What is Cancer

What is Cancer?

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. (Cancer Treatment Center of America)

Cells are the basic units that make up the human body. Cells grow and divide to make new cells as the body needs them. Usually, cells die when they get too old or damaged. Then, new cells take their place. Cancer begins when genetic changes interfere with this orderly process. Cells start to grow uncontrollably. These cells may form a mass called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor can grow but will not spread.

Some types of cancer do not form a tumor. These include leukemias, most types of lymphoma, and myeloma.

Types of Cancer you should be aware of.

*Breast Cancer*

A cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts.

Breast cancer can occur in women and rarely in men.

*Prostate cancer*

A cancer in a man’s prostate, a small walnut-sized gland that produces seminal fluid.


The most serious type of skin cancer.

Melanoma occurs when the pigment-producing cells that give colour to the skin become cancerous.

*Colorectal cancer*

A cancer of the colon or rectum, located at the digestive tract’s lower end.

Early cases can begin as non-cancerous polyps. These often have no symptoms but can be detected by screening. For this reason, doctors recommend screenings for those at high risk or over the age of 50.

*Lung cancer*

A cancer that begins in the lungs and most often occurs in people who smoke.

Two major types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Causes of lung cancer include smoking, second-hand smoke, exposure to certain toxins and family history.

Common Risk Factors for Cancer

It is usually not possible to know exactly why one person develops cancer and another doesn’t. But research has shown that certain risk factors may increase a person’s chances of developing cancer. (There are also factors that are linked to a lower risk of cancer. These are sometimes called protective risk factors, or just protective factors.)

*Cancer risk factors* include exposure to chemicals or other substances, as well as certain behaviors. They also include things people cannot control, like age and family history. A family history of certain cancers can be a sign of a possible inherited cancer syndrome.

Most cancer risk (and protective) factors are initially identified in epidemiology studies. In these studies, scientists look at large groups of people and compare those who develop cancer with those who don’t. These studies may show that the people who develop cancer are more or less likely to behave in certain ways or to be exposed to certain substances than those who do not develop cancer.

Such studies, on their own, cannot prove that a behavior or substance causes cancer. For example, the finding could be a result of chance, or the true risk factor could be something other than the suspected risk factor. But findings of this type sometimes get attention in the media, and this can lead to wrong ideas about how cancer starts and spreads.

When many studies all point to a similar association between a potential risk factor and an increased risk of cancer, and when a possible mechanism exists that could explain how the risk factor could actually cause cancer, scientists can be more confident about the relationship between the two.

The following, however, are known risk for cancer.

  1. Aging
  2. Sun Exposure
  3. Smoking.
  4. Lack of physical exercise
  5. Family hstory
  6. Poor diet.

Known Facts about Cancer

*Fact 1*: About 16% of people die from cancer

In 2015, 8.8 million people died from cancer – nearly 1 in 6 global deaths

*Fact 2*: Cancer affects everyone

About 70% of all deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.

*Fact 3:* Top 5 types of cancer killing men

Worldwide, in 2018, the 5 most common types of cancer that kill men are (in order of frequency): lung, liver, stomach, colorectal and prostate cancers.

*Fact 4:* Top 5 types of cancer killing women

Worldwide, in 2018, the 5 most common types of cancer that kill women are (in the order of frequency): breast, lung, colorectal, cervical and stomach cancers.

*Fact 5*: Not using tobacco can help prevent cancer

Between 30-50% of cancers are preventable. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world, and is responsible for approximately 22% of all cancer-related deaths.

*Fact 6*: Vaccination against cancer-causing infections

In 2012, cancer-causing infections were responsible for up to 25% of newly diagnosed cancer cases in low- and middle-income countries. Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer, and hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes liver cancer. Vaccination against these two viruses could prevent 1.1 million cancer cases each year.

*Fact 7:* Access to cancer treatment in low-income countries is low

In 2017, less than 30% of low-income countries reported treatment services were generally available, compared to more than 90% of high-income countries.

*Fact 8*: Cancer creates significant burden on global economy

The economic impact of cancer is significant and is increasing. The total annual economic cost of cancer in 2010 was estimated at approximately US$ 1.16 trillion.

*Fact 9*: Palliative care

Worldwide, only about 14% of people who need palliative care currently receive it.

*Fact 10*: Lack of data disables cancer policies

Only one in five low- and middle-income countries have the necessary data to drive cancer policy.

Common Warning signs of Cancer

*1. Abnormal periods or pelvic pain*

Abnormal periods are not uncommon. Your period can be impacted by many factors such as pregnancy, menopause, obesity, thyroid conditions, endometriosis, benign ovarian cysts, or even stress. However, when you begin to have sudden, significant changes in your cycle, it is time to see a doctor. Changes such as having significantly heavier periods month after month should be looked into. Pelvic pain and irregular bleeding can be a sign of cervical, ovarian, or other gynecological cancers

Bloating after eating a heavy meal or during your cycle? That’s normal. Bloating every day with no known cause? Not so much.

