What is Cancer
Cancer is one of the most misunderstood diseases leading to a lot of fear and misconceptions. This starts with damage to the DNA or genes of a cell.Normally a damaged cell is either repaired or killed. However, when a damaged cell manages to survive due to defect in the mechanism that kills the cell cancer starts. cancer cells keep on growing and start spreading in the body. The body is unable to function normally.
Cancer cells move away from their origin (metastasis) to other parts of the body. It is when the reach the lymph nodes and other organs, normal functioning of the body is disturbed.
Cancer is treatable and people have been living normal lives even after their cancer treatment. There are many types of cancer; they are named after the body part or tissue where they first began. So, if the cancer begins from the stomach and spreads to other parts of the body, it will identified as stomach cancer.
Each type of cancer has similarities as well as different features. Some cancers spread fast, some spread slowly, some cancers do not spread at all. Hence, cancer has different properties and hence its treatment differs from one individual to another.
Cancer and its stages
First of all, the doctor has to determine all the details related to cancer, how much it has spread, from where it started. To simplify matters, cancer is divided into 4 stages. Cancer stage 1 and 2 means the cancer has not spread (early stages of cancer) much while cancer stage 3 generally means that the lymph nodes are involved and stage 4 mean cancer has spread to far away parts of the body. Stage 4 is known as the last stage of cancer.
Once the stage of cancer is known, the doctor can suggest the most suitable line of treatment. Your doctor will be in better position to explain how to recover from cancer.
Treatment of Cancer
Surgery, medicines and radiation used to treat cancer. At times, doctor will suggest a combination of any two or all three types of treatment to treat cancer. But this decision depends mainly upon the cancer, its type and at which stage it is.
The doctor will recommend surgery to remove the affected body part – either a part of it or all of it. If the cancer has spread to other areas, they too, may have to be removed. Along with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy may be required to make the patient cancer-free.
Radiation treatment is similar to getting an x-ray done. Radiation helps to kill the cancer cells or slow down the growth of the cancer cells. At times, there is a radioactive ‘seed’ placed inside the cancer to emit radiation.
Medicines are prescribed to treat cancer. Each cancer medicine works differently and is given in combination to either kill cancer cells or restrict their pace of growth. Medicines can be given into a vein through injection or in pills or tablets which have to be swallowed. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy use medicines to treat cancer.
Hence, a combination of surgery or chemotherapy or radiation is decided upon to ensure the patient recovers from cancer for the best results.
Tumor is often associated with cancer. Tumor is another word for growth or lump within the body. Lumps or tumors could be cancerous or could not be cancerous. Non-cancerous lumps are known as benign while those with cancer are known as malignant. Benign or non-cancerous tumors do not spread to other parts of the body while malignant tumors do spread to other parts of the body.
Causes of Cancer
There is no specific cause of cancer. Cancer can happen due to many causes. Some causes are exposure to cancer causing elements in the environment, lifestyle habits, genetic factors, stress and so on.
The best treatment for cancer
Broadly cancer treatment is divided into curative or palliative. Curative, as the word speaks, is intended to cure the cancer. Palliative is to reduce the symptoms of cancer and does not cure the cancer.
Each individual has to be treated differently for cancer. The type of cancer, its spread, the medical condition of the individual are some of the key factors that determine the treatment approach. The treating medical team will take into consideration these factors along with the medicine guidelines before suggesting the final approach to treating cancer.
As a cancer patient, you can ask questions relating to cancer, treatment, side-effects and what to expect at every stage of treatment and how to handle side-effects that are likely to follow every treatment cycle.