Do I Have Cancer?

Article ICancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. According to estimates from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), 12.7 million people were diagnosed and 7.6 million died of this condition in 2008. One in eight deaths worldwide is due to this condition. It causes more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. Deaths from cancers worldwide are projected to continue to rise to over 11 million in 2030.These are very alarming figures. The task of medical and health professionals is ever going to increase if the number of cases increases in such proportions. Considering the fact that the risk of getting this disease increases with age and our elderly population is ever-increasing and that obesity increases the risk of cancers and obesity is ever-increasing, unless there is a breakthrough in technology to detect and treat it early, it will be the biggest health burden to every community and country all over the world for many years to come. Managing this condition is a big challenge not just to medical and health professionals but to every member of a community around the world. The health system that is already struggling to manage the multitude of chronic and acute diseases of modern society will be stretched to the limit with such steady rise in the number of cancer cases.Having worked as a Family Medical Practitioner for many years, I feel passionately about people suffering from such a deadly condition and the aftermaths of its diagnosis and treatment on physical, emotional and spiritual health of the patients. This is very intriguing especially if it was a preventable one, such as, lung or cervical.As a doctor, I take it as a personal responsibility and a challenge to do my bit by educating people on cancer and ways of preventing them, if applicable. I will start doing this by writing many articles here in regularly over some period of time. I do hope people benefit from the information obtained from my articles. How do cancers develop?A cell is the smallest structural and functional unit of our body. Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells. When these cells become old or damaged, they die and are replaced by new cells. This process is controlled by genes. But sometimes, this orderly process does not take place. Old and damaged cells do not die and new cells keep on dividing even when the body does not need them. As a result, a mass of tissue called tumor or lump is formed in our body.The tumor or lump can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors are not cancers whereas malignant tumors are made up of cancer cells. Therefore, malignant tumors and cancers mean the same thing. The ability of the cell to grow out of control and invade other tissues makes a cell a cancer cell. In most cases these abnormal cells form a tumor but in some other cases like leukemia there may not be any tumor.Benign tumors usually grow slowly and do not spread to other parts of the body whereas malignant tumors grow faster and invade adjoining parts of the body or spread to other organs.What causes a normal cell to become abnormal cell?Researchers have shown that cancer is caused by damage to the genes that control cell division and growth. All cancers are genetic because it is caused by abnormal gene. The damage to genes is the result of the interactions between a person’s genetic factors and external factors. These external factors include physical agents, such as ultraviolet radiation of the sun; chemical agents, such as tobacco smoke; and biological agents, such as infections from bacteria and viruses.Aging is another factor for the development of such a condition. The chance of getting cancers increase dramatically with age, most likely due to a build-up of risks for those, that increases with age, such as, those affecting ovary or bladder.How does it spread?It spreads in three different ways: locally to surrounding tissues, through blood and through lymph nodes.Local spread: It invades the surrounding normal tissue and spread further.Through lymph vessels: It invades the lymph nodes and vessels and travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.Through blood vessels: It invades the capillaries and veins and travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.How are they classified?They are classified into primary and secondary.The site where it begins is the primary type. When this primary cancer cells break away and are carried in the blood or lymph vessels to other parts of the body, it is called secondary or metastatic. The process is called metastasis. For example, a malignant breast tumor can spread to bones, when it is called metastatic breast tumor. Metastatic or secondary cancers contain original cells from primary site.What are the types?There are many types of cancers. They are named after the cells or tissues they begin from. Some of the common types are:Carcinomas: they begin from lining of internal organs or from skin. For example, squamous cell carcinoma of skin, or adenocarcinoma of stomach. Almost 85% of all malignant tumors are carcinomas.Sarcomas: Sarcomas begin from connective tissues that support the body organs, such as the bones, cartilage, and tendons. Examples of sarcoma include osteosarcoma of bones, or rhabdomyosarcoma of muscles.Leukemias: Leukemias arise from white blood cells. They are commonly called blood cancer.Lymphomas: Lymphomas begin from lymph tissues.A quick look at global statisticsIt causes almost 13% of all deaths worldwide. One in eight deaths is due to this condition. The main types of cancers causing death in 2008 were lung, stomach, liver, colorectal and breast.

There are over 100 different types
It can affect any part of the body
Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause in the world
Malignant breast tumor is the leading cancer killer among women aged 20-59 years in high-income countries
5 most common types that kill men worldwide are lung, stomach, liver, colorectal and esophagus
5 most common types that kill women worldwide are breast, lung, stomach, colorectal and cervical
One fifth of all malignant tumors worldwide are caused by infections, such as, human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV)
Almost a third of all cancers could be prevented, mainly by not using tobacco, having a healthy diet, being physically active and preventing infections that can lead to malignant condition.
Deaths from malignant tumors are expected to rise
The next article in my series is on ‘Risk Factors for Cancer’. If readers are interested to know more about malignant tumors in one complete package of information, they can also visit DO I HAVE CANCER? This eBook provides information on signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of over 40 cancers and other cancer-related issues like family tumors and genetic testing, sexuality, tumors in pregnancy, children and HIV patients, psychological problems in such patients, lifestyle and prevention of cancers and more.