World Cancer Day is marked on February 4 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. World Cancer Day wasfounded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to support the goals of the World Cancer Declaration, written in 2008. The primary goal of the World Cancer Day is to significantly reduce illness and death caused by cancer by 2020. (Link: http://www.worldcancerday.org)
Cancer, known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a broad group of diseasesinvolving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invading nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. Not all tumors are cancerous; benign tumors do not invade neighboring tissues and do not spread throughout the body. There are over 200 different known cancers that affect humans. The causes of cancer are diverse, complex, and only partially understood. Many things are known to increase the risk of cancer, including tobacco use, dietary factors, certain infections, exposure to radiation, lack of physical activity, obesity, and environmental pollutants. These factors can directly damage genes or combine with existing genetic faults within cells to cause cancerous mutations.
Approximately 5–10% of cancers can be traced directly to inherited genetic defects. Many cancers could be prevented by not smoking, eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains, eating less meat and refined carbohydrates, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, minimizing sunlight exposure, and being vaccinated against some infectious diseases.Cancer can be detected in a number of ways, including the presence of certain signs and symptoms, screening tests, or medical imaging. Once a possible cancer is detected it is diagnosed by microscopic examination of a tissue sample.
Cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. The chances of surviving the disease vary greatly by the type and location of the cancer and the extent of disease at the start of treatment. While cancer can affect people of all ages, and a few types of cancer are more common in children, the risk of developing cancer generally increases with age. In 2007, cancer caused about 13% of all human deaths worldwide (7.9 million). Rates are rising as more people live to an old age and as mass lifestyle changes occur in the developing world.
Local symptoms may occur due to the mass of the tumor or its ulceration. For example, mass effects from lung cancer can cause blockage of the bronchus resulting in cough or pneumonia; esophageal cancer can cause narrowing of the esophagus, making it difficult or painful to swallow; and colorectal cancer may lead to narrowing or blockages in the bowel, resulting in changes in bowel habits. Masses in breasts or testicles may be easily felt. Ulceration can cause bleeding which, if it occurs in the lung, will lead to coughing up blood, in the bowels to anemia or rectal bleeding, in the bladder to blood in the urine, and in the uterus to vaginal bleeding. Although localized pain may occur in advanced cancer, the initial swelling is usually painless. Some cancers can cause build up of fluid within the chest or abdomen.
General symptoms occur due to distant effects of the cancer that are not related to direct or metastatic spread. These may include: unintentional weight loss, fever, being excessively tired, and changes to the skin. Hodgkin disease, leukemias, and cancers of the liver or kidney can cause a persistent fever of unknown origin.
Symptoms of metastasis are due to the spread of cancer to other locations in the body. They can include enlarged lymph nodes (which can be felt or sometimes seen under the skin and are typically hard), hepatomegaly (enlarged liver) or splenomegaly (enlarged spleen) which can be felt in the abdomen, pain or fracture of affected bones, and neurological symptoms. Most cancer deaths are due to cancer that has spread from its primary site to other organs (metastasized). Cancers are primarily an environmental disease with 90–95% of cases attributed to environmental factors and 5–10% due to genetics. Common environmental factors that contribute to cancer death include tobacco (25–30%), diet and obesity (30–35%),infections (15–20%), radiation (both ionizing and non-ionizing, up to 10%), stress, lack of physical activity, and environmental pollutants. Diet, physical inactivity, and obesity are related to approximately 30–35% of cancer deaths.
It is nearly impossible to prove what caused a cancer in any individual, because most cancers have multiple possible causes. Physical inactivity is believed to contribute to cancer risk not only through its effect on body weight but also through negative effects on immune system and endocrine system. More than half of the effect from diet is due to over nutrition rather than from eating too little healthy foods. Diets that are low in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and high in processed or red meats are linked with a number of cancers. A high-salt diet is linked to gastric cancer, aflatoxin B1, a frequent food contaminate, with liver cancer, and Betel nut chewing with oral cancer. Immigrants develop the risk of their new country, often within one generation, suggesting a substantial link between diet and cancer.
Most cancers are initially recognized either because of the appearance of signs or symptoms or through screening.Neither of these lead to a definitive diagnosis, which requires the examination of a tissue sample by a pathologist. People with suspected cancer are investigated with medical tests. These commonly include blood tests, X-rays, CT scans and endoscopy. Cancer prevention is defined as active measures to decrease the risk of cancer. Greater than 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented by avoiding risk factors including: tobacco, overweight / obesity, an insufficient diet, physical inactivity, alcohol, sexually transmitted infections, and air pollution.
Chemotherapy in addition to surgery has proven useful in a number of different cancer types including: breast cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, osteogenic sarcoma, testicular cancer, ovarian cancer, and certain lung cancers. Radiation therapy involves the use of ionizing radiation in an attempt to either cure or improve the symptoms of cancer. Complementary and alternative cancer treatments are a diverse group of health care systems, practices, and products that are not part of conventional medicine.
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