Young woman in bed suffering from cancer. Thoughtful woman battling with tumor looking out of window. Young patient with blue headscarf recovery in hospital on bed.

HOW LONG CAN YOU HAVE CANCER WITHOUT KNOWING ABOUT IT?

There are two types of solid tumors, one is cancerous, known as malignant and the other is non- cancerous, known as benign. When the cancerous tumors spreads into the nearby tissues in our body, they begin to grow and some of the cells travel to the other parts of the body and form called ‘secondary’ tumors, theses are known as metastases. These solid malignant tumors are known as carcinomas- cancers that start in the liver or kidneys, and sarcomas- cancers that form in the muscles, bones and nerves.

The five main types of cancers are—Carcinoma, Sarcoma, Myeloma, Leukemia and Lymphoma. Apart from these there are some cancers which are undetected.

The common cancers can go undetected sometimes until they reach the 3rd or 4th stages. These tumors are known as ‘late stage’ cancers. They are the most dangerous forms of cancer. These can be the cancers of the Lung, Ovarian, colorectal, cervical and breast. Some of these cancers can grow undetected for 10 years or more.

Undetected Lung Cancer: Most of the lung cancers go undetected, as they do not cause any symptoms until they spread. Sometimes even a chest x-ray which is usually the first test also does not show any signs of cancer. If a person continues to have cough, severe tiredness, loss of appetite and if fluid builds up around the lungs. If detected at an early stage can be cured.

Undetected Ovarian Cancer: This cancer also goes undetected until it has spread to the pelvis and abdomen. It can go undetected for more than 10 years because of the size, until it grows to the size of a large grape. The late symptoms can be abdominal pain, pain in the kidney, weight loss, frequent urination, constipation.

Undetected Colorectal Cancer: Many a times colorectal cancer can also go undetected .People above 50 years, if you find blood in the stool; if it is in the family ; abdominal pain, continuous weight loss ; and if you become anemic; better consult a doctor immediately. Early detection can cure it, otherwise it’s risky.

Undetected Cervical Cancer:  Often cervical cancer goes undetected as symptoms are very less. It starts as an abnormal growth in the cells, which are not cancerous and slowly spread into the bladder, intestines, lungs, and liver. This can take years to change to cervical cancer.  After a certain age if pap smear is done regularly, it can be detected early and treated.

Undetected Breast Cancer: Sometimes even after a doctor examines the lump in a woman’s breast, breast cancer can go undetected, as symptoms vary from person to person, even if the symptoms like hard lump, pain in the breast and nipple, skin irritation and so on are there but still it can go undetected, if proper tests are not done, if the results are not read correctly and if the files get exchanged, it goes undetected. Early detection and treatment can save a patient’s life.

Characteristics of undetected cancers:

There are different characteristics of undetected cancers that should not be neglected and these warnings signs must be taken up seriously:

  • If any part of the body thickens or a lump grows
  • If a sore continues to bleed,
  • If any opening in the body begins to bleed or any form of discharge is there from it.
  • If there is a change in bowel or bladder habits.
  • If a cough continues and the voice turns hoarse.
  • If there is a swallowing and digestion problem,
  • If the mole on the skin changes.
  • If an ulcer tumour smells unpleasant.

If these above symptoms are found, it’s better to see a doctor immediately.

Hardest Cancer to detect:

One of the most dangerous type of cancer is Pancreatic Cancer, because it spreads rapidly and there is no method that it can be detected early. There are no specific symptoms until later stages, as it grows silently and is painless.

Symptoms:

  •  Pancreatic cancer block the duct that releases bile into the intestine and it builds up into the blood and the skin and eyes turn yellow causing Jaundice.
  •  Abdominal and back pain that comes and goes.
  • Nausea, vomiting, bloating of the abdomen after eating.
  •  Sometimes with all these symptoms also a person may or may not have pancreatic cancer.

TYPES OF CANCER:

CARCINOMA

This is the most common cancer. It starts in the tissue of the skin that lines the internal organs of the liver or kidneys. This cancer either stays at its primary location where it has started or can also spread to the other parts of the body.

