World Cancer Day – Cancer Awareness and Risk Factors
Cancer is the world's second leading cause of death and the fact that most cancer-related deaths could have been avoided due to modifiable risk factors underscores the importance of raising cancer awareness. With over 350,000 cancer cases diagnosed each year, it has become a primary responsibility of healthcare providers to raise cancer awareness. When ethical and practical responsibilities are combined, the impact of raising awareness and spreading the word about this fatal illness becomes critical to protecting the well-being of those around us.
Every year on February 4, the world commemorates World Cancer Day. It is thought to have united everyone in the fight against cancer. Every year, World Cancer Day aims to save millions of lives by educating the public, raising awareness, and supporting cancer research that could one day find a sustainable cure to rid the world of this disease.
What is Cancer?
Cancer refers to a group of diseases characterised by the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells with the ability to invade and damage healthy bodily tissue while dividing uncontrollably. Cancer has a high propensity to spread throughout your body. Survival rates for many cancer types are increasing, thanks to advances in cancer screening, therapy, and prevention.
Types of Cancer
Cancer can be classified based on the type of cell that it originates in, making it easier to identify. Our bodies contain billions of cells, each with a micro-structure visible only under a microscope. The accumulation of these cells is responsible for the formation of tissues and organs within our bodies. However, because each organ functions differently, the cells have different structures. These are the five major types of cancer.
Carcinoma – This is a type of cancer that begins in the skin or in the tissue that covers the internal organs.
Sarcoma – This type of cancer begins in the supportive or connective tissue that is commonly found in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, or blood vessels.
Leukemia – This type of cancer originates in the white blood cells. It forms in the tissues that create blood cells such as the bone marrow.
Lymphoma & Myeloma – These types of cancers begin in the cells that are found in the immune system.
Brain and Spinal Cord Cancers – These types of cancers attack the central nervous system.
Symptoms of Cancer
Cancer screenings can detect it before symptoms appear. Paying close attention to changes in your body can help you detect early warning signs as well. If you notice anything new or different that lasts several weeks - and this is critical - contact your health care provider. Not every symptom associated with cancer is cancer. However, here are some symptoms that should prompt you to contact your doctor.
Abnormal Periods - Most women have irregular periods or cramps on occasion. However, persistent pain or changes in your cycle may indicate cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer.
Changes in Bowel Movement - Significant changes in bodily functions, among other cancers, can indicate colon, prostate, or bladder cancer. Constipation or diarrhoea that persists; black or red blood in your stool; black, tarry stools; more frequent urination; and blood in your urine are all warning signs.
Bloating - Every now and then, we all feel bloated. Bloating for more than two weeks, on the other hand, can be a sign of ovarian cancer, as well as other gastrointestinal cancers.
Changes in the Breast Area - These symptoms include a new lump, dimpling, discoloration, changes around the nipple, or unusual discharge. Although women are more likely to develop breast cancer, men can also be affected.
Chronic Cough - A cough that lasts more than two weeks, especially if it is dry, can be an indication of lung cancer.
Chronic Headache - A brain tumour can cause a headache that lasts more than two weeks and does not respond to standard medications.
Difficulty in Swallowing - If you have trouble swallowing or feel like food is getting stuck in your throat for more than two weeks, this could be a sign of throat, lung, or stomach cancer.
Heavy Bruising - A shin bruise from slamming into the coffee table is normal. However, a sudden increase in bruises in unusual places that haven't been bumped can indicate a variety of blood cancers.
Frequent Infections - Spiking a fever or moving from one infection to the next can indicate an immune system that has been compromised by lymphoma or leukaemia.
Changes in the Skin - A change in the appearance of a mole or birthmark should be evaluated by a health care provider in person or via video consultation.
Unexplained or Sudden Weight Loss - Weight changes. However, losing weight when you aren't trying or losing your appetite can indicate a variety of cancers, particularly those that have spread.
Lumps - Any new lump or mass that persists should be evaluated. Lymph nodes commonly swell when you have a cold, but if the swelling persists after you've recovered, you should see your doctor.
Cancer Risk Factors
Most of the cancers found in adults are usually associated with repetitive exposure and risk factors. The common risk factors that could contribute to the formation of cancer cells are listed below.
Lifestyle Factors – Smoking, consistent consumption of a high-fat diet, and working with toxic or hazardous chemicals are a few examples of lifestyle choices that may convert into risk factors and cause cancer in adults.
Family History – Genetics usually plays a significant role in the formation of childhood cancers. Some genetic disorders such as Wiskott-Aldrich and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome are known to alter the functioning of the immune system.
Exposure to Viruses - Epstein-Barr virus and HIV are the types of viruses that could alter the structure of the cells. These altered cells reproduce altered cells and eventually become cancer cells that multiply to form more cancer cells.
Environmental Exposure – Constant exposure to pesticides, fertilizers, and various other chemical or toxic substances could lead to the formation of cancer.
With the rising prevalence of cancer in India, awareness levels and attitudes toward cancer screening are expected to shift. Cancer awareness and screening procedures will aid in early diagnosis, subsequent treatment, and a better outcome. With the introduction of advanced screening services in the country, there is a need to create enhanced cancer awareness and help those in the beginning stages of cancer to get effective treatment as early as possible. Let’s join hands and educate those around us to break free from the chains of this disease. Early detection of symptoms can always help in the prevention of harmful diseases and help you lead a long and healthy life.