4TH FEBRUARY WORLD CANCER DAY.
KEY CANCER FACTS
✍9.6 million people die from cancer every year.
✍At least one third of common cancers are preventable.
✍Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide.
✍70% of cancer deaths occur in low-to-middle income countries.
✍Up to 3.7 million lives could be saved each year by implementing resource appropriate strategies for prevention, early detection and treatment.
✍The total annual economic cost of cancer is estimated at US$1.16 trillion.
WHAT IS CANCER ?
Cancer is a disease which occurs when changes in a group of normal cells within the body lead to uncontrolled, abnormal growth forming a lump called a tumour; this is true of all cancers except leukaemia (cancer of the blood). If left untreated, tumours can grow and spread into the surrounding normal tissue, or to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic systems, and can affect the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems or release hormones that may affect body function.
TUMOURS can be divided into three groups:
Benign tumours : are not cancerous and rarely threaten life. They tend to grow quite slowly, do not spread to other parts of the body and are usually made up of cells quite similar to normal or healthy cells.
Malignant tumours : are faster growing than benign tumours and have the ability to spread and destroy neighbouring tissue.
Precancerous (or premalignant) : describes the condition involving abnormal cells which may (or is likely to) develop into cancer.
TYPES OF CANCERS
Cancer can be classified according to the type of cell they start from. There are five main types:
✏ Carcinoma – A cancer that arises from the epithelial cells (the lining of cells that helps protect or enclose organs).
✏Sarcoma – A type of malignant tumour of the bone or soft tissue (fat, muscle, blood vessels, nerves and other connective tissues that support and surround organs).
✏Lymphoma and Myeloma – Lymphoma and Myeloma are cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which runs all through the body, and can therefore occur anywhere. Myeloma (or multiple myeloma) starts in the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies to help fight infection.
✏ Leukaemia – Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and bone marrow, the tissue that forms blood cells.
✏Brain and spinal cord cancers – these are known as central nervous system cancers. Some are benign while others can grow and spread.
CAUSES of CANCER
Cancers can be caused by a number of different factors and, as with many other illnesses, most cancers are the result of exposure to a number of different causal factors. It is important to remember that, while some factors cannot be modified, around one third of cancer cases can be prevented by reducing behavioural and dietary risks.
1⃣MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS ARE:
📌 ALCOHOL: The evidence that all types of alcoholic drinks are a cause of a number of cancers is now stronger than ever before. Alcohol can increase the risk of six types of cancers, including bowel (colorectal), breast, mouth, pharynx and larynx (mouth and throat), oesophageal, liver and stomach
📌 BEING OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE: excess weight has been linked to an increased risk of developing 12 different cancers, including bowl and pancreatic cancers.
📌 DIETS AND NUTRITION – Experts suggest that diets and nutritional intake, particularly diets high in red meats, processed meats, salted foods and low in fruits and vegetables have an impact on cancer risks, particularly colorectum, nasopharynx and stomach
📌 PHYSICAL ACTIVITY - regular physical activity not only helps to reduce excess body fat and the cancer risks associated with this, but being physically active can help to reduce the risks of developing colon, breast and endometrial cancers
📌 TOBACCO -Tobacco smoke contains at least 80 different cancer-causing substances (carcinogenic agents). When smoke is inhaled the chemicals enter the lungs, pass into the blood stream and are transported throughout the body
📌 IONIZING RADIATION- “Manmade sources of radiation can cause cancer and are a risk for workers. These include radon, x-rays, gamma rays and other forms of high-energy radiation. Prolonged and unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiations from the sun, sunlamps and tanning beds can also lead to melanoma and skin malignancies.
📌 WORK PLACE HAZARDS- Some people risk being exposed to a cancer-causing substance because of the work that they do. For example, workers in the chemical dye industry have been found to have a higher incidence than normal of bladder cancer. Asbestos is a well-known workplace cause of cancer - particularly a cancer called mesothelioma, which most commonly affects the covering of the lungs.
📌 INFECTION - Infectious agents are responsible for around 2.2 million cancer deaths annually. This does not mean that these cancers can be caught like an infection; rather the virus can cause changes in cells that make them more likely to become Cancerous.
Eg. HPV, Hepatitis B and C. etc
2⃣NON-MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS
📌 AGE – Many types of cancer become more prevalent with age. The longer people live, the more exposure there is to carcinogens and the more time there is for genetic changes or mutations to occur within their cells.
📌 CANCER-CAUSING SUBSTANCES (CARCINOGENS) -are substances which change how a cell behaves, increasing the chances of developing cancer.
📌 GENETICS - Some people are unfortunately born with a genetically inherited high risk for a specific cancer ('genetic predisposition). This does not mean developing cancer is guaranteed, but a genetic predisposition makes the disease more likely.
📌 THE IMMUNE SYSTEM -People who have weakened immune systems are more at risk of developing some types of cancer. This includes people who have had organ transplants and take drugs to suppress their immune systems to stop organ rejection, plus people who have HIV or AIDS, or other medical conditions which reduce their immunity to disease.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
With so many different types of cancers, the symptoms are varied and depend on where the disease is located. However, there are some key signs and symptoms to look out for, including:
✏ Unusual lumps or swelling -cancerous lumps are often painless and may increase in size as the cancer progresses
✏ Coughing, breathlessness or difficulty swallowing-be aware of persistent coughing episodes, breathlessness or difficulty swallowing
✏ Changes in bowel habit - such as constipation and diarrhoea and/or blood found in the stools
✏ Unexpected bleeding - includes bleeding from the vagina, anal passage, or blood found in stools, in urine or when coughing
✏ Unexplained weight loss – a large amount of unexplained and unintentional weight loss over a short period of time (a couple of months)
✏ Fatigue – which shows itself as extreme tiredness and a severe lack of energy. If fatigue is due to cancer, individuals normally also have other symptoms
✏ Pain or ache – includes unexplained or ongoing pain, or pain that comes and goes
✏ New mole or changes to a mole – look for changes in size, shape, or colour and if it becomes crusty or bleeds or oozes
✏ Complications with urinating – includes needing to urinate urgently, more frequently, or being unable to go when you need to or experiencing pain while urinating
✏ Unusual breast changes - look for changes in size, shape or feel, skin changes and pain
✏ Appetite loss – feeling less hungry than usual for a prolonged period of time
✏ A sore or ulcer that won’t heal - including a spot, sore wound or mouth ulcer
✏ Heartburn or indigestion - persistent or painful heartburn or indigestion
✏ Heavy night sweats -be aware of very heavy, drenching night sweats
PREVENTION of CANCER
Over a third of all cancers can be prevented by reducing your exposure to risk factors such as tobacco, obesity, physical inactivity, infections, alcohol, environmental pollution, occupational carcinogens and radiation.
Prevention of certain cancers may also be effective through vaccination against the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), helping to protect against liver cancer and cervical cancer respectively.
Reducing exposures to other carcinogens such as environmental pollution, occupational carcinogens and radiation could help prevent further cancers.
There are a number of cancers which can be identified early which helps to improve the chances of successful treatment outcomes, often at lower costs and with fewer (or less significant) side effects for patients. There are cost-effective tests that help detect colorectal, breast, cervical and oral cancers early and further tests are being developed for other cancers.
Check with your doctor for guidance on the national recommendations regarding vaccinations, testing and screenings. These can and do vary from country to country.
MANAGING AND TREATING CANCER
Your treatment depends on the type of cancer, where your cancer is, how big it is, whether it has spread, and your general health. The general types of treatments include: surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and gene therapy.