased the incidence of cancer worldwide. As the years passed. the world is witnessing many new forms of cancer. Almost everybody part is prone for one or other types of cancer. “Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that have no physiological importance. In other words, cells formed will harm the normal cells of the body instead of helping the body”. The possible signs and symptoms of cancer are, formation of palpable( can feel by touch) mass or lump, excessive and unexplained abnormal bleeding, prolonged cough, a drastic loss of weight, weakness, anaemia, sudden change in the urinary and bowel pattern and frequent infections.

 

Nature of cancer cells

Malignant ( cancer) cells have the ability to easily bound with the circulating blood and lymph. The process of transmission of cancer cells through blood and lymph is known as metastasis. Metastasis is the most dangerous situation because, in a quick time, the cancer cells can spread throughout the body making a person difficult to survive.  The abnormal metastatic cells will start utilizing the nutrients available for the normal resulting in starvation and death of healthy body cells. This will result in weakness and anaemia, unexplained weight-loss.

 

Causes of cancer

Cancer is a multifactorial disease mainly caused by lifestyle, radiation exposure, occupational factors,  viral infections, diet, and genetic factors. The chart below shows the percentage distribution of causative factors of cancer.

 

Mechanism of disease

The primary mechanism behind the cancer formation is the frequent cell division in an abnormal pattern. In the human body, normal growth and developmental processes are regulated by systematic and continuous cell growth, differentiation, and cell division. In a cancer patient, these mechanisms are not properly regulated resulting in a continuous, prolonged and uncontrolled multiplication of body cells. The multiplying cells doesn't serve any physiological significance to the normal body function. Formation of cancer cells is known as carcinogenesis. It is a process triggered by high-risk behaviours such as consumption of tobacco, alcoholism, drug abuse, excessive usage of spicy foods and processed drinks. It is also proved that chronic irritation of an area by ultraviolet source can induce cancer formation.

 

Types of cancer

Cancer is classified based on the mobility of cells. It is fixed against a particular organ or tissue then it is called a benign tumour. If it is circulating throughout the body then it is known as a malignant tumour.  Benign tumours are hard masses formed in the stomach, brain, bones,  thyroid gland, etc. On the contrary, malignant tumours will circulate through the blood to reach the entire body very rapidly. Malignant tumours are very difficult to treat as they multiply and invade the surrounding normal tissues in a very short span.

 

Diagnosis (detection) and management

Early detection helps in cost reduction and proper risk management. In most cases, detecting the cancer during the 1st and 2nd stage that can save the patient's life. Early detection protocol includes recognizing the possible warning signs; bleeding, weight loss, weakness, hoarseness of voice and anaemia. To promote the early diagnosis, cancer hospitals and institutes are actively conducting mobile cancer screening camps all over the country. The most common screening tests for cancer include breast examination for breast cancer, oral assessment for mouth examination, blood tests to detect the presence of cancer cells, X-ray or  CT-scanning of whole or part of the body to observe mass formation, mammography or ultrasound scanning for breast cancer detection, cell studies of suspected body parts and pap smears for cervical cancer.

 

Treatment

Treatment protocols vary according to the severity, stage of illness ad the site cancer site. The main aim of the treatment is to either kill or block further growth and spread of cancerous cells across the body. The standard treatment protocol of cancer is divided into 4 types; and they are chemotherapy (drugs), radiotherapy (by strong radiation emitted by radioactive elements), surgery and psychological treatments to support the patient mentally.  Recent studies found that cancer can be treated by immunotherapy, genetic therapy, and hormone therapy.

 

Prevention and supportive therapies for cancer

Prevention is better than treatment and this proves to be most applicable in the case of cancer. Disciplined lifestyle in conjunction with the regular screening after the age of 40 years is the key to prevent and manage cancer.  Some of the practical tips help in managing and preventing the cancer are as under

  1. Learn to manage stress through yoga, exercise therapies, relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, yoga and meditation. If the diagnosis is positive, a constant attempt to gain self-confidence is essential.

  2. Strictly say no to stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.

  3. Exercising on a regular basis during and after cancer treatment is vital. Exercise boost metabolism and appetite, Regular exercise help in healthy weight management

  4. A healthy diet free from cholesterol, sugars, smoked meats and spicy diets can help to manage cancer. Eating foods with high fibre is a must. These include whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds.

  5. Limiting the exposure towards harsh environmental toxins, asbestos, allergens and some chemicals is mandatory.

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