Symptoms : Causes can be exposure to the sun and usage of  tanning beds.

  • A small bump like growth on the skin, in the color of pink, black or brown.
  • A pimple or a mole that does not go away.
  • A waxy, hard growth on the skin.

Treatment: Usage of creams, pills, surgery or radiation therapy.

LEUKEMIA

This is a life threatening malignant disorder of the blood and the bone. This cancer mostly occurs in adolescents and young adults. This disease affects the blood forming tissues of the bone marrow, lymph nodes and the spleen.

Symptoms –weakness, spending most of the sleeping, weight loss, no appetite, and no proper concentration.

TreatmentChemotherapy is the major treatment. The drug kills the leukemia cells. The other treatments are biological therapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplant and so on.

SARCOMA

This is considered to be the IV stage of cancer, when it spreads to distant parts of the body. At this stage it’s rarely curable. If the primary tumor and all the areas it has spread if it can be removed by surgery, it’s curable.

Sarcomas start in the bone or muscle or in soft tissues like fat, nerves blood vessels, deep skin and fibrous tissues.

Treatments– chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.

MYELOMA

This cancer forms in white blood cell also known as plasma cell. The plasma cell fights infections by making antibodies and attack germs.

Symptoms: Fatigue, pain, loss of appetite constipation and vomiting.

Treatment: Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, bone marrow transplant and biological therapy.

LYMPHOMA

This is a cancer which can spread in any part of the body. It a part of the germ-fighting network in the body- lymph glands, spleen, bone marrow or in any part of the body.

Symptoms: Painless swelling- neck, armpits or groin. Fever, tiredness, breathlessness, weight loss, itchy skin.

Treatment– Chemotherapy, medication, radiation therapy and rarely stem-cell transplant. 

Any type of cancer if detected earlier can be treated and follow up sessions with the treating doctor is a must.

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BRAIN CANCER AND RADIATION THERAPY

The brain is the most important organ in our human body. It performs multifarious functions like it controls, coordinates our actions and reactions. It helps us to feel, think, have memories and feelings. So it’s our duty to keep it healthy and safe. In spite of taking all the precautions, still there are chances of tumours forming in the brain. Like cancer spreads in any part of the body, it can also spread to the brain. A cancerous or non-cancerous mass or growth of abnormal cells can start in the brain.

Symptoms can be headache, blurred vision, loss of balance, confusion and seizures. In some cases there are no symptoms at all. Brain Cancer can occur in adults and children. However technological advancement in radiation therapy has made it possible to manage primary brain tumours.

Brain Cancer and Radiation Therapy:

Where surgery cannot remove the tumour formed in the brain, radiation therapy can go deep into the tissues, break the DNA and can also kill the brain tumour cells. Radiation Therapy is as effect as surgery, it can even reduce the chances of a tumour to come back again. Today radiation therapies are more advanced and people who undergo treatment through them can live longer.

Radiation kills Cancer

Today doctors treat brain tumours through radiation therapy as it’s more effective in destroying cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy— Whole –brain radiation therapy and Stereotactic radio surgery.

 Whole-brain radiation therapy

Stereotactic radio surgery:

This is more preferred as with a high dose of radiation only the tumour is focused and treated, hence side effects are very less. But still these are the best two ways to detect brain tumours early.

In this treatment the entire brain can be targeted, even those tumours that cannot be seen in the MRI scan. There are a few side effects like tiredness, hair loss and memory problems.

 

Radiation Therapy is suitable or not

The best Oncologist, Radiation Therapists and Neurosurgeons , decide if radiation therapy is right or not for a patient. This is done because patients with brain cancer, a number of factors need to be seen, like the type of tumour, symptoms, the number of lesions and main aim is to give a better life to the patient.