*2. Bloating*

Bloating, or consistently feeling constipated, can be a sign of ovarian or uterine cancer.

*3. Blood in the stool*

Seeing blood in your stool can be scary. However, many people are quick to blame hemorrhoids or constipation.

Blood in the stool could signal serious problems such as colon cancer, which is becoming increasingly common in people under the age of 50.

*4. Breast dimpling, discoloration, or other changes*

Women are very aware that lumps and bumps in the breast can be a sign of breast cancer. However, breast dimpling is a lesser-known symptom that should be taken seriously.

Other breast cancer symptoms include swelling, tenderness, skin discoloration, and even nipple inversion.

*5. Chronic coughing*

Everyone gets sick from time to time. But if you develop a cough that lasts two weeks or more and do not have any other typical cold symptoms, it may be a sign of lung cancer or leukemia. Coughing up blood is also a red flag that something needs immediate attention.

*6. Difficulty swallowing*

Difficulty swallowing can be caused by a simple sore throat, but if it persistent it may be a sign of throat, stomach, or lung cancer. For Leah and Andy, difficulty swallowing was caused by thyroid cancer.

*7. Excessive bruising*

You’re clumsy, it’s probably not too much of a surprise, or concern, if you find a few random bruises here or there. But if you start to notice bruises popping up all the time, especially in bizarre places such as your hands or fingers, it could be something serious.

Excessive bruising can be a sign of anemia, or more seriously, leukemia.

*8. Unexplained weight loss*

Weight loss is often overlooked by women because they see it as a good change, not a concerning one. Both sexes are more likely to see a doctor for weight gain than they are for weight loss.

However, weight loss, as well as sudden or unusual changes in appetite, can be a symptom of cancer. Esophageal, pancreatic, liver, and colon cancer can all cause weight loss, as well as leukemia or lymphoma.

*Be enlightened. Take necessary precaution. Early detection and screening is known to save lives*

Sobering Statistics on Cancer

*Global cancer burden on both sexes*

Lung and breast cancers were the most common cancers worldwide, each contributing 12.3% of the total number of new cases diagnosed in 2018.Colorectal cancer was the third most common cancer with 1.8 million new cases in 2018.There were an estimated 18 million cancer cases around the world in 2018, of these 9.5 million cases were in men and 8.5 million in women

*Global cancer burden in men*

  • Lung cancer was the most common cancer in men worldwide, contributing 15.5% of the total number of new cases diagnosed in 2018.
  • The top three – lung, prostate and colorectal cancers – contributed 44.4% of all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).
  • Other common cancers contributing more than 5% were stomach and liver.

*Global cancer burden in women*

  • Breast cancer was the most common cancer in women worldwide, contributing 25.4% of the total number of new cases diagnosed in 2018.
  • The top three – breast, colorectal and lung cancers – contributed 43.9% of all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).
  • Cervical cancer was the fourth most common cancer in women, contributing 6.9% of the total number of new cases diagnosed in 2018.
  • In Kenya, cancer is now the third leading cause of death and the second leading among Non Communicable Diseases accounting for 7% of overall mortality rate.

How do I prevent Cancer

*1. Avoid tobacco in all its forms*, including exposure to secondhand smoke.You don’t have to be an international scientist to understand how you can try to protect yourself and your family. The 10 commandments of cancer prevention are:

*2. Eat properly*. Reduce your consumption of saturated fat and red meat, which may increase the risk of colon cancer and a more aggressive form of prostate cancer. Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

*3. Exercise regularly* Physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer. Exercise also appears to reduce a woman’s risk of breast and possibly reproductive cancers. Exercise will help protect you even if you don’t lose weight.

*4. Stay lean*. Obesity increases the risk of many forms of cancer. Calories count; if you need to slim down, take in fewer calories and burn more with exercise.

*5. If you choose to drink*, limit yourself to an average of one drink a day. Excess alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, larynx (voice box), esophagus (food pipe), liver, and colon; it also increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Smoking further increases the risk of many alcohol-induced malignancies.

*6. Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation*. Get medical imaging studies only when you need them. Check your home for residential radon, which increases the risk of lung cancer. Protect yourself from ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, which increases the risk of melanomas and other skin cancers. But don’t worry about electromagnetic radiation from high-voltage power lines or radiofrequency radiation from microwaves and cell phones. They do not cause cancer.

*7. Avoid exposure to industrial and environmental toxins* such as asbestos fibers, benzene, aromatic amines, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

*8. Avoid infections that contribute* to cancer, including hepatitis viruses, HIV, and the human papillomavirus. Many are transmitted sexually or through contaminated needles.

*9. Make quality sleep a priority*. Admittedly, the evidence linking sleep to cancer is not strong. But poor and insufficient sleep increases is associated with weight gain, which is a cancer risk factor.

*10. Get enough vitamin* D. Many experts now recommend 800 to 1,000 IU a day, a goal that’s nearly impossible to attain without taking a supplement. Although protection is far from proven, evidence suggests that vitamin D may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer, and other malignancies. But don’t count on other supplements.

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