What is cancer?
Cancer is a general term for more than 100 diseases characterized by abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells. The resulting mass or tumor can invade and destroy surrounding normal tissues. Cancer cells from the tumor can spread through the bloodstream or lymph system and start new cancers in other parts of the body. This process is called metastasis.
What causes cancer?
In many cases, the exact cause of cancer remains a mystery. We know that certain changes in cells can cause cancer to start, but we don’t yet know exactly how this happens. Other causes of cancer include:
- Smoking and secondhand smoke
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Too much exposure to the sun
What are the general symptoms of cancer?
General (non-specific) signs and symptoms are:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in the skin
It is important to remember that having any of these symptoms doesn’t mean that cancer is present. There are many other conditions that can cause these signs and symptoms as well.
What are specific cancer signs and symptoms?
In addition to the above general symptoms, the following common symptoms can be a sign of cancer. Again, there may be other causes for each of these, but it is important to discuss with your doctor as soon as possible so that they can be investigated. While these symptoms are among the most common, there may be others that are less common and are not listed here.
- Change in the bowel habits or bladder function
- Sores that do not heal
- Unusual bleeding or discharge
- Thickening or lump in the breast or other part of the body
- Indigestion or trouble swallowing
- Recent changes in a wart or mole
- Nagging cough or hoarseness
How is cancer treated?
The treatment options for cancer patients depend on the type of cancer, the stage of cancer and other individual factors such as age, health status and personal preferences. The major types of cancer treatments are:
- Biologic therapies
How can the risk of cancer be reduced?
The risk of getting cancer can be reduced by adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as:
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Increase physical activity
- Avoid tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Avoid sun exposure
- Achieve an optimal weight
- Get regular cancer screenings
- Be informed about the types of cancer found in your family history
Where can I find more information about cancer?
Updated on: August 16, 2018