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Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests Recommended For Cancer

Submitted on March 27, 2012

The term “cancer” is used when referring to a large number of diseases and conditions that are characterized by the development of abnormal cells in the body. These cells grow and divide at an uncontrollable rate and in the process they destroy the normal body tissue. This is probably why cancer can spread throughout the body, affecting the different organs and systems. There are several different types of cancer that have been known to affect men, women and children of all ages, some of the most common ones being lung cancer, brain cancer, blood cancer, prostate cancer (in men), breast cancer (in women), skin cancer and throat cancer, to name a few.

Studies indicate that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the US. However, in the recent past, cancer treatment has improved significantly, due to which survival rates are increasing. This condition progresses in different stages and the sooner the treatment begins the more effective it is likely to be. Some cases of cancer are cured completely with the right treatment, whereas in others, the symptoms can only be managed to some extent. Several patients due manage to fight off the disease, but suffer from a recurring malignant tumor, months or even years later.

Types of Cancer

There are several different types of cancer that can affect people and some are more common than the others. Given below is a list of some of the most common types of cancer:

  • Bile duct cancer
  • Blood cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Bone cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Endometrial
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Eye cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma or skin cancer
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Rectal cancer or anal cancer
  • Renal cancer or kidney cancer
  • Throat cancer

There are several other cancers that can affect people, apart from the ones mentioned above.

Tests Recommended

An early diagnosis of cancer can help improve the patient’s chances of recovering. Therefore, after studying the symptoms, your doctor may ask you to undergo certain cancer tests as soon as possible. Given below are some of the different medical tests that can be recommended for cancer diagnosis:

  • A physical exam, where a doctor may look for lumps, an indication of a tumor, enlargements of organs, or changes in skin color.
  • Lab tests on the blood and a urinalysis could be used for identifying abnormalities that are usually caused by cancer.
  • Imaging tests, through which your doctor can examine the bones and other internal organs in a non-invasive manner. Screening images for cancer include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, bone scans, ultrasounds and x rays.
  • A biopsy, in which your doctor will collect a tissue sample, which is sent to a lab for testing. This tissue sample is then studies under a microscope, to check for size and structure. The biopsy is the most effective method of testing for cancer.

Some of these cancer tests are also helpful in identifying the stage to which the cancer has progressed.

Causes

Cancer is caused by mutations in the DNA within your cells and there are several different factors that could trigger this off. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to determine the exact cancer causes in a patient. Given below are some of the most common cancer causes in people:

  • Genetic factors, where the condition is heredity
  • Habits like smoking or excess exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Spending too much time in the hot sun, without using a sunblock or other protective measures
  • Following an unhealthy diet that is high in saturated fats, sugar, salt, preservatives and other food additives
  • Lack of adequate physical activity and exercise
  • Being overweight or obese

Symptoms

Cancer can occur in the different organs and systems within the body and the symptoms that are experienced depend on the part that is affected. Given below are some of the most generic cancer symptoms:

  • Alterations in the size, shape or appearance of existing moles
  • Appearance of a lump or a thickening that can be felt underneath the skin
  • Changes in the color of the skin, where it darkens or becomes red or yellow
  • Chronic indigestion or discomfort, especially after eating
  • Difficulty in swallowing food or water
  • Fatigue and extreme tiredness after performing easy tasks
  • Hoarseness and changes in voice
  • Inconsistency in bowel or bladder habits
  • Persistent coughing, which can be quite severe
  • Presence of sores that do not heal
  • Severe changes in weight, which could include unintended weight loss or gain
  • Unexplained joint pain or muscle loss

Many patients experience drowsiness, personality changes, weakness, bleeding, speech problems and other such symptoms in case of cancer too.

Many of these symptoms are not specific to cancer and can be experienced in case of other conditions too. Nevertheless, it is important for you to consult a doctor if you happen to notice any of these symptoms, to rule out the possibility of cancer. This is because the treatment of cancer is more effective if it is administered in the initial stages.

Treatment

In the past it was believed that cancer was a disease that had no cure and inevitably led to death. However, people are now becoming more aware about the different types of cancer treatment available. The main goal of cancer treatment is to kill or eliminate the cancer cells from the body. Given below are some of the different cancer treatment options:

  • Surgery: Most patients first need to undergo surgery, so that the bulk of the tumor and cancer can be removed surgically.
  • Chemotherapy: With the help of tablets, or IV medication recurrence of the cancer cells can be prevented.
  • Radiation therapy: High powered energy beams are used for a few sessions, to kill cancer cells.
  • Biological therapy: In this form of treatment, health care providers boost your immune system so that it can detect the cancer cells and fight them off.
  • Hormone therapy: There are a few types of cancer (breast cancer and prostate cancer) that are fueled by the presence of certain hormones in your body. The removal of those hormones from the body can cause the cancer cells to stop growing.

Several patients have to go through a combination of these treatment options, for best results. In most cases, cancer patients are first required to undergo surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

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