WHY CANCER AWARENESS IS IMPORTANT?
It will be many years before we solve all the reasons behind the complexity of cancer and we may never be able to reverse the lives of those affected by cancer; we can, however, work to identify cancer as early as possible and assist in empowering individuals and families to get an early diagnosis followed by intervention.
As per statistics by multiple cancer research organizations; early detection and treatment often lower the odds of the complications related to advanced cancers. Thus, We believe that only by opening a dialogue on the subject will people be more aware of early warning signs. It is our goal to ease the hardships and foster positive development and personal empowerment for individuals and families impacted by cancer.
We at LHC, seek to advocate for all those who are on their way to recovery and help everyone understand the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. Educating our local and national communities on cancer is a crucial part of how we advocate. We invite you to join our efforts to raise cancer awareness to transform the lives of those impacted by cancer.
WHAT IS PREVENTION?
Cancer prevention is the practice of taking active measures to lower the chance of getting cancer. According to a report by the World Health Organization, between 30-50% of all cancer cases are preventable. And, we at Love Heals Cancer, believe that the best way to fight cancer is by prevention ( eliminating or decreasing risk factors ) and early detection. Early detection of cancerous or precancerous growths will not only save lives but also reduce the financial and emotional stress of the treatment. We are here to empower you with the knowledge of the early signs and symptoms, to make you aware of the risk factors and ensure that you are provided with the information and support needed to adopt healthy lifestyle practices. Navigate to each of the individual sections to know more about them in detail.
What causes cancer? Identify the risk factors
Cancer is caused by changes (mutations) to the DNA within cells. The DNA inside a cell is packaged into a large number of individual genes, each of which controls how your cells work by making proteins. The proteins have specific functions and act as messengers for the cell. Each gene must have the correct instructions for making its protein. Errors in the instructions can either create an abnormal protein or may prevent a protein’s formation. An abnormal protein provides different information than a normal protein. This can cause cells to multiply uncontrollably and become cancerous.
It is also equally important to know what causes these mutations. Gene mutations can occur for several reasons.A number of gene mutations are acquired after birth and are a result of damage to the genes during a person’s life. Some of the most common factors for such mutations are listed below:
- Tobacco – According to a report by the World Health Organisation, tobacco use is the single most reason for cancer mortality and kills approximately 6 million people each year, from cancer and other diseases. Tobacco smoke has more than 7000 chemicals, at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 have been classified as carcinogens( cancer-causing agents) by the International Agency on Research in Cancer.
- Tobacco smoking causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach and cervix.
- Second-hand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke): causes lung cancer in nonsmoking adults.
- Smokeless tobacco (also called oral tobacco, chewing tobacco or snuff): causes oral, esophageal and pancreatic cancer.
- As per the statistics by India Against Cancer, nearly 45% of all cancers among males and 17% among females in India and more than 80% of oral cancers are directly attributable to tobacco use.
- Alcohol Use: The harmful use of alcohol is a serious health burden and the consumption of alcohol carries an adverse risk of chronic illnesses and social consequences related to its intoxicating property. While it is certainly not meant that everyone who drinks alcohol will develop cancer, researches have shown that people who drink alcohol are more likely to develop cancer than people who don’t. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of mouth cancer, pharyngeal( upper throat) cancer, oesophageal( food pipe) cancer, laryngeal( voice box) cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, colorectal( bowel) cancer.
- Infections: Certain bacteria and viruses are able to cause cancer. According to a report by the WHO, two-thirds of the infection-attributable cancers occur in the less-developed nations as compared to the developed ones. Estimates attribute approximately 16.1% of the worldwide cancers to infectious agents such as Human Papilloma Virus(HPV), Epstein- Barr Virus(EHBV), Hepatitis B virus(HBV) and Hepatitis C virus(HCV), Human immunodeficiency virus(HIV), Human herpes virus 8(HHV-8), Human T-lymphotropic virus-1(HTLV).
- Physical inactivity, dietary factors, being overweight, and obesity:- Numerous studies and researches have shown that what we eat can have a crucial impact on our risk of developing cancer. One of the biggest risk factors for cancer is being overweight and eating processed foods that are high in fat and sugar can lead to being overweight. According to BreastCancer.Org, overweight women are thought to be at higher risk for breast cancer because the extra fat cells make estrogen, which can cause extra breast cell growth. This extra growth increases the risk of breast cancer. Click on the following link to know more about the impact of an unhealthy diet on the risk of developing cancer.
