Cancer is a group of diseases that occur when abnormal cells in the body grow and divide uncontrollably, potentially spreading to other parts of the body. There are many different types of cancer, but they all start with the same basic process: the uncontrolled growth and division of abnormal cells that form a tumor.
Cancer can occur in any part of the body, and its symptoms and treatment options vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer. Some common types of cancer include breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.
There are many risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing cancer, including genetics, age, lifestyle factors such as smoking and diet, and exposure to certain chemicals and toxins.
Common early symptoms of cancer
The symptoms of cancer can vary depending on the type of cancer and its stage. In the early stages of cancer, there may not be any noticeable symptoms. However, as the cancer grows and spreads, it may cause a variety of symptoms. Here are some common early symptoms of cancer:
- Fatigue: Feeling tired or exhausted for no apparent reason may be an early symptom of cancer.
- Unexplained weight loss: Losing weight without trying or experiencing a loss of appetite may be a sign of cancer.
- Pain: Persistent pain or discomfort, especially in the abdomen or chest, may be a symptom of cancer.
Skin changes: Changes to the skin, such as new moles, or changes in the appearance of existing moles, may be a sign of skin cancer.
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits: Changes in bowel movements, such as diarrhea or constipation, or changes in bladder function, such as urinary urgency or frequency, may be a sign of cancer.
- Unusual bleeding: Unusual bleeding or discharge from the vagina, rectum, or other areas of the body may be a symptom of cancer.
- Difficulty swallowing: Difficulty swallowing or a feeling of something being stuck in the throat may be a symptom of esophageal or throat cancer.
It is important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer, and having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if they persist or worsen over time, it is important to talk to your doctor to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.
How does cancer cells develop?
Cancer cells develop when normal cells in the body acquire genetic mutations or changes that cause them to grow and divide uncontrollably. These genetic mutations can occur due to a variety of factors, including environmental exposures, lifestyle factors, and inherited genetic mutations.
Normally, cells in the body grow and divide in an orderly manner, with old or damaged cells being replaced by new cells. However, when a cell’s genetic material becomes damaged or mutated, the cell may start to grow and divide uncontrollably, forming a mass of abnormal cells called a tumor.
There are two main types of tumors: benign and malignant. Benign tumors are not cancerous and do not spread to other parts of the body. They may grow larger over time and cause symptoms, but they are generally not life-threatening. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis.
Cancer cells can develop in any tissue or organ in the body, and the specific mutations that cause cancer can vary depending on the type of cancer. Some cancers may be caused by a single genetic mutation, while others may be the result of multiple mutations that occur over time.
Ultimately, the development of cancer is a complex process that involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and researchers are still working to understand the underlying causes of different types of cancer.
Lifestyle choices that may increase cancer risk:
Several lifestyle factors have been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Tobacco use: Smoking and other forms of tobacco use are major risk factors for many types of cancer, including lung, throat, bladder, and pancreatic cancer.
- Alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including breast, liver, and colorectal cancer.
- Poor diet: A diet that is high in processed or red meats, saturated fats, and sugar has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, and pancreatic cancer.
- Lack of physical activity: Physical inactivity has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and lung cancer.
- Exposure to environmental toxins: Exposure to certain chemicals and toxins in the environment, such as asbestos and benzene, can increase the risk of developing cancer.
- UV radiation: Exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
- Infections: Some types of infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B and C, can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including cervical, liver, and stomach cancer.
While these lifestyle factors can increase the risk of developing cancer, it is important to remember that not all cancers can be prevented, and some people may develop cancer despite following a healthy lifestyle. However, making healthy lifestyle choices can help to reduce your overall risk of developing cancer and improve your overall health.
Cancer is diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and various diagnostic tests. Here are some common methods used to diagnose cancer:
- Medical history and physical examination: A doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical examination to check for signs of cancer.
- Blood tests: Blood tests may be used to look for certain markers that can indicate the presence of cancer.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans, can provide detailed images of the inside of the body and help to identify tumors or other abnormalities.
- Biopsy: A biopsy involves removing a small sample of tissue from the suspected cancerous area and examining it under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present.
- Endoscopy: An endoscopy involves using a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end to look inside the body and examine the organs and tissues for signs of cancer.
- Genetic testing: Genetic testing can be used to look for inherited genetic mutations that increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
The specific diagnostic tests used will depend on the type of cancer and its location in the body. Once cancer has been diagnosed, further tests may be needed to determine the stage and extent of the cancer, which can help to guide treatment decisions. It is important to work closely with your healthcare team to ensure that you receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Stages of cancer
Cancer staging is a way of describing the extent and spread of cancer in the body. The stage of cancer is determined by a combination of factors, including the size and location of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs, and the presence of any distant metastases. The stage of cancer is important because it can help to guide treatment decisions and provide information about prognosis. Here are the different stages of cancer:
Stage 0: This is the earliest stage of cancer, when abnormal cells are present but have not yet spread to nearby tissues.
Stage I: Cancer is present in a localized area and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs.
Stage II: Cancer may have grown larger and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes, but has not yet spread to distant organs.
Stage III: Cancer has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes and may be affecting nearby organs.
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to distant organs or tissues, such as the lungs, liver, or bones. In addition to the above stages, some cancers are also classified as recurrent or metastatic, which means that they have come back after treatment or have spread to other parts of the body.
It is important to remember that the staging of cancer can vary depending on the type of cancer and other individual factors, and that each person’s cancer journey is unique. Your healthcare team can provide more information about the specific stage of your cancer and how it may impact your treatment and prognosis.
There are several different types of cancer treatments, and the type or combination of treatments used will depend on the type and stage of cancer, as well as other individual factors.
Here are some common cancer treatments:
- Surgery: Surgery involves removing the cancerous tumor or tissue from the body. Depending on the location and stage of the cancer, surgery may be curative or used in combination with other treatments.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It may be used alone or in combination with other treatments.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy works by helping the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances to specifically target cancer cells, while minimizing damage to healthy cells.
- Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy is used to treat cancers that are hormone- sensitive, such as breast and prostate cancer. It works by blocking or suppressing the hormones that promote cancer growth.
- Stem cell transplant: Stem cell transplant involves replacing the patient’s bone marrow with healthy stem cells, which can help to rebuild the immune system after high-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
The specific type and combination of treatments used will depend on the individual case and may be adjusted as needed throughout the course of treatment. It is important to work closely with your healthcare team to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs and preferences.
The Asian Cancer Institute (ACI) is a specialized cancer treatment and research center located in the Philippines. It is a comprehensive cancer facility that offers a range of services to diagnose, treat, and manage cancer. At ACI, our patients can expect to receive expert and dedicated services such as:
- Cancer treatment: The ACI provides a range of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. It also offers advanced therapies such as immunotherapy and targeted therapy.
- Cancer screening and diagnosis: The ACI offers a range of cancer screening and diagnostic services to detect cancer in its early stages. These include mammography, colonoscopy, and other imaging tests.
- Support services: The ACI offers a range of support services to help patients and their families cope with the challenges of cancer. These services include counseling, nutrition counseling, and support groups.
- Clinical trials: The ACI conducts clinical trials to evaluate new cancer treatments and therapies. It also participates in international research collaborations to advance cancer treatment.
- Cancer education: The ACI provides cancer education programs and resources to help individuals and communities understand cancer and promote cancer prevention.
Overall, the Asian Cancer Institute is one of the leading cancer treatment and research center in the Philippines. Its comprehensive approach to cancer care and its focus on research and education make it an important resource for individuals and families affected by cancer. Know more about Asian Cancer Institute by calling us at (02) 8771 9000 local 8246 or 8105.
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