Cancer refers to a compound group of diseases with many possible causes. Cancer often has the ability to spread throughout your body and infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. It is one of the leading causes of death in the world, however, recent years have seen improvement in survival rates for many types of cancer, thanks to improvements in cancer screening, treatment and prevention.
With more than 200 different types of cancers in existence, signs and symptoms caused by the disease vary depending on what part of the body is affected. Some general signs and symptoms associated with, but not specific to, cancer, include:
- Lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin
- Changes in weight – unintended loss or gain
- Changes in skin including yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin, or changes to existing moles
- Changes noticed in bowel or bladder habits
- Long existing cough or breathing troubles
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Regular indigestion or discomfort after eating
- Consistent unexplained muscle or joint pain
- Regular unexplained fevers or night sweats
- Bleeding or bruising without any reason
Cancer is the result of a normal body cell that may end up growing abnormally. Many things may cause abnormalities in cell and have been linked to cancer development. While the causes of some cancers remain unknown, other cancers have environmental or lifestyle triggers or may develop from more than one known cause. Some other cancers may be influenced by a person’s genetic makeup. A combination of these factors may be responsible for the development of cancer in many patients.
Although it is often difficult or impossible to figure out the exact cause of cancer in a specific person, research has provided clinicians with a number of likely causes that alone or with other causes may be responsible for initiating cancer. The following are some of the major causes, however, it is not all-inclusive as specific causes are
Exposure to chemical or toxic compound: Benzene, asbestos, or cigarette smoke (contains at least 66 known potential carcinogenic chemicals and toxins), and aflatoxin etc.
Ionizing radiation: Uranium, radon, ultraviolet rays from sunlight, radiation from alpha, beta, gamma, and X-ray-emitting sources.
Pathogens: Human papillomavirus (HPV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), hepatitis viruses B and C to name a few as other bacteria are being researched as possible agents.
Genetics: A number of specific cancers have been linked to human genes which include breast, ovarian, colorectal, prostate, skin, and melanoma.
Emotional state and cancer
At any stage, after you are diagnosed with cancer, you may experience a wide range of emotions such as disbelief, fear, sadness, anxiety and anger. These feelings can be categorized as type of grief – cancer often involves multiple losses, such as the loss of good health, changes to your appearance, disruption of your normal activities, changed financial plans, a loss of independence, changed relationships, and a shift in the way you see yourself. It takes time and great deal of effort to adjust to these changes.
The word cancer turns your world upside down and can bring up a wide range of feelings you’re not used to dealing with. In addition, it can make existing feelings seem more intense and your response to it may change daily, hourly or even minute to minute. This remains true irrespective of whether you are currently undergoing treatment, done with treatment, or a friend or family member. These feelings are all normal under such circumstances.
While cancer affects different people differently, the way we accept the situation and cope with it also differs and is often influenced by the values imbibed in us in our growing years. For example, some of us may feel the need to be strong and protect family and friends, others may seek support and turn to loved ones or other cancer survivors. There are others who may ask for help from counselors or other professionals, while still others may turn to their faith to help them cope.