Cells are the building blocks of living things. When body cells grow in an uncontrolled manner, this is termed as Cancer. These cells are called as malignant cells. Due to many reasons these normal cells turn malignant. Normal cells multiply according to the need of the body and die when the body doesn’t need them & this mechanism is controlled by different systems of the body. Cancer occurs when the multiplication and growth of cells in the body is out of control. It can also occur when cells forget how to die.
There are many different kinds of cancer. Cancer can develop in almost any organ or tissue, such as lung, colon, breast, skin, bones or nerve tissue.
Causes of Cancer
- Three things that are the major reason behind cancer are smoking, alcohol & red meat (high non-vegetarian diet). Heavy drinkers face an increased risk of cancers of the stomach and liver. Cigarette smokers are more likely to develop cancer like those of the mouth, lungs, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, bladder, kidney and cervix.
- Overuse of insecticides & pesticides in agriculture is also increasing cancer.
- Obesity – High-fat, non-vegetarian diet consisting of red meat, high cholesterol diets are possible risk factors for several types of cancer such as those of the colon, uterus and prostate. Obesity may be linked to breast cancer among older women as well as to cancers of the prostate, pancreas, uterus, colon and ovary.
- Genetic problems – Some types of cancer run in certain families, but most cancers are not directly linked to the inherited genes.
- Environmental toxins, such as certain poisonous mushrooms and a type of poison that can grow on peanut plants (aflatoxins) can also cause cancer.
- Ultraviolet Radiation – UV radiation from the sun are directly linked to melanoma and other types of skin cancer. These harmful rays cause premature ageing and damage the skin.
- Radiation – Regular exposure to radiations like those from radiation therapies and x-rays (repeated exposure) can damage normal cells and increase the risk of developing leukemia. There is possible risk of cancer of the breast, thyroid, lung, stomach and other organs.
- Viruses – Some viruses, including hepatitis B and C and human papillomaviruses (HPV) have been associated with increased cancer risk. People suffering from immune system diseases, such as AIDS are more susceptible to some cancer.
- Benzene and other chemicals – Long term exposure to chemicals such as pesticides, uranium, nickel, asbestos and benzene can increase the risk of cancer.
However, the cause of many cancers remains unknown.
The most common cause of cancer-related death is lung cancer. Some cancers are more common in certain parts of the world. For example, in Japan, there are many cases of stomach cancer, but in the United States, this type of cancer is pretty rare. Differences in diet may play a role.
Symptoms of cancer depend on the type and location of the cancer. For example, lung cancer can cause cough, shortness in breath & chest pain. Colon cancer often causes diarrhea, constipation & blood in stool. Some cancers may not have any symptoms at all. In certain cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, symptoms often do not start until the disease has reached an advanced stage.
The following symptoms can occur with most cancers:
- Pain in a particular part of a body which don’t get off with any NSAIDS or pain killer drugs.
- Fatigue – Fatigue is extreme tiredness that doesn’t get better with rest. It may be an important symptom as cancer grows. Some colon or stomach cancers can cause blood loss that’s not obvious. This is another way cancer can cause fatigue.
- Weight Loss – Most people with cancer will lose weight at some point. When you lose weight for no known reason, it’s called an unexplained weight loss. An unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more may be the first sign of cancer.
- Chills and Fever – Fever is very common with cancer, but it more often happens after cancer has spread from where it started. Almost all patients with cancer will have fever at some time, especially if the cancer or its treatment affects the immune system.
- Skin Changes – Along with cancer of the skin, some other cancer can cause skin changes that can be seen. These signs and symptoms include: Darker looking skin (hyper pigmentation) , Yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice) , Reddened skin (erythema) , Itching (pruritis) , Excessive hair growth
- Bleeding from anus, vagina/urethra (urine) often occurs due to cancer.
- Loss of appetite is another symptom associated with many cancers viz. abdominal cancer.
- Night Sweats, hands & feet they sweat like anything.
- Unexplained Pain in abdomen/specific part which never gets relieved by medicine.
- Unexplained constipation.
How Is Cancer Diagnosed?
Major problem with cancer is it is diagnosed in very later stages. If it is diagnosed earlier, better are the chances of cancer getting cured. Some types of cancer such as those of the skin, breast, mouth, prostate, and rectum may be detected in earlier stages only before any serious symptoms are visible by routine self-exam or other screening methods. Most cases of cancer are detected after a tumor can be felt or some symptoms develop. In some cases, cancer is diagnosed incidentally while evaluating some other medical condition.
Methods for Diagnosis
A small tissue sample is removed from the suspected tumor and is studied under a microscope and examined. This technique is known as Biopsy. A needle is inserted into the area of affected organ and fluid or tissue sample is removed. This sample is then thoroughly examined to check for malignancy.
In endoscopy, a flexible plastic tube with a small camera at the end is inserted into the body organs so that the physician can have a clear picture of the affected organ. Different types of scopes are used for different organs and areas of the body.
An internal picture of the body organs is presented by these techniques.
Types of imaging include:
- X-rays – It’s the most common method of getting an internal view of the body. Any abnormality may be examined further to check for cancer.
- CAT scan (Computerized Axial Tomography) – Pictures are taken with specialized X-ray machines and Radiographic beams are used to develop detailed pictures. It is more precise than a standard X-ray.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – Magnetic field concept is used to create detailed computerized images of the vital organs, soft tissues, large blood vessels etc.
- Ultrasound– uses high-frequency sound waves to determine if a suspicious lump is solid or fluid. These sound waves are transmitted into the body and converted into a computerized image.
- PET CT scan (Positron Emission Tomography) – This technique can be used to define the intensity of the disease. Patient’s response to the treatment can also be assessed with this method. This technique is gold standard for diagnosing Cancer.
In some cases, tumors release substances that can be detected in the blood. These are called Tumor Markers. But blood test is only the initial stage, other confirmatory tests must be followed to diagnose cancer.
Ayurveda and Cancer seem to be unrelated, no one could ever imagine of possible treatment of cancer in Ayurveda but cancer prevails since ancient times in different forms and various plant extracts and herbs have been used for treatment of cancer.