What is Cancer?

Cancer is the abnormal division of cells which grow out of control. These extra cells form a mass or lump called tumor or growth. Cancer can start any place in the body. Many cancers form solid lumps, which are masses of tissue. Cancers of the blood, such as leukemias, generally do not form solid tumors.
Cancer is not just one disease, they are alike in some ways, but they are different in the ways they grow and spread. Some cancers grow and spread fast, others grow more slowly. They also respond to treatment in different ways, some types of cancer are best treated with surgery; others respond better to chemotherapy

Is a benign tumor cancer?

Benign tumors are a tumor that’s not cancer, they are localized and do not spread into, or invade nearby tissues. They can often be removed and in most cases do not come back. Unlike most benign tumors elsewhere in the body, benign brain tumors can be life threatening.

What is a malignant tumor?

Malignant tumors are cancer. The cells in these tumors are abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade nearby tissues and organs. The cells can break away and spread to the rest of the body by entering the bloodstream or lymphatic system (metastasis).

What stage is the cancer?

The doctor also needs to know if and how far the cancer has spread from where it started. This is called the cancer stage, knowing the stage of the cancer helps the doctor decide what type of treatment is best. As a rule, a lower stage (such as a stage 1 or 2) means that the cancer has not spread very much. A higher number (such as a stage 3 or 4) means it has spread more. Stage 4 is the highest stage.

What gives you cancer?

There are a few things that give you a greater risk of developing cancer, but it doesn’t mean that you will get cancer, The common risk factors for cancer:

  • Age
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Diet high in animal fat.
  • Ultraviolet radiation and Ionizing radiation
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Some chemicals and other substances (e.g., asbestos).
  • Hormone replacement therapy.
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES).
  • Close relatives with certain types of cancer.
  • Infectious Agents
  • Immunosuppression
  • Obesity

How do you screen for cancer?

Each type of cancer has specific screening tests

Breast cancerHave a mammogram every 1-2 years
Cancer of CervixPAP smear
Colon/ Rectal CancerFecal occult blood / Colonoscopy/ Barium / Enema /
Digital Rectal Exam
Prostate CancerPSA blood test

How do I know when I have to go and see a doctor?

The following are warning symptoms but not necessarily symptoms of cancer. Early cancer doesn’t cause pain.

  • Thickening or lump in the breast or any part of the body.
  • Obvious change in a wart or mole.
  • A sore/ injury that does not heal.
  • Nagging cough/hoarseness of voice.
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits.
  • Indigestion/difficulty in swallowing.
  • Unexplained changes in weight.
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge from any body orifice.
  • A severe headache especially if associated with nausea and vomiting and blurring of vision.

What treatment is best for me?

Your cancer treatment will depend on what’s best for you. Some cancers respond better to surgery; others respond better to chemo or radiation. Knowing the type of cancer you have is the first step toward knowing which treatments will work best for you.

The stage of your cancer will also help the doctor decide on the best treatment for you. A stage 3 or 4 cancer is likely to respond better to treatments that treat the whole body, like chemotherapy. Not all types of treatment will work for your cancer, so ask what options you have. And treatments do have side effects, so ask about what to expect with each treatment.