Cancer is a medical term that includes a wide range of diseases that are characterized by the abnormal growth of cells that divide without control and have the ability to penetrate tissues and destroy healthy tissues in the body, and is able to spread throughout the body.

Cancer symptoms

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the western world, but the chances of curing cancer are constantly improving in most types, thanks to advances in early detection methods and cancer treatment options.

Cancer symptoms

Cancer symptoms vary from case to case, depending on the member with the cancer.

Some general symptoms of cancer are attributed to him, but they are not specific to cancer alone. They include:

  • fatigue
  • High temperature
  • The appearance of mass or swelling that can be felt under the skin
  • Pain
  • Changes in body weight, including unintended rise or fall in body weight
  • Changes to the surface of the skin, such as the appearance of yellow color, dark areas or red spots on the skin, wounds that do not heal, or changes in moles that were present on the skin
  • Changes in bowel or bladder functioning patterns
  • Persistent cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty in indigestion or feeling uncomfortable after eating.

Causes and risk factors for cancer

Cancer is caused by a damage (change / mutation) that occurs in a series of deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) found in cells.

The DNA chain in the human body contains a set of instructions for the cells of the body, which determine how to grow, develop and divide.

Healthy cells sometimes tend to cause changes in their DNA, but they remain able to correct the bulk of these changes. Or, if you cannot make these corrections, the twisted cells will often die.

However, some of these deviations are not correctable, which leads to the growth of these cells and their transformation into cancerous cells. These deviations can also extend the life of some cells more than their normal life expectancy. This phenomenon causes the accumulation of cancer cells.

How does a person get cancer?

In some types of cancer, the accumulation of these cells generates a cancerous tumor. However, not all cancers produce cancerous tumors. For example, leukemia (leukemia - leukemia) is a type of cancer that affects blood cells, bone marrow (bone marrow), lymphatic system and spleen, but this type of cancer does not produce a tumor.

Primary genetic deviation is only the beginning of the process of cancer development. Researchers believe that the development of cancer requires a number of changes within the cell, including:

  •  An initiating factor that leads to a genetic change:  Sometimes a person may be born with a specific genetic deviation, while genetic deviation may occur in others as a result of effective forces inside the body, such as hormones, viruses and chronic infections.
    • Genetic deviation can also occur as a result of effective forces outside the body, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun's rays, or carcinogens from chemicals (carcinogen-causing) chemicals present in the life environment.
  • A catalyst for rapid cell growth:  cofactors exploit deviations and genetic changes caused by the initiating factors.
    • The catalysts make cells divide more quickly. This can lead to the accumulation of cells, as a cancerous tumor. Auxiliary factors can be transmitted by heredity, they can form inside the body or they can reach from outside and enter the body.
  • Encouraging factor that makes cancer more aggressive and helps it spread: Without the encouraging factors (reinforcement factors), the cancerous tumor can remain benign and limited in place. Encouraging factors make cancer more aggressive and increase the possibility of cancer breaking into and destroying nearby tissues, as well as increasing the likelihood of cancer spreading to other organs throughout the body.
    • As is the case with initiating factors and catalysts, the encouraging factors may also be transmitted by heredity, or they may be formed as a result of the effects of environmental factors.
The genetic structure, the forces acting within the body, the choice of lifestyle and the environment in which we live - all of which can form the basis for cancer formation or to complete its formation if it has started. For example, if someone genetically transmits a genetic deviation that increases the risk of a specific cancer, that person will have a higher risk of developing this type of cancer, more than people exposed to the same factor that can cause cancer.

 Genetic deviation causes the cancerous process to start forming, while the carcinogenic factor may be a key component in the future development and progression of cancer.

Moreover, smokers who work in an asbestos-containing environment are more at risk of developing lung cancer than smokers who do not work in such an environment. This is because tobacco smoke, along with asbestos, is a factor in the development of this type of cancer.

Although doctors know the factors that make a person belong to a group with a greater risk of developing cancer, the majority of cancer cases actually occur in people who have no known factors.

