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Cancer – causes, side effects and treatments at

Saturday, February 10, 2018 by

Cancer is a collective term given to a large group of related diseases which affect any part of the body.

One salient feature of cancer is the accelerated creation of abnormal cells. This is called carcinogenesis the process wherein normal cells become cancer cells. Typically, cancer cells are formed when normal cells receive irreversible DNA damage. While cell injury is normal and the body can repair these without incident, some factors such as exposure to harmful chemicals, ionizing radiation, and pathogens can lead to irreparable damage, causing the cells to mutate and develop abnormally. Cancer starts when these damaged cells start growing and spreading.  In some cases, genetic defects (such as gene mutations) are passed down to children, making them predisposed to certain types of cancer.

Once this starts, cancer cells will begin to grow rapidly. Unlike healthy cells, which have a signal to stop dividing, these cells ignore these signs. This causes them to grow out of hand and become invasive. This can result in tumors, which feed on normal cells by forming blood vessels that provide it with oxygen and nutrients.

There are cases where cancer cells will spread to other parts of the body through blood circulation or lymph vessels, in a process called metastasis. Deaths as a result of metastases is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths.

There are more than 100 types of cancer – these are named either from the region that they originate in (such as the bone or the lungs) or the type of cell that formed them (like the epithelial and squamous cells). The common types of cancer include:

  • Carcinoma (epithelial cells)
  • Sarcoma (bone and soft tissue)
  • Leukemia (blood-forming tissue in the bone marrow)
  • Lymphoma (lymphocytes)
  • Multiple myelomas (plasma cells)
  • Melanoma (specialized cells that make melanin)
  • Brain and spinal cord tumors (central nervous system)

Currently, cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality around the world, claiming 8.8 million people in 2015. By 2030, the worldwide rate of cancer is expected to shoot up to 50 percent, with 21 million new cases – with deaths climbing up from eight million to 13 million.

In the U.S., the National Cancer Institute noted that around 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2016; of those cases, at least 600,000 people will die from it.

Known symptoms of cancer

Some of the risk factors known to increase the likelihood of cancer include cigarette smoking (as well as tobacco use), infections, radiation exposure, and immunosuppressive medication after an organ transplant.

There are also risks that a person can directly influence. These include diet, alcohol consumption, and physical activity. Pre-existing conditions such as obesity and diabetes, as well as environmental risks such as chemical fumes, may also affect the incidence of cancer.

Symptoms greatly vary for each cancer. These are dependent on the location of the tumor and how it adversely affects organs or tissues around it. When it has metastasized, the symptoms will appear in different parts of the body. Another factor to consider is the progression of cancer once the symptoms have appeared – certain types do not cause symptoms until it has progressed enough (or spread to a larger area) and the condition has become advanced. Still, here are some general signs and symptoms that could help determine cancer.

  • Unexplainable weight loss of 10 pounds (around 4.5 kilograms) or more.
  • Persistent fever
  • Extreme cases of fatigue
  • Chronic pain in one area
  • Noticeable skin changes and itching
  • Change in bowel habits or bladder function
  • Skin ulcers that do not heal
  • White patches in the mouth or on the tongue
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Lumps in the breast or other parts of the body
  • Trouble with digesting food
  • Recent changes in moles and warts
  • A nagging cough and hoarseness of the voice

Letting a health professional know of any significant changes in body function or lingering pain or discomfort can also help identify other symptoms that may lead to cancer, if ever.

Body systems affected by cancer

Cancer affects all body systems.

Food items that may prevent and relieve cancer

There are many foods items available that may claim to combat or treat cancer, but having a proper diet is a sure way to stave off any possibility of developing the disease. Here is a recommended plan that may help reduce the risk of cancer.

  1. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake: Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables contain a high amount of antioxidants which prevent cell oxidation and destruction.
  2. Drink green tea: Aside from being a potent antioxidant, green tea also may also inhibit the development of certain types of cancer.
  3. Have more tomatoes in your diet: Lycopene, the primary antioxidant in tomatoes, has been shown to have anticancer properties.
  4. Use olive oil: A staple in Mediterranean countries, olive oil is a better alternative than other oils in reducing cancer.
  5. Try eating more grapes: The antioxidants found in grapes offer significant protection against chronic conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
  6. Don’t be shy with garlic and onions: Garlic and onions are known to be potent anticarcinogens – the more pungent the garlic or onion, the more abundant bioactive chemicals it has to inhibit cancer cells.
  7. Eat more fish: Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which reduce the likelihood of cancer.

Treating and managing cancer

Treatment options for cancer rely on where the cancer is, how far it has spread, and how well the patient’s general health is. These are the three most common procedures for treating cancer.

While patients may get personalized treatment for their cancer, it will still have either surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

When all these fail to cure a patient, palliative treatment is given to enhance his quality of life.

Where to learn more


Cancer is a condition where abnormal cells develop in the body as a result of DNA damage. While this may be one of the leading causes of death around the world, there are now options to treat the disease early on. As always, proper diet and a healthy lifestyle significantly reduce the risk of getting cancer.

Sources include: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3


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