Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Cancer appears to occur when the growth of cells in the body is out of control and the cells divide too rapidly or "forget" how to die, forming a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.
There are many different types of cancerous growths, it can develop in almost any organ or tissue, and there are multiple causes, including:
- Exposure to radiation
- Certain viruses
However, the cause of many types of tumors remains unknown.
The three most common types in men in the United States are prostrate, lung, and colon, and in American women the three most frequently occurring types are breast, lung, and colon.
Tumors can be benign (not cancer) or milignant (cancerous).
- Benign tumors are rarely life-threatening
- Generally benign tumors can be removed, and they usually don't grow back
- cells from benign tumors do not invade the tissues around them
- Cells from benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body
- Malignant tumors are generally more serious than benign tumors. They may be life-threatening
- Malignant tumors often can be removed, but sometimes they grow back
- Cells from malignant tumors can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs
- Cells from malignant tumors can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Malignant tumors can metastasize by the cancerous cells breaking away from the original (primary) tumor and entering the bloodstream or lymphatic system. The cells then invade other organs, forming new tumors damaging these organs. This spreading is called metastasis.
Symptoms may or may not be experienced by you and will depend on the type and location of the tumor and some of the following symptoms may be common with other illnesses. Common symptoms include:
- Night sweats
- weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Lump in the breast
- New mole or change in an existing mole
- A sore that does not heal
- Hoarseness or a cough that does not go away
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Discomfort after eating
- Hard time swallowing
- unusual bleeding or discharge
Screening can help doctors find and treat some types of cancer early and are used widely to check for tumors of the breast, cervix, colon, and rectum which you may not be experiencing symptoms for:
- Breast: A mammogram is the best tool doctors have to find breast tumors early and the NCI recommends that women in their forties and older have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years as well as self evaluations.
- Cervix: The Pap smear test is used to check cells from the cervix. The doctor scrapes a sample of cells from the cervix and a lab performs the check. Women should begin having Pap tests 3 years after they begin having sexual intercourse, or when they reach age 21 and done once every three years.
- Colon and rectum: A number of test are used to detect polyps (growths) or other problems in the colon and rectum. People aged 50 and older should be screened.
Treatment can also vary based on the type of growth and its stage. Stage refers to how much has grown and whether the tumor has spread from its original location.
- If the tumor is confined to one location and has not spread, the goal for treatment would be surgery and cure.
- If the tumor has spread to local lymph nodes only, sometimes these also can be removed.
- If all of the growth cannot be removed with surgery, the options for treatment include radiation, chemotherapy, or both. Some tumors require a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Although treatment for cancerous tumors can be difficult, there are many ways to keep your strength and attitude up, such as:
- Get plenty of rest and eat a well-balanced diet during the course of your radiation and chemotherapy treatment.Chemotherapy causes your immune system to weaken, so you should avoid people with colds or the flu.
- It will help you to talk with family, friends, your pastor, or a support group about your feelings.
- Work with your health care providers throughout your treatment. Helping yourself can make you feel more in control.
One of the best ways to prevent cancer is to avoid risks factors, such as don't smoke or chew tobacco, stay away from excessive exposure to sunlight, and don't heavily consume alcohol. But there still is a risk for anyone to developing growths or tumors. Regular screenings will help catch problems early along with regular doctor visits. If you experience any symptoms or signs of any cancerous growths, visit your health care professional immediately.
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