Cancer is characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably, penetrate and destroy normal healthy body tissue.
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Cancer is one of the major leading cause of death globally. However, with the advancement in cancer treatment methods, the survival rates are increasing.
Symptoms of Cancer
Symptoms of cancer will depend on what part of the body is affected. Some general symptoms associated with, but not specific to, cancer, include:
- Lump that can be felt under the skin
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Unexplained pain in muscle or joint
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unplanned weight loss or gain
- Persistent indigestion
- Unexplained bruising or bleeding
- Skin changes, such as changes to existing moles, changes in color of the skin, or sores that won’t heal
- Persistent cough or trouble breathing
- Unexplained night sweats
Causes of Cancer
Cancer is caused by changes or mutations to the DNA within cells. The DNA inside a cell is packaged into a large number of individual genes, each of which contains a set of commands telling the cell what functions to execute, and how to grow and divide. Faults in the instructions can cause the cell to halt its normal function and may allow a cell to become cancerous.
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A gene mutation can instruct a healthy cell to allow rapid growth, fail to stop uncontrolled cell growth, or make errors when repairing the DNA errors
What causes gene mutations?
Gene mutations can occur for several reasons, including:
- Inherent gene mutations.A person may be born with a genetic mutation inherited from the parents. This type of mutation is responsible for a small percentage of cancers.
- Gene mutations that occur after birth.Most gene mutations are not inherited, but arise after birth. Some factors can cause these gene mutation, including:
- Radiation exposure
- Lack of exercise
- Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals
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Cells contain a mechanism that recognizes an error, and immediately fixes the mistake. However, an error may be missed occasionally, causing a cell to become cancerous.
When to see a doctor
Consult your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that concern you. If you don’t have any signs or symptoms, but are worried about your risk of cancer, see your doctor about which cancer screening tests and procedures are right for you.
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Risk factors for Developing Cancer
Though some risk factors can expose some persons to cancer. However, most cases of cancers occur in people who don’t have any known risk factors. Factors known to increase your chances of cancer include:
Bad lifestyle choices
Certain lifestyle choices you make like smoking, drinking, can increase your risk of cancer. Also, excessive exposure to the sun, being obese, and having unsafe sex can increases your risk of developing cancer.
Cancer can take years to develop. This is the main reason why most people diagnosed with cancer are 65 or older. Though it’s more common in older adults, but isn’t solely an adult disease. Anyone can get cancer, irrespective of age.
For family with numerous cases of cancer, it means that mutations are being passed from one generation to the next. Your chances of getting cancer is higher if one or more members of your family has it. Though having an inherited genetic mutation doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop cancer.
Your health conditions
Some health conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, can increase your risk of developing certain cancers.
The environment around you may contain harmful chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer. Chemicals in your home or workplace, such as asbestos and benzene, are linked with an increased risk of cancer.
There’s no best way to prevent cancer. But several ways of reducing your cancer risk includes:
- Quit smoking. Smoking is linked to several types of cancer, including lung cancer. Stopping now will reduce your risk of cancer in the future.
- Eat a healthy diet.Eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables. Select whole grains and lean proteins
- Ask your doctor about immunizations. Immunizations may help prevent those viruses that increase your risk of developing cancer, including hepatitis B, which increases the risk of liver cancer, and human papillomavirus (HPV), which increases the risk of cervical cancer.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure
- Exercise most days of the week
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all
- Schedule cancer screening exams