Side Effects: Though there are a few side effects such as, it can also destroy normal cells in the area. It may be unpleasant but there are treatments even for these side effects, which are temporary and can disappear on completion of the therapy. Radiation Oncologists, prefer to see the patient once a week while the treatment is in process, so that to manage the side effects a strategy can be planned. Side effects differs from patient to patient, fatigue, hair loss, skin irritation, hearing becomes less, short-term memory loss, headache .When a patient experiences these side effects, he should immediately inform the treating doctor, who helps to take care of it. These side effects occur during treatment, but some take months to occur after the treatment. There is a chance of a second cancer developing near the area where radiation was given. Rarely due to radiation therapy, a healthy brain tissue can be damaged .But still this risk has to be taken to administer radiation therapy.

Duration of radiation treatment for brain cancer:

To plan the treatment for radiation therapy, it will take an hour. The next treatment lasts a few minutes and after that each session for 30 to 45 minutes.

Radiation therapy to the brain:

Radiation for brain cancer is done with the help of a machine, in which beams of radiation is focused at the tumour directly. This destroys the cancer cells and the patient cannot see or feel the radiation. Once the cancer cells are damaged through radiation, they cannot be reproduced again. Though normal cells are also affected, they can repair themselves. The treating doctor decides whether to administer partial or full brain radiation, this depends on the treatment plan.

Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy:

Before Chemotherapy sometimes doctors advise radiation therapy, as the first cancer treatment. Radiation therapy works differently from chemotherapy. Radiation targets only the cancerous cells whereas chemotherapy sends the drugs to the whole body. Since radiation is given to the affected area side effects are fewer than chemotherapy.

DIET: brain tumours and radiation therapy

Generally, a ketogenic diet is recommended—a high fat, low carbohydrate, controlled protein diet.  This diet is more effective when radiation therapy is given. It stops the growth of the tumor and reduces inflammation and edema around the tumor.

  • 5 to 6 small meals can be taken in a day.
  • Drink fluids( clear soups, juices, ginger water ) 30-60 minutes before or after eating.
  • Dry foods— toast, cereal, crackers.
  • Cottage cheese, fruit and yogurt. Whole grains , breads, oatmeal.

Try to avoid sweets, spicy, fatty, greasy or fried foods. Rinse your mouth with soda and water before and after eating. A good oral hygiene must be maintained. Limit alcohol consumption and smoking. Decrease red meat and increase poultry and fish.

Novel treatments to treat brain cancer through Radio therapy:

Many are aware that cancer is caused by abnormal growth of cells in the body that  can also spread to the brain. But still awareness that radiation therapy can treat the cancer is unknown to many. Radiation therapy can destroy the cancer cells and stop the spread of its growth, should be emphasized among people, through seminars, media and campaign programmes in schools, colleges and residential areas.

The human brain is a central part of our nervous system, and interacts with various cells in our body.  Doctors also prefer to treat brain tumors by radiation therapy as its effective in treating faster. People who are undergoing  radiation therapies are living longer than before, this awareness has to brought to the forefront at the earliest. Now people should understand the benefits of radiation therapy to treat brain cancer. Magazines and journals can also be read about radiation therapy for better treatment, prevention, and cures for a better life.

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DO WE HAVE CANCER CELLS?

Cancer cells are cells the divide in the body without any specified reason, forming tumors and filling the blood with abnormal cells. A parent cell divides and form two daughter cells, and they build new tissue to replace the old or damaged cells. Cancer cells continue to produce more cells and spread to other parts of the body. This process is known as metastasis.

It is surprising to know that we all do not have cancer cells in our bodies. But our bodies continuously produce new cells some of these new cells have the capability to turn into cancerous. A healthy cell grows, divides and dies, when it is aged or damaged, whereas a cancer cell does not follow this procedure. Instead the cancer cells reproduce more abnormal cells and invades the nearby tissue.

Difference between normal cells and abnormal cells:

Normal cells are obedient and follow instructions, whereas cancer cells do not.

