How Cancer Causes Harm
Cancer harms the body in a number of ways. The size of the tumour, for example, can interfere with nearby organs or ducts that carry important chemicals, causing pain or other symptoms.
A tumour on the pancreas can grow to block the bile duct, leading to the patient developing obstructive jaundice. A brain tumour can push on important parts of the brain, causing blackouts, fits and other problems. Even benign tumours can cause these problems if located in the wrong place.
When a cancer invades nearby tissues, it can cause bleeding from damaged blood vessels, and stop the organ it is invading from working properly.
How Cancer Spreads
As a tumour grows, cells can break off and start growing on adjacent tissues and organs. For example, if bowel cancer has spread through the wall of the bowel itself, it can start growing on the bladder. Cells can also enter the bloodstream and travel to distant organs, such as the lungs or brain. The technical term for this is metastasis.
When new tumours form on distant organs, they behave like the original tumour – so a bowel cancer cell growing in the lung will not be lung cancer.
Once other organs are involved, any symptoms of the cancer can get worse. However, it may be some time before a growing cancer in certain parts of the body produces noticeable symptoms.
Once a cancer has started to spread beyond its original site, the chances of a cure often begin to fall, as it becomes more difficult to treat.
Dealing with cancer first hand requires a lot of emotional strength. As soon as you get the diagnosis, many fears and questions run through your mind. You experience fear, anger, worry and sadness as you begin to wonder if recovery will be possible.
Thank God for technology because doctors have been able to come up with, and develop, different ways to treat cancer and prevent it from spreading. Because of this, there have been many recovery stories proving that cancer is not always fatal.
These treatments range from the use of medicines, machines and other forms of treatment in order to stop cancer cells from spreading.
Below are some of the different forms of cancer treatment that our doctors and other health practioners are putting into use today.
This is probably one of the most known forms of treatment. Chemotherapy involves the use of medicines to help slow down cancerous cells and tumours that spread within the body. When cancer treatments are mentioned, people generally steer to chemotherapy as the only known form of treatment. It includes injections, oral drugs, creams and other forms of medication as a form of treatment. Chemotherapy is usually used alongside other treatments to help eliminate different forms of cancer.
Radiotherapy: Radiation Therapy
As the definition indicates, this treatment involves the use of radiation beams to help eliminate different types of cancer. The different forms of radiation that are known are high dose radiation and low dose radiation.
A patient usually undergoes radiotherapy sessions to lower the risk of cancer recurrence and to also shrink tumours. The advantage of this is that it’s generally not a painful process. However, the beams might damage surrounding healthy cells while targeting the cancerous ones.
This is also one of the effective forms of cancer treatments that patients go through. Surgery is used to remove tumours and growths before they spread to other parts of the body. However, through surgery, a patient might lose certain body parts as a preventive measure.
They often lose their breasts, glands and other parts where the cancer might be located. In small scale surgery, however, the surgeon can insert tools into the body to locate small tumours and remove them early before they grow.
Stem Cell Transplant
This is also known as bone marrow transplant. The process involves replacing the blood-making cells in the body that might have been damaged during processes like radiotherapy. High dose radiotherapy often causes damage to the healthy cells that are essential for survival.
Because of this, it’s necessary for patients to undergo stem cell transplants in order to recover. A patient can then regenerate new cells or even get new cells from a donor.
Patients can often register for a clinical trial for new forms of cancer treatments. If a patient is having a hard time with other forms of treatment, they might often opt for test runs with medicines that are still being tested. The great thing with this is that a patient is able to get hold of new medicines before other patients. One of the downsides to clinical trials is having to put up with the different side effects that these new drugs may have.
Immunotherapy is also an effective cancer treatment. This therapy involves boosting one’s immunity to fight cancer. It helps strengthen the white blood cells so that they can fight infections more effectively.
Some of the aspects to immunotherapy include the use of vaccines and also inhibitors to help protect the body from cancer. However, some of the side effects that come with immunotherapy are weight gain, skin problems, stomach upsets, fatigue and in rare occasions, death
Signs and Symptoms of Cancer
Sudden weight loss
People lose weight for various reasons. If someone is dieting, experiencing high levels of stress or simply not eating enough, it’s only natural to lose a certain amount of weight. However, if the weight loss happens abruptly and for no particular reason, it’s a sign that something is wrong. Usually, cancers cause people to lose weight unintentionally and suddenly. This is generally one of the major signs of cancer.
Feeling lumps on different parts of the body is also another sign of cancer. People who have been diagnosed with different types of cancer such as breast cancer, experience hard and uncomfortable lumps in their breast. Other lumps can appear on the penis, testicles, legs or other parts of the body which could indicate the formation of a tumour. The lumps are generally painless, but they grow over time and become uncomfortable.
