Cancer is a genetic disease—that is, it is caused by changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. Cancer is when the cells start to grow out of control. Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normal cells divide in an orderly way. They die when they are worn out or damaged, and new cells take their place.
Sometimes genetic changes interfere with this orderly process. As cells become more and more abnormal, old cells survive when they should die, and instead grow out of control, forming more new abnormal cells. These extra cells divide without stopping and may form growths called tumors.
Tumors can be benign or cancerous. Benign tumors can sometimes be quite large, but do not spread into, or invade, nearby tissues. When removed, they usually don’t grow back. Cancerous tumors are malignant, which means they can spread into, or invade, nearby tissues. In addition, as these tumors grow, some cancer cells can break off and travel to distant places in the body through the blood or the lymph system and form new tumors far from the original tumor. which is called metastasis and this characteristic of cancer makes it dangerous for life as when the cancer spreads to vital organs like brain, lungs, liver etc. it damages vital functions essential to sustain life.
It is usually not possible to know exactly why one person develops cancer and another doesn’t. But research has shown that certain risk factors may increase a person’s chances of developing cancer. However, not all people who are exposed to carcinogens or who have other risk factors develop cancer. But, knowing the causes of cancer provides a basis for understanding the potential for preventing cancer.
Family history for some cancer types
Lack of physical activity
Exposure to strong UV radiations
Exposure to chemicals
Cancer can cause many symptoms, but these symptoms are also most often caused by illness, injury, benign tumors, or other problems. Being aware of general signs and symptoms of cancer is important. It can help in earlier detection and treatment. If symptoms do not get better after a few weeks and persist, it is an indication to visit the doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Sudden and unexpected weight loss
Any persistent change in urine or stool routine
Blood in the stools
Persistent heartburn or indigestion
Lump or thickening on the breast or elsewhere
Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
Pain or blood during urination
Changes on skin or to an existing mole
Persistent Difficulty in swallowing or vomiting
Nagging cough or hoarseness
Cancer therapy is personalised, which is why treatments can vary. Treating cancer depends on the type and stage of the diagnosis, as well as the general health condition of the patient.
Some people with cancer will have only one treatment. But most people have a combination of treatments, such as surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Surgery, is a procedure where the tumor is removed; chemotherapy, where drugs are used to kill the cancerous cells; and radiation therapy, which uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Now a days more advanced treatment options like targeted therapy, immunotherapy and hormonetherapy are also available for cancer treatment.
No two cancers are the same. Each person's cancer has a unique combination of genetic changes. As the cancer continues to grow, additional changes will occur, hence, each individual cancer possesses different biological characteristics. Even within the same tumor, different cells may have different genetic changes.
Each cancer patient is unique and their response to the treatment is very different from one person to the next. Identifying the correct treatment option is a key step towards treating cancer.
Choose from the list below to read more about different cancer types.