Risk factors

Factors known to increase the risk of cancer include:

  • Age: Cancer development can take several decades. This is why most people are diagnosed with cancer after they are over 55 years old. Until the moment the tumor is discovered, it is likely that between 100 million - a billion cancer cells have evolved and it is possible that the primary tumor began to develop five years ago, and possibly more.
  • Habits : It is known that certain lifestyles may increase the risk of developing cancer.
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Exposure to the sun in abundance: or multiple sunburns accompanied by blisters (blister - bubble filled with fluid that appears in the upper layers of the skin - Blister)
  • Having sex without protective means
  • Family history: Only about 10% of all cancer cases occur on a genetic basis. If cancer is common in the family, it is very likely that these genetic deviations from heredity will pass from one generation to another. 
    • The doctor decides whether a particular person is suitable for scanning tests that may reveal the presence of genetic genetic deviations that increase the risk of developing cancer. A person must realize that if he detects hereditary aberrations, this does not mean that he will necessarily develop cancer.
  • General health status:  Some chronic diseases, such as Ulcerative colitis, can greatly increase the risk of certain types of cancer. Talk to your doctor about it.
  • Living environment: The environment in which we live may contain harmful chemicals that can increase the risk of developing cancer. Even if you are a non-smoker, you may be at risk of passive (second-hand) smoking if you live in an environment where others smoke, or if you live in the company of a smoker. 
    • Chemicals in the home or on the workplace, such as asbestos or benzene, can be a factor in increasing the risk of cancer.

Cancer complications

Cancer and cancer treatment may lead to the emergence of several complications, including:
  • Side effects from cancer treatment
  • Unusual responses from the immune system to cancer
  • Cancer outbreaks
  • Cancer has been set back (relapse).

Cancer diagnosis

The early diagnosis of cancer provides the best chances for recovery. If the patient feels suspicious symptoms, he should consult with his doctor about any of the checks and scans that are appropriate for early detection of cancer.

Research has shown that pre-cancer screening may actually save lives in some types of cancer. As for other types of cancer, pre-cancer screening is only made for people who are more likely to develop cancer. Discuss with your doctor the presence of risk factors for you.

The American Cancer Society recommends conducting early detection screening for people with moderate-risk risk factors for the following types of cancer:

  • Breast cancer : for women aged 40 years and over
  • Cervical cancer : for women 21 years of age and older, or three years after first sexual intercourse
  • Colon cancer (large intestine): for men and women aged 50 years and over
  • Gland cancer prostate : starting for men ages 50 and above
Screening for early detection of cancer and some other measures have a set of benefits and shortcomings. Discuss the benefits and shortcomings of each examination with your doctor to determine the most appropriate screening for cancer.

In order to diagnose cancer, your doctor may choose one or more of the following early cancer screening tests:

  • Physical examination
  • Lab tests
  • Imaging checks
  • Biopsy.

Cancer grades / stages

After diagnosing cancer, the doctor attempts to determine the extent of the cancer or the stage the cancer has reached. 

The doctor decides on the treatment methods or the chances of recovery, according to the classification of cancer and its degree in the specific patient.

Classification and degree are determined by performing a number of exams, such as imaging exams, including bone scanning and X-ray imaging (X-Ray radiation), to determine whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Cancer grades / stages are usually coded in Roman numerals I to IV, as a larger number indicates that the cancer is more advanced. In some cases, the stage of cancer is indicated by letters or verbal description. 

Cancer treatment

 Cancer treatment consists of a variety of treatments. Also, cancer treatment options relate to several factors, such as the type and stage of cancer, the general health status, in addition to the preferences of the patient himself.

Oncologist can be consulted about the benefits and risks of each of the cancer treatment options to determine the best and most effective cancer treatment for each case.

Cancer treatment goals

The application of cancer treatment is carried out in several different ways, including:

  • A treatment that aims to kill or remove cancer cells (basic treatment)
  • Treatment aimed at destroying the remaining cancer cells (adjuvant treatment)
  • A treatment that aims to treat the side effects caused by cancer and its treatment (supportive treatment).

Treatments available for cancer

 Today, doctors have access to a variety of tools designed to treat cancer. These treatments include:
  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy (Radiation therapy)
  • Spinal cord transplantation and stem cells
  • Biological therapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Drug therapy
  • Clinical trials.

Cancer prevention

There is no sure way to avoid getting cancer. But doctors have succeeded in identifying some methods that can help reduce risk factors for developing cancer, including:

  • Quit Smoking
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure
  • Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet
  • Physical activities most days of the week
  • Maintain a normal and healthy weight
  • Ensure that early detection checks are done regularly
  • Consult your doctor about available vaccines.

Alternative treatments

It has not been conclusively proven that alternative treatments lead to cancer cure. But the potential of alternative medicine may help counteract the effects and reduce the symptoms of cancer and side effects from its treatments, such as fatigue, nausea and pain.

Discuss with your doctor about alternative treatments that can help. The doctor will also discuss with you the safety of these treatments for you and whether they are a factor hindering the traditional treatment of cancer. These treatments include:

  • Acupuncture (Acupuncture)
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Various relaxation techniques.