  • Normal cells grow and divide only when they need to replace old and damaged cells, once their function that they need to perform is complete they die. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells may grow or may not and do not die when they should. Cancer cells do not follow a regular pattern.
  •  Cancer cells gather to form tumours and spread to the surrounding tissues. Sometimes they also break and spread to the other parts of the body.
  • Cancer cells corrupt normal cells to grow new blood vessels so they can supply nutrients to cancerous tumours.
  • The specific characteristics that cancer cells have is termed as, “Hallmarks of Cancer.”
  • Normal cells are in many shapes and sizes and maintain uniformity. Whereas cancer cells are of different shapes and sizes and are a collection of cells.

What causes cancer cells?

Cancer is a dreadful disease and when it spreads can cause death, if it is not treated properly. It is stated that life is order and death is disorder. So living an healthy life is a miracle and blessing, whereas aging, diseased (cancer) and death is certain. When respiration takes place, energy is derived from the food that is taken and this produces 2% reactive oxygen radicals. These free radicals may attack or damage important molecules and structures in the body, causing disease and ultimately death. These free radicals can attack the DNA and change the normal cell into cancerous cells. This clearly states that the food we eat, proper nutritious food and antioxidants is not there in the food we eat can be a major cause for cancer.

TYPES OF CANCER

Cancer is a very dangerous disease, whether it is a developed or a developing country. It is said more than six million people in the world are affected in the world. There are a number of cancers, to mention a few—uterus, blood, breast, thyroid, skin, lungs, colon, prostate and so on. The five main cancers are—sarcoma, leukemia, carcinoma, myeloma and lymphoma.

CARCINOMA

This is the most common type of cancer. It begins in the tissue of the skin, or the internal organs of the liver or kidneys and can spread to the other parts of the body or stay in the place it was affected first. This may not be a life-threatening disease but can cause complications. It is generally treated by cutting out the cancerous tissue, or layer by layer of the cancer is removed, until no abnormal cells remain or it is also treated through radiation therapy. It can be cured if diagnosed early.

SARCOMA

It is a lump or a swelling in soft tissue of the body. Sarcoma is a painless lump under the skin, usually on the leg or arm. Sarcomas that start in the abdomen, do not show any signs until it grows very big. Generally a biopsy is done to identify a sarcoma. Once it is diagnosed, tests are done to find out if it has spread to the other parts of the body, — a complete blood count is taken, CT scan, MRI, Chest X-ray PET scan. The results of these tests are seen to find out the stage and then treatment starts. Treatments are—Surgery, Radiation Therapy, Chemotherapy and Targeted therapy.

LEUKEMIA

This is the most common disease among children, adults aged 20, 55, to 66.It affects the blood forming tissues of the spleen, bone marrow and the lymph nodes. The symptoms are also many like headaches, fever, excessive bleeding (nose), weight loss and so on. Sometimes spots may develop on the skin, in colours of purple, red, or brown rashes. These spots can also be seen on the arms, legs, stomach, buttocks, inside of the mouth or the eyelids.

MYELOMA

It is also called as plasma cell myeloma, as it is a disease of the blood. A thorough examination is taken, 24 hour urine sample, a bone marrow biopsy and skeletal radiography is done. In most cases it is not curable, but the right treatment can slow its spread and sometimes the symptoms can disappear. If the disease continues ,it destroys the bone, anemia is caused and kidney failure.

LYMPHOMA

Many mistake lymphoma to be leukemia, but both are different. Lymphoma, starts in infection-fighting lymphocytes (white blood cell), whereas leukemia starts in blood-forming cells inside the bone-marrow. Lymphoma, spreads to the live, bone-marrow or the lungs. Like any other cancer it is curable and in later stages. This disease is mainly seen in children and young adults, the age group of 15-24 years. Symptoms can be common cold, swelling in the neck, groin, abdomen or armpits. Treatment—Biologic therapy –drug treatment; Antibody therapy—synthetic antibodies are inserted into the bloodstream; Chemotherapy—drug to kill cancer cells; Radiation therapy; Stem cell transplantation; Steroids; Surgery.

Seven steps to prevent Cancer

  • Stop smoking or chewing of tobacco.
  • The skin should be protected from extreme heat (sun).
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Necessary vaccines to be taken, like HPV, Hepatitis.
  • Safe sex to be practised.