Cancer

Cancer

This article is written to help you understand more about cancer. It is not the same as getting advice from your doctor.

If you have signs of cancer, you should talk to your doctor immediately – now!

The World Health Organization lists 7 warning signs of cancer. Please refer to the table below.

Warning Signs What to Look For
Unusual bleeding/discharge
  • Blood in urine or stools
  • Discharge from any parts of your body, ex. nipples, penis, etc.
A sore which does not heal

Sores that:

  • Don’t seem to be getting better over time
  • Are getting bigger
  • Getting more painful
  • Are  starting to bleed
Change in bowel or bladder habits
  • Changes in the color, consistency, size, or shape of stools (diarrhea or constipated).
  • Blood present in urine or stool
Lump in breast or other part of the body
  • Any lump found in the breast when doing a self-exam.
  • Any lump in the scrotum when doing a self-exam.
  • Other lumps found on the body.
Nagging cough
  • Change in voice/hoarseness
  • Cough that does not go away
  • Sputum with blood
Obvious change in moles or warts

Use the ABCD Rule

  • Asymmetry: Does the mole look the same in all parts or are there differences?
  • Border: Are the borders sharp or ragged?
  • Color: What are the colors seen in the mole?
  • Diameter: Is the mole bigger than a pencil eraser (6mm)?
Difficulty in swallowing
  • Feeling of pressure in throat or chest which makes swallowing uncomfortable
  • Feeling full without food or with a small amount of food

Sometimes these signs are caused by other illnesses but it is important you go see your doctor to have them checked.

What is Cancer?

Your body is composed of trillions of cells. A cell is the smallest structural and functional unit of your body. Together, they provide structure for the body, digest and utilize nutrients from food, process those nutrients into energy, and perform specific functions.

Cell division (cell re-creation) is going on right now in your body. It is essential for three major functions:

  1. Growth
  2. Development
  3. Repair and maintenance

By way of cell division, a single cell becomes two cells. Those two cells divide into four, and the four cells divide into eight, and so on.

Cell division is a controlled or regulated biological process. When this process goes out of control, cells rapidly divide. This group of abnormal, rapidly dividing cells turn into a lump called a tumor. See figure below.

Cancer Cells

There are two types of tumors:

  • Benign
  • Malignant (cancerous)

A benign tumor is an abnormal growth that does not invade nearby tissue (a group of the same cells) or spread to other parts of the body the way a malignant tumor can - they only grow in one place.

Most of the time, benign tumors have a very good outlook. However, if it presses on vital structures, like a blood vessel or a nerve, it can produce a serious condition.

Malignant or cancerous cells divide rapidly and can easily invade other tissues by growing into them. They can also use the blood stream or the lymphatic system as transportation to invade or spread (metastasize) to other distant tissues. Metastasis is the development of secondary malignant growths away from the main site of cancer.