Cancer Symptoms And Causes: Getting the basics right
By: Aakanksha Bambulkar
Published On: October 08, 2018
Learn all about the causes and symptoms of cancer. Read on!
Every year, lakhs of Indians are affected by cancer. About 1,300 out of every 3,000 people fall prey to this deadly disease annually, cancer has become one of the major causes of death in India.
With this deadly disease striking millions in India, it is important to know about cancer, its causes & symptoms and how the disease affects men and women differently. Though life-threatening, cancer can be cured if detected in its early stages and the person can live a healthy life post-treatment.
Cancer and its scenario in India
Cancer is caused when a group of abnormal cells begin to grow uncontrollably, often taking the shape of a tumor. There are 2 types of tumors, benign & malignant.
Benign tumors do not spread into or invade nearby tissues or areas and usually do not grow back once removed.
Malignant tumors act differently- they invade the nearby tissues, sometimes spreading to the nearby organs. They have a high chance of relapsing.
The number of cancer cases in India continue to be on the rise.
Here are some statistics by National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR):
- Estimated number of people living with cancer: Around 2.5 million
- New cancer patients registered every year: Over 7 lakh
- Cancer death rate: Around 5,56,400
- Cervical cancer death rate: A woman dies every 8 minutes
- Breast cancer death rate: Affects every one in two women
Tobacco cancer death rate: Over 2,500
Causes of Cancer
Cancer is caused by changes (mutations) to the DNA within cells. The DNA inside a cell is packaged into a large number of individual genes, each of which contains a set of instructions telling the cell what functions to perform, as well as how to grow and divide. Errors in the instructions can cause the cell to stop its normal function and may allow a cell to become cancerous.
Although there is not one single cause that causes cancer, we can roughly divide the risk factors into the following groups:
- Biological factors like age, gender, inherited genetic defects and skin type
- Environmental exposure, for instance to radon and UV radiation
- Occupational factors such as excessive use of chemicals, radioactive materials etc.
- Lifestyle related factors like consumption of tobacco, alcohol, or unhealthy diets
Most common types of cancer1.Lung Cancer: Roughly 2,19,400 cases of this deadly cancer were recognised in the last year. Lung cancer strikes the cells inside the lining of the lungs. There are two primary types of lung cancer, small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. Lung cancer claims nearly 160,000 lives annually.
2.Breast Cancer: Around 1,94,280 people were affected by breast cancer last year. This is by far the most common cancer in women. While the overwhelming majority of breast cancer patients are women, about 1,900 cases are diagnosed in men too each year.
3.Prostate Cancer: Just over 192,200 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually. The prostate gland is a part of the reproductive system in men and is found at the base of the bladder, near the rectum. This type of cancer develops in the tissues inside the prostate gland.
4.Bladder Cancer: Nearly 71,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer every year. The bladder can be easily affected by the cancer cells that are developed within these tissues. The most common type is transitional cell carcinoma, but others such as adenocarcinomas & squamous cell carcinomas, may also occur depending on the type of bladder cells.
5.Kidney Cancer: This type of cancer affects 49,000 people each year. Kidneys are the organs that help in the removal of waste from the body. Cancer can form inside the tissues or ducts of the kidneys.
Although kidney cancer develops mainly in people over 40, there is a type of kidney tumor that usually affects young children.
6.Leukemia: Approximately 44,700 cases of Leukemia are predicted every year. The four main types of leukemia are acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and chronic myeloid leukemia.
These types of cancers often form inside the bone marrow or other cells and tissues that form blood cells, and are known as blood cancers.
Most common cancers in men & women
Although men and women have different anatomies, they share some similarities in the types of cancers they develop. Colorectal cancer and lung cancer, for example, are common cancers developed by men.
The most common cancer differs in each gender, however, prostate cancer and breast cancer are the most prevalent in men and women, respectively.
- Breast cancer: Affects 25.8 per 100, 000 women
- Oral cancer: Over 2,58,000 cases detected every year
- Cervical cancer: Affects more than 1,22,000 women per year
So why does it affect men and women differently?
If you see the gender wise difference, you will find that men’s tumors differ from those of women in seven cancers; bladder, lungs, kidneys, liver, breast, mouth and throat cancers.
Cancer symptoms in men
When you notice a change in the size, shape, or color of a mole or other spot on your skin, see your doctor immediately. Spots that are new or look different are top signs of skin cancer.
You’ll need an exam and perhaps a biopsy, which is a procedure where doctors remove a small piece of one’s skin tissue for testing.
Changes in the Lymph Nodes
Tenderness of swelling in your lymph nodes which are the small bean-shaped glands found in your neck, armpits, and other places- often signal that something's amiss in your body. Usually, it means your immune system is fighting a sore throat or cold, but certain cancers can also trigger the changes.
HeartburnYou can take care of most cases of heartburn with changes in your diet, drinking habits, and stress levels. If that doesn’t help, ask your doctor to look into your symptoms. Heartburn that doesn't go away or gets worse could mean stomach or throat cancer.
Heartburn can also lead to a condition called Barrett's esophagus, which occurs when stomach acid damages the lining of esophagus. While it is rare, Barrett’s can make you more susceptible to developing throat cancer.
If you smoke or chew tobacco, you have a higher risk of developing mouth cancer. Keep an eye out for white, red, gray or yellow patches inside your mouth or on your lips. You could also develop a canker sore that looks like an ulcer with a crater in it.
Men tend to ignore breast lumps assuming that breast cancer isn't on their radar. In men, this cancer is diagnosed much later. Don’t take any chances. If you find a lump, tell your doctor and have it checked. Early detection is the key to a successful treatment.
Cancer symptoms in women
Breast ChangesMost breast lumps aren’t always cancerous but a woman should definitely look for these signs; skin dimpling or puckering, nipples that turn inward, discharge, redness or scaling. Tests like mammogram or a biopsy are suggested by the doctor.
Women are natural bloaters so it’s okay to wait for a couple of weeks if you experience unnecessary bloating but constant and continuous bloating could be a sign of cancer, including breast, colon, gastrointestinal, ovarian, pancreatic, or uterine.
Depending on other symptoms, you will undergo tests which could include a pelvic exam as well as blood tests, a mammogram, a colonoscopy, a CT scan or an ultrasound.
Weight loss without trying
Most women wish their extra pounds would magically melt away. But losing 10 pounds or more without a change in your diet or exercise habits could signal a problem. Though unintended weight loss does not always mean cancer as it can also be caused by stress or thyroid.it can also be a sign of pancreatic cancer.
A lot of women are tired because of the hectic lives they lead. But extreme tiredness that just won’t go away is not good. Look for signs like extreme tiredness even after sleeping for long, not feeling fresh any time of the day, extreme weakness, joint pains that don’t go away for months etc.
- Other common symptoms includeUnusual bleeding or discharge of bodily fluids
- Thickening or an evidence of lump found in breasts, testicles or other parts of the body
- Persistent headaches
- Sudden loss of weight or appetite
- Persistent fatigue, vomiting or nausea
- Persistent low fever
Crowdfunding for cancer treatments
Cancer treatment in India is quite expensive. A bone marrow transplant can cost up to Rs. 20 - 30 lakhs. Online crowdfunding is a blessing for cancer patients, as it lets them raise funds quickly and effectively compared to other alternatives like loans and medical insurances.
Read this blog to know why crowdfunding is a better option than loans and insurances!
To raise funds successfully through crowdfunding in India, it is crucial that you select the suitable crowdfunding platform in India. Impact Guru is the leading crowdfunding platform in India for medical fundraisers. You can raise funds for your medical treatments here.
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