Saturday, 31 May 2014


World Cancer Day 2014   The National February 2014 P.35

Cancer is a disease that occurs when changes in a group of normal cells in the body lead to uncontrolled growth causing a lump or tumour. IF left untreated, tumours can grow and spread into the normal surrounding tissue via the blood or lymphatic systems.

Benign tumours are not cancerous and rarely threaten life. They tend to grow quite slowly and only cause problems on becoming too large and pressing on other organs.

Malignant tumours are faster growing, spreading and destroying neighbouring tissue. Cells can break off from the primary tumour and continue to divide and grow. The secondary sites are known as metastases cancer.

Carcinoma arises in epithelial cells and invades surrounding tissues and organs. The most common forms are breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.

Sarcoma is a type of malignant tumour of the bone or soft tissue such as muscle, blood vessels, nerves and other connective tissues.

lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system which runs through the body and can occur anywhere. The most common are the non-Hodgkins which begins with uncontrolled growth of white blood cells and Hodgkins in which the cells of the lymph nodes are cancerous.

Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and bone marrow.

There are about 200 known types of cancer. As with most illnesses, cancer is multifactoral.

Cancer causing substances:  Genes are coded messages inside a cell which tell it how to behave. Mutation or changes to genes can alter how the cell behaves. Something that damages a cell is known as a carcinogen.

Age: Many types of cancer become more prevalent with age. The longer people live, the more exposure to carcinogens and more time for mutations.

Genetics: Some people are born with a genetically inherited high risk. This makes cancer more likely.

Bodyweight, diet and physical activity: Maintaining healthy bodyweight, making changes to diet and regular exercise could prevent one in three deaths from cancer. Many people eat too much red meat and not enough fresh fruit and vegetables.

Overweight or obese. Obese means more than 25% overweight. Such people have an increased risk of bowel or pancreatic cancer probably because of higher insulin levels. Obesity can increase the risk of cancer of the food pipe, kidney, gall bladder cancer and breast and womb cancer.

Alcohol and cigarettes: There is strong evidence that all types of alcoholic drinks cause a number of cancers. The more a person smokes, the younger they start and the longer they keep smoking, all increase the risk of cancer.

Radiation: Man-made sources of radiation can cause cancer. The main risk is from unprotected and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun which can cause melanomas and skin malignancies.

Work place hazards: Some people are at risk from substances from the work they do. Asbestos is a well known work place cause of cancer which affects the covering of the lungs.

Infection: A proportion of cancers can be caused by infection with a virus. Examples include cervical cancer linked to Human Papilloma Virus, primary liver cancer caused by Hepatitis B and c viruses and lymphomas linked to the Epstein-Barr virus.

There are many different symptoms for the many types of cancers. There are some key signs and symptoms.

Lumps: Some cancers can be felt through the skin. Cancerous lumps are often painless and may increase in size.

Coughing and breathlessness: Persistent coughing can be associated with lung cancer.

Changes in bowel habits: There may be blood in the stools and changes in bowel habits such as constipation and diarrhoea.

Bleeding: Possible symptoms may be from the anal passage as a symptom of bowel cancer and blood in the urine.

Unexplained weight loss: Large weight loss over a couple of months may be the sign of cancer.

Fatigue: Extreme fatigue and tiredness may be a symptom, usually linked with other symptoms.

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