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Cancer

 People fear the word cancer. Many think that cancer is an automatic death sentence, but the truth is that many cancers can be successfully treated. Learning and understanding all about cancer will take away the fear of the disease.

What is Cancer?

When cells in the body begin to grow out of control and become malignant, it can result in diseases that are called cancer. There are more than 100 types of cancers, but they all start the same way with abnormal cells. When cancer is left untreated or ignored, it will result in death.

There are millions of cells in the body. They grow and divide and then die. If they start to grow uncontrollably the cells become abnormal cells. These cells will grow and form new cells that are also abnormal. These cancerous cells can affect other tissues in the body in a way that normal cells do not. This is why the cells are called cancerous cells; they are abnormal and damage the body's DNA.

DNA directs cell actions. If DNA gets damaged it either repairs itself or dies. DNA in cancerous cells does neither. DNA cells replicate themselves and all of the abnormalities. This cell abnormality is generally precipitated by something in the surrounding environment, such as working around harmful chemicals or smoking. But, there are times when no specific reasons for the cell to become damaged can be found.

There are millions of people who are living with cancer, or who have had cancer. Statistics show that approximately one-half of all men will develop cancer in their lifetime. The statistics are better for women, as only one-third of women will develop some form of cancer. Living a healthy lifestyle, eating a nutritionally sound diet, getting proper exercise, and not engaging in destructive behaviors such as smoking will help reduce the risk of getting cancer.

Types of Cancer

Cancer will form in a cell in the body. Cancerous cells can spread to other parts of the body where they metastasize into new cancerous tissue. Cancer will metastasize when it enters the bloodstream or lymph vessels. Regardless to where the cancer spreads, it is named for where it started. Lung cancer can spread to the stomach but will still be referred to as lung cancer. Most cancers operate differently in the body. They will grow differently, so have to be treated differently. They also have different rates of cures and survivability.

Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer, followed by prostate and then breast cancer. Of all of the newly diagnosed cases of cancer annually, lung cancer also has the highest death rate. This is followed by colon and rectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society 2010 statistics. Pancreatic cancer has a lower rate of incidents, but a relatively high rate of death. This cancer is difficult to diagnose until it has already reached an often incurable stage.

Symptoms and Cancer

It is difficult to pinpoint any one sign or symptom of cancer because it depends on where the cancer is located, how big it is, or whether or not it has spread. A metastasized cancer can present itself with symptoms in different locations of the body. If the cancer is growing it can push against other organs in the body. Sometimes this will signal the body that something is amiss. Other cancer will show no warning signals until it has grown very large, as in the case of pancreatic cancer.

Some cancers can cause fatigue, unexplained weight loss, or fevers. A person should watch for any sudden and unexplained change in the body or the way they feel. Pain is often a signal of cancer. Tiredness is also a signal. Getting a cancer checkup is preventive medicine. Cancer is most curable when it is detected early, so fear should not be a reason not to get a symptom checked out. Women and men should perform breast checkups, as early detection of breast cancer generally has a good outcome.

Some other signals that should not be ignored for cancer are:

• Skin changes - skin can become darker, red and itchy, yellowish (jaundice), or suddenly have excessive hair growth
• Sores that do not heal
• White patches in mouth or on tongue
• Change and bowel or bladder habits
• Unusual bleeding or discharge
• Trouble swallowing, indigestion
• Cough or hoarseness that will not clear up
• Recent change in moles or warts

Treatment for cancer is much better when it is detected in the early stages. At that point it is less likely to have spread to other parts of the body, or metastasized.

Handling the Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer treatment is not one size fits all. The type of cancer is the main determinant, the cell type and location of the cancer, the extent of the cancer, and the person's health and ability to handle treatment modalities are all taken into consideration. The physician will collect information, look at lab tests and biopsy tests, perform a physical examination, and do other tests related to the symptoms of cancer presented by the patient. Then the physician will determine a course of treatment, and discuss that treatment with the patient, and often close family members.

Some chemotherapy drugs used to fight cancer are Taxol and Docetaxel. Chemotherapy drugs are powerful and are used to fight the cancers growing in the body. Depending on the type of cancer, different chemotherapy drugs will be recommended.

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