Cancer is a general term for more than 100 diseases characterized by abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells. The resulting mass or tumor can invade and destroy surrounding normal tissues. Cancer cells from the tumor can spread through the bloodstream or lymph system and start new cancers in other parts of the body. This process is called metastasis.
What causes cancer?
In many cases, the exact cause of cancer remains a mystery. We know that certain changes in cells can cause cancer to start, but we don't yet know exactly how this happens. Other causes of cancer include:
Smoking and secondhand smoke
Excessive alcohol consumption
Too much exposure to the sun
What are the general symptoms of cancer?
General (non-specific) signs and symptoms are:
Unexplained weight loss
Changes in the skin
It is important to remember that having any of these symptoms doesn’t mean that cancer is present. There are many other conditions that can cause these signs and symptoms as well.
What are specific cancer signs and symptoms?
In addition to the above general symptoms, the following common symptoms can be a sign of cancer. Again, there may be other causes for each of these, but it is important to discuss with your doctor as soon as possible so that they can be investigated. While these symptoms are among the most common, there may be others that are less common and are not listed here.
Change in the bowel habits or bladder function
Sores that do not heal
Unusual bleeding or discharge
Thickening or lump in the breast or other part of the body
Indigestion or trouble swallowing
Recent changes in a wart or mole
Nagging cough or hoarseness
How is cancer treated?
The treatment options for cancer patients depend on the type of cancer, the stage of cancer and other individual factors such as age, health status and personal preferences. The major types of cancer treatments are:
How can the risk of cancer be reduced?
The risk of getting cancer can be reduced by adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as:
Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
Increase physical activity
Avoid tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke
Avoid sun exposure
Achieve an optimal weight
Get regular cancer screenings
Be informed about the types of cancer found in your family history