Cancer

cancer summary

Cancer is a set of diseases that is characterized by an uncontrolled growth of cells, which are resistant to natural death. Depending on their origin, they can be classified into sarcomas, carcinomas and hematological cancers, which can be benign or malignant.

Cancer cases have been growing rapidly in developing countries and some common types in these places are cancers of the liver, stomach and cervix. In Brazil, estimates for 2012 are of almost 520,000 new cases of the disease, with more prevalence in the South and Southeast regions.

The basic causes of the disease are mutations in the DNA that lead to uncontrolled cell growth. Risk factors include genetic inheritance, exposure to radiation and chemical agents, and infections by some viruses. Symptoms vary greatly according to the site affected by the disease, but some common ones are unexplained pain, cachexia, fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, etc.

The earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances of curing the disease. For this, the doctor can use imaging techniques, blood tests or biopsy. Complications include mood swings, biochemical changes, fatigue, metastasis and disease reappearance.

Treatment is based on eliminating tumor cells and can be done by surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, treatment with antibodies, hormones or other agents. Medicinal plants and homeopathy also play an important role in patient treatment, as they can reduce side effects of the disease and treatment, such as pain, nausea, tiredness, vomiting, etc.

Cancer is a severe disease that can shake many people. Always talk to your doctor and your family members. Seek support from friends and complementary therapies to overcome this phase. As preventive measures, it is suggested the adoption of healthy eating habits, reduction of smoking and alcoholism, practice of physical exercises, reduction of exposure to the sun and other radiation and avoidance of contact with toxic chemical agents.

News: 6 radical nutrition recommendations to prevent cancer

Also Read: I Found Out I Have Cancer, Now What?

SUS and cancer
In Brazil, there are 288 centers that treat cancer in the SUS (as of June 2017).

Definition

Cancer is not a single disease, but a large number of diseases characterized by abnormal cell growth and multiplication. These cells acquire special characteristics, such as immortalization and the ability to invade other tissues. Cancer cells divide quickly and are very aggressive.

There are several types of cancer depending on the affected organ, but we can divide it into three main classes:
– sarcomas: cancers originating from the mesoderm, such as bones, adipose tissue, muscles and soft tissues.
– carcinoma: cancers originating from epithelial or glandular tissues, such as basal cell carcinoma, breast, lung, boa, stomach, prostate and cervical cancers.
– hematological cancers: affect blood cells, such as leukemias, multiple myeloma and lymphomas.

Also, cancers can be classified into:

– benign tumors: usually localized and non-invasive

– malignant tumors: have great potential to invade other organs

Causes

The causes of cancer are varied and depend on many factors, both internal and external. In general, cancer is initiated by mutations in the DNA that alter the machinery of cell growth and reproduction, causing cells to multiply in an uncontrolled manner. The mutated cells are capable of:

– grow rapidly and haphazardly
– ​​resist cell growth factors
– resist programmed cell death (apoptosis)
– fail to correct errors in DNA
– invade tissue and reach other organs (metastasis)
Mutation can occur for a variety of reasons, such as ultraviolet rays or chemical agents. Mutated genes that cause changes in cell growth are called oncogenes, and include tumor suppressor genes and DNA damage repair genes. Research suggests that more than one mutation is needed to cause cancer and that they accumulate over a lifetime.

Groups of risk

Cancer is a multifactorial disease, that is, its causes depend on several genetic and environmental factors. Some risk factors for developing the disease are:

– having cancer in the family

– exposure to ultraviolet radiation or other ionizing rays

– age: some cancers are more prevalent in the elderly or in children

– smoking

– exposure to so-called carcinogenic chemical agents, such as organic solvents and pollutants

– exposure to heavy metals

– obesity and sedentary lifestyle

– food, since many cancers are caused by excessive consumption of certain foods, such as red meat

– use of alcohol

– certain infections

The list of risk factors for cancer is huge and varies according to each manifestation of the disease. Changing lifestyle habits has been studied and is of great importance for disease prevention, however it is important to remember that cancer has a very important genetic factor for its occurrence and development.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary greatly depending on where the cancer is affected, however, some general symptoms are:

– fatigue

– swelling, pain and redness in the area affected by the cancer

– cachexia, a situation characterized by weight loss, muscle atrophy, loss of appetite and tiredness

– difficulties swallowing and eating

– persistent and unexplained pain in the joints and muscles

– changes in skin color and texture

– increased number of infections, usually opportunistic

– changes in blood cells

– stomach discomfort and digestion difficulties

These are some symptoms that may appear depending on the type of cancer. For more details, read our specific articles about each disease.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing cancer in the early stages greatly increases your chances of cure. However, some types of tumors are difficult to identify until they are at a very advanced stage. Constant studies have been conducted to increase the accuracy of diagnostic tests and to be able to identify the disease in the most primordial stages. Currently, the techniques normally used are:
– physical exams: the doctor checks the patient and checks if he has any swelling or pain in any region. In this respect, it is important that the patient reports any change in weight, mood or unknown pain.
– laboratory tests: blood, urine, blood tests and others are extremely useful in the search for so-called tumor markers. They say whether the person has a certain type of tumor or not.