- Occupational Exposure:- Occupational cancers are concentrated among specific groups of the working population, for whom the risk of developing cancers is higher than the general population because of exposure to some forms of dust, gases, chemicals, radioactive substances, or other aspects of their work. Studies by cancer research organizations have shown that occupational carcinogens are causally related to lung cancer, mesothelioma( cancer of the outer lining of the lung or chest cavity), and bladder cancer.
- Radiation:- Radiation of certain wavelengths, called ionizing radiation, increases the risk of various types of malignancy including leukemia and a number of solid tumors. Certain types of radiation have enough energy to damage DNA and cause cancer. Studies by the WHO mentions that ultraviolet radiation, and in particular, solar radiation, is carcinogenic to humans, causing all major types of skin cancers such as Basal Cell Carcinoma(BCC), Melanoma, and Squamous cell carcinoma(SCC). A certain radioactive gas called Radon, is the second most common cause of lung cancer, cigarette smoking being the leading cause.
Signs and Symptoms-
Why it is important to understand the early signs and symptoms?
The individual fates of the millions of people diagnosed with cancer every year are largely decided by one simple factor: at what stage was the disease spotted?
Spotting cancer early means treatment is more likely to be successful. This often means a better chance for a cure, especially when the disease has still not spread to other parts of the body. A good example of the importance of finding cancer early is breast cancer. According to breast cancer statistics, the 5-year survival rate(percentage of people who live at least five years after diagnosis) for Stage 0 and 1 breast cancer is 99%. However, if cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5- year survival rate drops to about 27%.
Consequently, individuals need to know which symptoms might point to cancer. People should not ignore a warning symptom that might lead to early diagnosis and possibly to a cure.
But don’t You Worry about anything! There are many people who have lived far beyond the statistics of the survival rates and have gotten healthier with cancer. And we are here to guide you with the appropriate knowledge and resources to help you make informed decisions and support you at every step of your journey.
The list below highlights some of the key symptoms of cancer to be aware of. But remember, having any of these does not mean that you have cancer-many other things cause these signs and symptoms, too. But it is important that if you spot anything that isn’t normal for you, whether it’s in the list or not, please consult a doctor at the earliest.
Click on the symptoms below for more information.
- Unexplained Weight loss – As cancer cells attack healthy ones, your body may respond by losing weight. Unexplained weight loss can also be a symptom of other health conditions, such as hyperthyroidism. However, sudden weight loss is a symptom of some prominent cancers such as the esophagus, lung, stomach or pancreas. If you notice a reasonable amount of weight loss without even trying to, consult your doctor.
- Fatigue-If you are tired all the time and it doesn’t get better with rest, tell your doctor. Extreme tiredness is an early sign of leukemia. Some cancers of colon and stomach which cause blood loss can leave you exhausted too.
- Fever- Fever is the body’s response to an infection or illness. Fever is very common with cancer, however, it’s usually a sign that cancer has spread or reached an advanced stage.
Fever is rarely an early symptom of cancer, but it may be if a person has blood cancer, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
- Unusual blood loss- Unusual bleeding can occur in early or advanced cancers. For instance, colon or rectal cancers might cause bloody stools, while blood in the urine may be a sign of prostate or bladder cancer. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom of endometrial cancer. Coughing up blood may be a sign of lung cancer. Blood loss may be more discreet in stomach cancer, as it may be internal bleeding and harder to detect.
- Persistent cough- Cough can occur for a number of reasons and it usually represents simple infections such as bronchitis or sinusitis. However, a cough that persists for a long time and doesn’t go away despite remedies, may be a sign of lung cancer. The cough may be frequent and it can cause hoarseness. Hoarseness can be a sign of cancer of the larynx(voice box) or thyroid gland.
- Skin changes- Skin changes are most often linked to skin cancers. However, certain other forms of cancer may cause visible skin changes. For instance, white spots in the mouth can indicate oral cancer. Lumps or bumps underneath the skin can be tumors, such as in breast cancer. Cancers can cause other skin changes, such as:
Darker looking skin(hyperpigmentation)
Increased hair growth
Yellowish skin and eyes(jaundice)
Skin cancers may bleed and look like sores that either do not heal or heal and return.
- Indigestion and Trouble swallowing- Certain cancers can cause problems with digestion, such as difficulty in digestion, loss of appetite, or pain after eating. Trouble swallowing can be linked to cancers of the esophagus, stomach or throat.
