“The more we know about cancer, the more lives we can save”
World Cancer Day is always marked on February 4th, and on this day, AMSA-Unhas wants to speak up an undestanding about cancer.
WHAT IS CANCER?
Cancer is a disease which occurs when changes in a group of normal cells within the body lead to uncontrolled, abnormal growth forming a lump called a tumour; this is true of all cancers except leukaemia (cancer of the blood). If left untreated, tumours can grow and spread into the surrounding normal tissue, or to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic systems, and can affect the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems or release hormones that may affect body function.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF CANCER?
Cancers can be caused by a number of different factors. But it is important to remember that, while some factors cannot be modified, around one third of cancer cases can be prevented by reducing behavioural and dietary risks. Here are some modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors of cancer:
Modifiable risk factors:
Alcohol – Alcohol can increase the risk of six types of cancers, including bowel (colorectal), breast, mouth, pharynx and larynx (mouth and throat), oesophageal, liver and stomach.
Being overweight or obese – excess weight has been linked to an increased risk of developing 12 different cancers, including bowl and pancreatic cancers. In general, greater weight gain, particularly as adults, is associated with greater cancer risks.
Diet and nutrition – Experts suggest that diets and nutritional intake, particularly diets high in red meats, processed meats, salted foods and low in fruits and vegetables have an impact on cancer risks, particularly colorectum, nasopharynx and stomach
Physical activity – regular physical activity not only helps to reduce excess body fat and the cancer risks associated with this, but being physically active can help to reduce the risks of developing colon, breast and endometrial cancers
Tobacco – Tobacco smoke contains at least 80 different cancer-causing substances (carcinogenic agents). When smoke is inhaled the chemicals enter the lungs, pass into the blood stream and are transported throughout the body.This is why smoking or chewing tobacco not only causes lung and mouth cancers but is also related to many other cancers. Currently tobacco use is responsible for around 22% of cancer deaths.
Ionising radiation – Man made sources of radiation can cause cancer and are a risk for workers. Including radon, x-rays, gamma rays and other forms of high-energy radiation. Prolonged and unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiations from the sun, sunlamps and tanning beds can also lead to melanoma and skin malignancies. Fair skinned people, individuals with a lot of moles or who have a family history of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer, are at highest risk. However, people of all skin tones can develop skin cancer, including individuals with darker skin.
Work place hazards – Some people risk being exposed to a cancer-causing substance, such as workers in the chemical dye industry.
Infection – Infectious agents are responsible for around 2.2 million cancer deaths annually. This does not mean that these cancers can be caught like an infection; rather the virus can cause changes in cells that make them more likely to become cancerous.
Non-modifiable risk factors:
Age – Many types of cancer become more prevalent with age. The longer people live, the more exposure there is to carcinogens and the more time there is for genetic changes or mutations to occur within their cells.
Cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) – are substances which change how a cell behaves, increasing the chances of developing cancer
Genetics – Some people are unfortunately born with a genetically inherited high risk for a specific cancer (genetic predisposition) which makes the disease more likely.
The immune system – People who have weakened immune systems are more at risk of developing some types of cancer. This includes people who have had organ transplants and take drugs to suppress their immune systems, people who have HIV or AIDS, or other medical conditions which reduce their immunity to disease.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CANCER
The sign and symptoms are varied and depend on where the disease is located. However, there are some key of the signs:
Unusual lumps or swelling – cancerous lumps are often painless and may increase in size as the cancer progresses
Coughing, breathlessness or difficulty swallowing
Changes in bowel habit – such as constipation and diarrhoea and/or blood found in the stools
Unexpected bleeding – includes bleeding from the vagina, anal passage, or blood found in stools, in urine or when coughing
Unexplained weight loss – a large amount of unexplained and unintentional weight loss over a couple of months
Fatigue – which shows itself as extreme tiredness and a severe lack of energy.
Pain or ache – includes unexplained or ongoing pain
New mole or changes to a mole – look for changes in size, shape, or colour and if it becomes crusty or bleeds
Complications with urinating – includes needing to urinate urgently and more frequently
Unusual breast changes – look for changes in size, shape or feel, skin changes and pain
Appetite loss – feeling less hungry than usual for a prolonged period of time
A sore or ulcer that won’t heal – including a spot, sore wound or mouth ulcer
Heartburn or indigestion – persistent or painful heartburn or indigestion
Heavy night sweats –very heavy and drenching night sweats
"Endlessness Ingenuity, Beyond the Possibility"