– Imaging tests: this category includes magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography tests. They allow the doctor to see the bones and the entire interior of the patient’s body.

– biopsy: in this exam, the doctor removes part of the tissue and analyzes the type of cancer and its stage of evolution. In many cases, a biopsy is the only effective way to diagnose the type of cancer.

Depending on the tumor, it can be classified according to its stage, which can vary from a localized tumor (in situ) to a metastatic cancer.

Complications

Cancer can cause severe complications depending on the organ affected and they can lead the patient to death. Some of them are:

– Caquexia

– Fatigue

– Changes in the immune system, with an increase in the number of infections

– Diarrhea or constipation

– Changes in biochemical parameters such as hypokalemia and hypocalcemia

– Nausea and fainting

Certainly one of the main complications of cancer is metastasis. Metastasis is characterized by the ability of cancer cells to invade tissue and spread to other organs. In this new location, the cancer develops and compromises the functions of this tissue.

Another important complication is tumor recurrence. In this condition, the tumor is apparently cured, however, after a few years, it returns in the same place or in another organ. To avoid this, the patient must undergo constant diagnostic tests.

Treatments

Treatment for cancer is heterogeneous, that is, it varies according to the site of the disease, type of cancer (sarcoma or carcinoma), stage of evolution, patient age, gender, whether the cancer is metastatic or not, whether the cancer is recurrent or not, among other factors. While different in many ways, the main goal of anti-cancer therapy is to kill tumor cells while causing minimal discomfort to the patient. However, cancer treatments are very aggressive and cause many side effects.

In this sense, we can define some objectives of the treatments for the disease:

– Primary treatment: this treatment aims at removing or killing tumor cells from the patient’s body. Any treatment can be used as a primary measure, however, surgery is the most used.

– Adjuvant treatment: aims to remove and kill the remaining tumor cells. In this case, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormonal treatment is usually used.

– Palliative treatment: palliative treatment aims to alleviate the side effects of previous treatments to kill cancer cells or even reduce the harmful effects of the disease itself. In this case, one can use antiemetics, analgesics, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, etc.

Regarding the types of treatments, there are:

– Surgery: normally used as a primary treatment, it aims to remove most of the patient’s tumor mass.

– Chemotherapy: aims to kill or reduce the growth of tumor cells through the use of drugs.

– Radiotherapy: Radiation is used to kill tumor cells.

Other techniques used include:

– Stem cell transplantation, especially for hematologic cancers.

– Hormone therapy: Used for hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast and prostate cancer.

– Therapy with antibodies, which recognize and kill tumor cells.

Currently, several new treatments and drugs have been tested against cancer and research in the area of ​​oncology is one of the fastest growing worldwide.

Tips

Cancer is a severe disease that can affect the lives of patients and those around them. In that case, always seek the support of family and friends to overcome this situation. Always talk to your doctor and have an open dialogue with him and his team of health professionals.
Seek information about the disease and attend support groups for cancer patients. Talk to other people who have had the same illness and learn from them how to have a good quality of life.
Always take care: cancer usually weakens the patient’s immune system. Thus, the patient must be constantly careful to avoid opportunistic infections, such as mycoses. Also maintain a healthy and nutritious diet, and ask your doctor what you should eat to avoid cachexia. The practice of sports, under medical guidance, is also advised.

Seek relief in alternative therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation and relaxation. They help maintain the emotional and mental balance of the patient. If you prefer, seek psychological help.

Don’t miss any chemotherapy sessions. Talk to your doctor in case the side effects are too aggressive.

Prevention

Due to its multifactorial nature, cancer is difficult to prevent and there is still no sure method to prevent the disease. However, some tips may be helpful to reduce the risks:

– Maintain a healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables and whole grains

– Practice physical exercises

– Avoid being overweight

– Avoid smoking

– Avoid exposure to radiation, ultraviolet and ionizing rays

– Avoid exposure to toxic chemical agents such as organic solvents

– Avoid excessive sun exposure without proper sunscreen

– Get regular screenings for HPV

– If you have had cases of cancer in your family or have had the disease at other times, undergo regular exams

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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