- Pain- Pain may be an early symptom with certain cancers like bone cancer or testicular cancer. Bone pain(mostly in the back, the hips, and skull) is a common symptom of Multiple Myeloma. Back pain can be a symptom of cancer of the colon, prostate, ovary or rectum.
- Persistent bloating- It is quite common for women to experience bloating of the abdomen that comes and goes. However, if the bloating lasts for more than two weeks in a month, it is advisable to seek medical care at the earliest.
The signs and symptoms mentioned above are the more common ones seen with cancer. While many cancers usually have symptoms, some forms are more discreet. Pancreatic cancer may not lead to any signs or symptoms until it’s progressed to an advanced stage. Certain types of cancer may cause increased blood calcium levels, a symptom that can be harder to detect without proper diagnostic care. However, these symptoms are often the result of other normal causes.
In any case, If you notice any unusual changes or anything that doesn’t go away, see your doctor at the earliest.
1. Screening Tests
A question that has often bothered us is: Could regular preventive checks help outsmart cancer? And the answer is yes, screening and regular checkups do help to an extent. Screening examinations are tests performed to find disease before symptoms begin. The goal of screening is to detect disease at its earliest and most treatable stage. Through extensive research, we have cobbled together a small list of important screening tests that can reduce cancer-related risks. According to the US National Cancer Institute, the following tests have been shown to reduce deaths from the disease.
- Mammography- Mammograms are low-dose x-rays of the breast that looks for changes and any signs of breast cancer. According to the WHO, mammography has been shown to reduce breast cancer mortality by approximately 20% in high-resource settings. However, in limited-resource settings with weak health systems, mammography is not cost-effective, early detection should focus on reducing stage at diagnosis through improved awareness. Clinical Breast Exam is a promising approach for low resource settings that can help
For more information on the effectiveness of mammograms, check out the references from MayoClinic and National Cancer Institute.
- PAP test and human papillomavirus(HPV) testing – The PAP test is a screening test for cervical cancer. It looks for abnormal cells on your cervix that could turn into cancer over time. All women should start getting regular pap tests from the age of 21.
The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause abnormal cells on your cervix. It is often recommended that women above the age of 30 should get the HPV test along with the Pap test every 5 years to test for cervical cancer. That way, problems can be found and treated before they turn into cancer over time.
- Low-dose helical Computed tomography- LDCT is the only recommended screening test for individuals having a high risk of lung cancer but with no signs or symptoms of the disease. This test for lung cancer helps to detect the disease early, especially when it has still not spread to other parts of the body.
For more information on lung cancer screening, check out the reference from the National Cancer Institute.
- Endoscopy tests for cancer- An endoscopy is a medical procedure that looks inside the body. Endoscopy tests can be used in many ways, including to look for cancer, to find out how far it has spread and also help prevent the disease. For instance, colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are screening tests for detecting colorectal cancer. While sigmoidoscopy covers only the lower part of the colon, known as the rectum and sigmoid colon, colonoscopy examines the entire colon. Upper endoscopy ( also known as esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD) is the main test to detect stomach cancer.
For more information on some other useful endoscopy tests for cancer, see the American Cancer Society
Other screening tests like the CA125 test, PSA test, and annual checks can also help to a certain extent. The simple CBC(Complete Blood Count) test along with a bone marrow biopsy, can be used to detect blood cancers if too few or too many of a type of blood cell or abnormal cells are found. A higher WBC count in successive blood tests or repeated presence of occult blood in the stool could raise a flag about cancer. It is, however, recommended that blood tests must be coordinated with a good annual physical checkup and sonography scans for early detection of cancer.
For more information on other screening tests in detail, check out the National Cancer Institute.
2. Healthy Choices
Healthy living is not a cast-iron guarantee against cancer. But it stacks the odds in your favor, by reducing the risk of developing the disease. We at Love Heals Cancer, believe that cancer can be healed with LOVE. We advocate several complementary and integrative therapies that go beyond conventional therapies to promote healing, improve the quality of life and even extend it.
A slight change in the lifestyle by embracing the 5 Wellness Practices can go a long way in your fight against cancer. These are tiny, yet powerful tweaks in your daily life, that will put you at ease and prepare you to fight and defeat cancer.
It is important to take care of your body during this time. Cancer can sap a lot of energy, and dealing with it requires frequent replenishing of our resources. Physically this can be attained by proper nutrition, getting adequate rest and keeping the body fit by exercising regularly.
Learn more about the 5 Wellness Practices and their benefits by talking to our onco-experts.