Having strange discharge is also another common sign of cancer. When the cancerous cells begin to spread and tumours start to grow, they cause these types of changes. Usually, people who have certain types of cancer have bloody discharge and is sometimes characterized with a foul odour. The discharge can also leak from the breasts and vagina in women and from the penis in men depending on what type of cancer is present in the body.
Bloating and Constipation
Changes in digestive patterns is also another common sign of cancer. It’s normal to experience occasional bloating and constipation from time to time. The difference with this is that constipation and bloating is constant. This happens because as the tumour grows, it begins to interfere with the normal digestive functions. If you start to notice that you are constantly bloated, ensure that you get examined as soon as possible. This could be a big sign of cancer.
After a busy day, we are all bound to feel tired. Vigorous activities can cause anyone to feel exhausted. However, if you notice that you are constantly fatigued even after getting rest, it could be a sign of cancer. If you also notice that you can no longer comfortably do the same activities you are used to doing without feeling exhausted, something could be wrong. Ensure that you look out for other signs along with the constant fatigue and urgently contact your doctor.
This could also be an indicator of cancer. It’s not normal to have a cough that hasn’t responded to treatment months on. Certain types of cancer such as that of the lungs can even cause the cough to get worse as time goes by instead of showing signs of improvement. Also, one is likely to experience chest pains, a raspy voice, excess phlegm and breathlessness along with this sign. It’s best to go for screening to be sure all is well.
Remember that these symptoms are not confined to cancer. Always consult a doctor whenever you notice something that is out of the usual.
Other Signs of Cancer
The eight unexplained symptoms most closely linked to cancer have been highlighted by researchers. They include:
- Blood in urine
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty swallowing
- Breast lump or mass
- Post-menopausal bleeding
- Abnormal prostate test
- Rectal blood
Eight Common Cancer Myths Debunked
1. Use of plastics in the microwave will lead to cancer
There is a common myth that you can never warm your food in the microwave while it is in a plastic container. The fact is that some of these containers are microwave-friendly and are therefore safe for reheating your food. On the other hand, many plastic containers have not been made to be used in a microwave. The high temperatures could possibly cause some of the chemical components to melt into your food which can lead to health problems. However, not all plastics cause cancer.
2. Cancer is contagious
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It’s sad that in current times some people mistreat, ridicule, and stigmatize people suffering from the illness. This misplaced fear and ignorance only shows the need to create more awareness on cancer. Although specialists indicate that there are some transmittable bacteria that can increase the risk of different types of cancer such as stomach and cervical cancer, the illness itself is not contagious at all.
Sugar Cancer Myth: Sugar Speeds up Cancer
Another common myth is that sugar will increase the production of cancer cells. Many people believe that in order to reduce the number of cancer cells in the body, you need to completely cut sugar out of your diet. This myth has been debunked after it was found that starving the cells of sugar will not reduce their production.
When it comes to general health issues, it has always been recommended that we maintain a healthy balanced diet and avoid consuming excess amounts of sugar. A high sugar diet can eventually lead to different types of cancer so keep your intake low.
Cancer Treatment is Worse Than the Illness
The assumption that chemotherapy treatments are worse than the effects of cancer is a myth. People assume that the treatments are so severe that they lead to symptoms such as hair loss and severe nausea.
In the past, the treatments could lead to these side effects. However, the technology has improved over the years and such symptoms have reduced. Also, the treatments themselves are not painful. This is contrary to the belief that the treatment sessions are even worse than the cancer itself.
Hair can’t grow back after chemotherapy
The chemotherapy treatments can often cause hair loss. Many images of cancer survivors show patients experiencing this symptom from the treatment. The good news is that once the treatments are done, hair usually grows back. The treatments do not have long-lasting effects on your hair.
Sunscreen Causes Cancer
The use of sunscreen has been a controversial topic for a long time. Some people support the use of sunscreen while others don’t. Those opposing sunscreen use believe that sunscreen contains harmful chemicals and carcinogens that could potentially damage your body. Experts beg to differ as far as these harmful chemicals are concerned.
They say that the ingredients such as zinc and titanium are not carcinogenic. Furthermore, sunscreen reduces the risk of cancer and melanomas that are triggered by UV exposure. The myth that sunscreen is a cause of cancer has therefore been debunked.
7. Breast Cancer Myths: Breast Lumps are Always a Sign of Cancer
For years, women have been suffering in silence thinking the lump in their breast is cancerous. Quite the contrary. But to be sure all is well in your body, women are always encouraged to be on the lookout and even carry out some self-tests that can show signs that something is wrong.
It is also advised that you get checked if you feel a lump that has been persistent because you never know. However, should you find one it does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Hence the importance of consulting a doctor who will carry out the necessary tests.
A History of Cancer in the Family Means You Will Get It
A history of the illness in your family does not seal your fate. In fact, many types of cancers are caused by poor lifestyle and diet habits which trigger the illness. It’s true that, if your family has a history of cancer your risk of developing it increases. However, there are still many lifestyle factors outside genetic factors that predispose you to getting ill.
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