Contributed by: Nancy Dixit
Cancer is potentially fatal and nowadays it is the second most life-threatening condition in the world. Fortunately, many cancers are successfully treated with prompt care.
Did you know about 39.5% of all people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives?
Through this article, we bring to you some unique insights into an overview of cancer and its implications.
What is cancer?
In simple terms, cancer is the abnormal growth of cells that multiply and spread throughout the body at a faster rate than normal and damages the normal healthy cells along the way.
These abnormal cells combine to form a lump, also known as a tumour.
Tumours can be cancerous (malignant) or not cancerous (benign). A cancerous tumour invades or spread into nearby tissue and forms a new tumour, this process is called metastasis.
There are two main categories of cancer:
Haematologic cancer (blood cancer)
This type of cancer originates in blood-forming tissue, such as bone marrow, or in the cells of the immune system.
For instance: Leukaemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
Solid tumour cancer
Solid tumour cancer is cancer of any of the other body organs or tissues.
For instance: Breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers etc.
Note: Cancer is a genetic disease that is caused by changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide.
In such a situation, DNA testing or genetic testing can be the best option, to know if you are at risk of predisposition toward cancer.
Cancers mostly have four stages:
It is an early stage, in which a small, invasive mass or tumour has been found, however, it doesn’t spread to lymph nodes or other tissues.
It is localized cancer in which mass starts growing in size and affects the nearby tissues.
It is a regional spread in which cancer starts affecting nearby tissue. It starts growing larger and possibly spreads to lymph nodes or other tissues.
It is also referred to as advanced or metastatic cancer. In this stage, cancer spreads to other organs beyond the region where it originated.
Common symptoms of cancer:
FatigueUnexplained weight lossA mole or wart that changes in appearancePersistent painFever that mostly occurs at nightSkin changesAn unusual lumpHoarsenessDifficulty in swallowing
However, having these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. But if you feel any of these kinds of unusual symptoms, you must talk to your healthcare provider.
Implications of cancer
There are a lot of complications that arise once the cancer is diagnosed. This happens because the cell rate grows exponentially, which in turn causes additional issues and invades essential organs like the liver, lungs, and brains and stops them from working properly.
These complications could be due to primary cancer or it could be cancer that has metastasized from one part to another part of the body. For example, breast cancer tends to spread to the lungs.
Now let us delve into complications that cancer can cause:
Yes, it’s true! People who are diagnosed with cancer are more prone to develop the risk of malnutrition as compared to other persons.
Because of this undernutrition, the body tends to break down fat and muscles, which ultimately lead to fatigue or weight loss.
Bone metastasis is a medical condition that arises when cancer cells spread from their original site to a bone. It leads to bone pain that can severely impact the quality of life.
Almost all cancers have the ability to “metastasize” (spread) to the bones. But some types of cancer are particularly likely to spread to the bone, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Hypercalcemia means much calcium in the blood. When it develops in people who are diagnosed with cancer, then it is referred to as hypercalcemia of malignancy (HCM).
This condition is the most common life-threatening complication of cancer in adults. This can interfere with the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, and muscles.
Sometimes, it can also cause neurological symptoms as well like confusion, memory loss, and depression.
Hypercalcemia develops rarely in children, but there are 10-20% of adults with cancer are prone to developing hypercalcemia.
In general terms, venous thromboembolism (VTE), means blood clots in the veins. Venous thromboembolism (VTE), including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE), is a common complication in cancer patients. Cancer patients are 4 to 7 times more prone to the risk of developing VTE as compared to non-cancer patients.
The cancers that spread to the liver (such as the colon, lung, or breast) are more common than cancer that originates in the liver cells.
Liver cancer affects the normal functioning of the liver which can lead to jaundice and other life-threatening conditions.
And cancer that begins in another area of the body and then spreads to the liver is called metastatic cancer rather than liver cancer.
Problems with blood and blood vessels:
Cancers that arise in the blood vessels or bone marrow, can interfere with the production of red blood cells, platelets, white blood cells etc.
Do not give up if you have been diagnosed with cancer. 50% of cancers and cancer-related deaths are preventable. There are plenty of resources available to help you cope for nearly every type of cancer.
However, undergoing cancer treatment can be a stressful journey as it can drain the person mentally and financially.
This is a fact- “Early Detection saves lives”
However, the risks of these complications can be reduced if cancer is diagnosed on time and by implementing localized therapy and systemic treatment at the appropriate time.
Although cancer is common, only 5-10% of it is hereditary, meaning an individual has inherited an increased risk for cancer from one of their parents.
It is linked to your family history and genetics. If you have a family health history of cancer, you are more likely to have cancer.
In order to determine how vulnerable you might be to acquiring hereditary cancer, customized DNA testing or genetic testing is the best option.
Also, it’s a good move to take periodic health checks to keep an eye out on your overall well-being as you resume the journey to normalcy, cancer-free!