Cancer is a deadly disease characterized by uncontrolled cell proliferation that may restrict or spread to other surrounding tissues and organs. It accounts to about 13% of human deaths every year. Following is a discussion on causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments that are available for cancer and precautions to be taken to prevent the onset of the disease.
Uncontrolled cell proliferation, the characteristic feature of cancer is due to change in the genetic material of the cell. Cancer cells gains protection against the normal cell death process and exhibits the power of extensive growth and division. Another abnormal feature is failure to exhibit normal cell activity like controlled division and participating in immune reactions, resulting in extensive cell growth of the affected region. Benign tumors that exhibit extensive cell growth seen in cancers are not cancers. They are confined to a particular region like the smooth muscle of uterus termed as the fibroid. Hereditary also plays role in cause of cancer.
Warning signs of cancer/symptoms:
Cancer is characterized by symptoms like swelling of the region, bleeding, pain that is not relieved even with the most powerful pain killers and poor functionality of the affected organ. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue and anemia.
Cancers can be identified by primary screening which can be done either by self examination as in case of breast cancer or by simple screening tests like that of the pap smear test used for cervical cancer. Perfect diagnosis is done under the guidance of a physician by various tests like the blood test, endoscopy, x-rays and CT scans. A thorough examination of the tissue under consideration is done to identify the abnormalities seen in highly proliferating cancer cells. Source for these examinations can be obtained from biopsy test. Other tests that are performed include cytogenetic and immunohistochemistry that help to know the cell behavior.
A wide range of treatments are available depending on the stage of cancer, affected organ and the patient health status. They include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and use of monoclonal antibody therapy.
Surgical method of cancer treatment is viable for small cancers where the disease has not spread to other body parts. This involves the complete removal of the organ or just the tumor. In the later case it is ensured that the surgical specimen has certain amount of healthy tissue to avoid recurrence of the tumor.
Radiation therapy aims at damaging the cancerous cells by radiations. This causes damage to healthy tissues too, but they can recover from the damage in the time lapse between the radiation dosages.
Chemotherapy: This involves treatment with drugs
Immunotherapy aims at treating cancer by the use of monoclonal antibodies that specifically bind to the cancer cells and ultimately kill the cancer cells.
Individuals with a family history of cancer are at high risk for cancer. Incidence of the disease in such cases can be reduced by following healthy life style. They should stay away from smoking, alcohol and other drugs that aggravate cancer causing factors. It is essential to consume diet that suppresses the cancer promoting factors, for example antioxidant rich foods suppress the count of free radicals, the culprits for cancer. Studies have shown that obesity too causes cancer. Hence, it is essential to take care of the diet. Persons who suffer from constipation for a very long period are at high risk for rectal cancer.