New Delhi, February 4: Cancer is a leading cause of death around the world. WHO estimates that 84 million people will die of cancer between 2005 and 2015 without intervention. Cancer is a disease characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells which can affect almost any part of the body. There are numerous types of cancer which are characterized by the type of the cell which is initially affected.
These damaged cells grow uncontrollably and form huge masses/lumps and tumors except in the case of leukemia. The growths often invade surrounding tissue and can spread to distant sites. These tumors grow and interfere with the various systems of the body and release hormones that alter the body functions.
What Causes Cancer?
Cancer is caused by the damaged cells that grow uncontrollably and do not die. Unlike normal cells, these cells do not have a programmatic death. Instead they continue to grow and divide leading to a mass of abnormal cells causing the formation of tumors.
There are five broad groups that are used to classify cancer.
- Carcinomas are characterized by cells that cover internal and external parts of the body such as lung, breast, and colon cancer.
- Sarcomas are characterized by cells that are located in bone, cartilage, fat, connective tissue, muscle, and other supportive tissues.
- Lymphomas are cancers that begin in the lymph nodes and immune system tissues.
- Leukemias are cancers that begin in the bone marrow and often accumulate in the bloodstream.
- Adenomas are cancers that arise in the thyroid, the pituitary gland, the adrenal gland, and other glandular tissues.
Symptoms of Cancer
The symptoms of cancer are varied and depend on the type of cell affected, where it has spread and how big the tumor is. Although each type has its own set of characteristics, there are some cancer symptoms that occur in many types of cancer. Some types of cancer do not present any symptoms until they are in advanced stages. This is why cancer screening and risk assessment are vital for cancer prevention and early detection. A broad spectrum of non-specific cancer symptoms may include:
- Persistent Fatigue – Fatigue is a symptom of both malignant and non-malignant conditions and should be evaluated by a physician.
- Unintentional Weight Loss – Losing 10 pounds or more unintentionally definitely warrants a visit to the doctor. This type of weight loss can occur with or without loss of appetite.
- Pain – Lower back pain is associated with ovarian cancer and colon cancer. Shoulder pain can be a symptom of lung cancer. Pain in the form of headaches can be associated with brain tumors.
Stomach pains can be related to stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer.
- Fever – Fevers are commonly associated with leukemia and lymphoma, but are also common in people whose cancer has spread.
- Chronic Cough – In relation to cancer, a chronic cough with blood or mucus can be symptom of lung cancer.
Many cancers can be prevented by avoiding exposure to common risk factors, such as tobacco smoke. In addition, a significant proportion of cancers can be cured, by surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, especially if they are detected early.