CANCER, As soon as we hear this word, a chill runs down through our spine. A feeling of fear, anxiety, helplessness, and disappointment creeps in. But do we really need to fear? With science and technology being so advanced in today's world, many cancers are treatable. If diagnosed and corrective measures are taken at the right time, one can easily fight it and recover well. What's required is correct knowledge and the right approach. Thus, Awareness is extremely important and today on "National Cancer Awareness Day", we would like to share this piece of information about cancer with you all as our contribution towards this noble cause.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrollable growth of the body’s cells. The cells multiply and spread into the other body parts. The disease can be formed in any part of the body. When cells start growing abnormally, they create a lump, and the lump of tissues is called a tumor. The tumors can be classified into two parts, cancerous tumors (Malignant tumors) and non-cancerous tumors (Benign tumors).

Malignant tumors are likely to spread or invade other tissues and organs in the body. They can form new tumors in any part of the body and this condition when it spreads in the body is known as metastasis. These tumors can be life-threatening and can recur even after treatment. Early diagnosis and intervention help.

Benign tumors are opposite of the cancerous tumors. They are not likely to spread or invade the nearby tissues. Benign tumors are usually not life-threatening, but some can cause symptoms of a tumor. One should take corrective measures to treat them by consulting the relevant doctor.

Cause

There is no exact or one cause of the deadly disease. However, there are external agents and risk factors associated with it. The agents that can potentially cause cancer are known as "Carcinogens". The agents may be physical, chemical, or biological. Ionizing radiation, UV rays, chemicals like asbestos, arsenic, tobacco smoke, and certain pathogens (viruses, bacteria) are all known carcinogens. Interaction with our exposure to these carcinogens may trigger the onset of cancer. Risk factors associated with cancer are immunity, old age, genetics, heredity, obesity, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, certain infections, and pollution.

Symptoms

Unlike other health disorders, cancer can't be diagnosed at home or on your own. But below are some of the symptoms, which can show the possibilities of being affected and should not be ignored.

Unusual Bleeding

Blood found in excreta and vaginal discharge can be a symptom of the colon or rectal cancer. Meanwhile, blood in urine and coughs can also be signs of danger.

Change in Breast Appearance

A change in breast appearance might be an indication of cancer. The changes may include a lump, dimpling, irregular discharge, and an unusual appearance or discoloration around the nipple. Although breast cancer is diagnosed in women, the possibility is men can develop it too.

Prolonged Headaches or Seizures

Headaches and seizures, if they last for long may indicate the development of brain tumors. As both these symptoms may feel ordinary, visiting a doctor is highly recommended.

Sudden Weight Loss

Unexplained or unintentional weight loss can be a sign of cancer. If noticed, then it is advisable to visit a doctor and get diagnosed.

Bloating

Bloating is something usual and we all feel it, but if it occurs continuously for more than 2 weeks, it may be a sign of ovarian cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers.

Sore Throat or Difficulty in Swallowing

Having a prolonged sore throat or difficulty while swallowing for more than 2 weeks can be a symptom of throat, lung, or stomach cancer.

Changes in Bowel Habits

Major changes in bodily functions can lead to prostate, colon, or bladder cancer. Some of the symptoms include perpetual diarrhea or constipation, blood in your stool, frequent or irregular urination, and blood in the urine.

Abnormal Bruises

Bruises that occurred due to accidents are normal, but excessive bruises without such accidents can indicate blood cancers.

Recurring Infections or Fever

Continuous fever or infections even after treatments can indicate signs of lymphoma or leukemia.

Lasting Pain

Be it joint pains, abdominal pains, or any other body pain that lasts long even after the treatment can show possible signs of cancer.

Chronic Coughing

Coughing for more than two weeks can be a sign of lung and throat cancer.

