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Understanding the Basics of Cancer

Understanding the Basics of Cancer


The Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention’s publication sheds light on the magnitude of risk that Canadians face regarding cancer diseases. The data suggests that 2 in 5 citizens will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime!

It is, therefore, vital to equip oneself with the basic know-how of various types of cancers. Knowledge is an essential asset in striving for prevention or possibly an early detection of these diseases.


What is cancer?

Cancer refers to a group of diseases where the body’s normal cells transform into abnormal cells. They start dividing uncontrollably or do not die within the regular lifespan of the cell. Abnormality in cells occurs due to mutations (changes) in the DNA inside the cell. This DNA alters the growth and division instructions of the genes in the cells, causing them to become cancerous.

One may inherit genetic mutations from their parents, but this constitutes in only a handful of cases. Most mutations occur due to reasons ranging from aging (the older population is more susceptible to developing cancer), smoking, exposure to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substances or radiation, obesity in adults to viruses and other environmental factors.


How does it spread?

Cancer often spreads throughout the body, but the disease is named according to the first tissue or organ from where it starts. For example, if someone is diagnosed with Lung cancer which spreads to the liver, it is still called lung cancer. This is because the cancerous cells of the lungs are present in the liver.

The place where the cancerous cells originate is called the primary site. Cells break away from this site, travel through the bloodstream or lymph nodes and spread to other areas of the body, such as the brain, lungs and bones, called the secondary sites or metastases. They start growing there and form other tumours.


How many kinds are there?

There are more than a hundred types of cancers affecting almost every part of the body. In Canada, the most commonly diagnosed cancers include lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancers. According to Canadian Cancer Statistics 2021, these cancers would have had accounted for 46% of all diagnoses.


What are some general signs and symptoms of cancer?

There are numerous types of cancers, and many have specific signs and symptoms. (To read about particular cancers and their respective symptoms, click here). However, there are some general ones which we have stated for you to give you an idea to look out for certain conditions which can help in possible early detection:

  • Unexplained body pain
  • Sweating at night
  • A noticeable amount of weight loss
  • Fatigue for no apparent reason
  • Lumps and swelling that is persistent, especially in areas of the body such as the neck, groin, chest, armpit, stomach, breast or testicle

If you may have any of these signs and are doubtful about their causes, consult your doctor to get them checked for a more detailed and professional diagnosis.


Is cancer curable? 

Cancer does not have cures. Rather, it has treatments. There are several treatments available, and some of them include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.

  • Surgery: The primary goal of surgery is to completely remove the cancerous tissue at an early stage of disease when it has not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Chemotherapy uses drugs independently or in combinations to kill cancer cells. It can also be administered simultaneously with other forms of treatment, such as radiation therapy.
  • Radiation therapy directly destroys the DNA of the cancerous cells preventing them from growing and curbing their spreading to other areas of the body.

The type of treatment one receives is dependent upon factors such as the type of cancer they are diagnosed with and its stage, their age and personal preferences.

Getting diagnosed with cancer comes with its trials and tribulations. If you or your loved ones need personalized home health care assistance to aid you in this challenging time, you can reach out to Annie’s Place. Please do not hesitate to call us to discuss how we can help you.


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