The Appearance of a New Patch or a Mole

A sudden appearance of a new patch or a mole is recommended not to be ignored. The unusual mark or mole can grow into a skin cancer called melanoma. For a better understanding, let's learn the ABCDE mnemonic:
Asymmetry: Both halves of the mole or mark may not look symmetrical.
Border: While a regular mole has a smooth finish, the unusual ones have irregular or blurred edges.
Color: If the mark is inconsistent, and has shades of black, brown, and pink, the symptom is of high concern.
Diameter: You can identify the mark as one of the symptoms of cancer if it is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
Evolving: If the mark grows, changes, or bleeds over time, do visit your doctor or healthcare expert immediately.

Diagnosis

If you face the symptoms listed above or notice anything unusual in your body’s functioning or appearance, try reaching out to a doctor at the earliest. Remember, not every symptom is always related to cancer, but it is always good to consult and be sure than sorry. The doctor would ask you to undergo certain tests if the doctor feels the symptoms described by you indicate any underlying disease or cancer. The tests may include physical examination, biopsy, certain blood tests, smear tests, and scans. Early detection of the disease helps a lot and the chances of reversing it becomes high.

Treatment

The treatment for cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill the cancer cells and radiation makes use of high-intensity energy beams to do the same. The mode of treatment depends on the type of cancer and the stage at which it is detected. Not every cancer may require surgery. Some are treated with chemotherapy or a mixture of chemotherapy and radiation, while some may require all three.

What to expect during the course of the treatment?

The doses of chemotherapy and radiation are strong and they are bound to cause discomfort to the patient. The heavy doses make the body of the patient very weak and tired. They surely feel low on energy. Since chemotherapy acts on the healthy cells along with cancerous cells, one may experience symptoms like hair loss, nausea, vomiting, change in taste, dry mouth, decreased appetite, and constipation to name a few. Radiation, since it is given directly on the skin often causes skin burns. Nausea, vomiting, and lethargy are also common after radiation. Depending on the part where radiation is given, other symptoms may also show up. For example, if given on the throat area, the person may feel difficult to swallow and experience a dry mouth. Surgery too takes its own time and course to recover from the discomfort and the symptoms. Whatever the mode of treatment, one thing is for sure that the person feels extremely weak and uncomfortable. There may be bouts of episodes where the patient feels like giving up all and discontinuing the treatment as the pain and suffering is too much to bear at times. Thus a constant physical, emotional and moral support is required.

The correct approach of the patient and the caregiver

"Where there is a will, there is a way", this may just sound like a proverb but I bet those who have survived cancer will swear by every word of it. A person with a strong will is more likely to fight and overcome cancer and to keep this strong will going, is the role of the caregivers. A cancer patient goes through a lot physically, emotionally, and mentally. Thus, the family, the caretakers, people in the society need to be more sympathetic and empathetic towards the patient. Understanding that the patient is uncomfortable, weak, and requires our full support is very important. One should not get angry or irritated in front of the patient as that adds to the misery of the patient who is already feeling helpless due to the suffering. Instead, talk positively in front of them. Make them think about the good things they will do post-recovery. Encourage them to fight this off as a beautiful life is awaiting ahead. Ask them, “What is it that will lessen their discomfort physically or emotionally? Act on what they say. Remember, going through the treatment is the toughest part and the victory lies just after that. Share examples of people who have won over the disease. Give them moral support and don’t ever let their spirits go down

Few Facts about Cancer

  • There is no age to get cancer. It can be developed in kids, men, women, and older adults
  • The most common cancers are breast cancer, cervical cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, and colorectal cancer
  • In India, approximately 1.1 million cancer cases are reported annually. ⅔ of these cases get diagnosed at an advanced stage
  • According to the National Institute of Cancer Prevention Research, for every 2 women diagnosed with breast cancer, one dies of it
  • Tobacco alone causes more than 14 types of Cancer
  • Unlike a few fatal diseases, cancer is not contagious. It cannot be transmitted from one person to another through physical touch or breathing the same air
  • Out of overall reported cancer cases, 70% are preventable. Out of these 70 percent, 40% are related to tobacco, 20% are infection-related, and 10% are due to other factors.

We hope the above information can change your outlook towards dealing with cancer and cancer patients for good!