February 4 is observed as World Cancer Day every year.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a group of several connected diseases related to cells. Living beings are made of billions of cells. Normal cells go through a cycle of growth and regeneration. But when cell growth is abnormal and spreads rapidly, it results in cancer. Cancer cells can form clumps, also called tumors, which damage healthy tissues around them. This results in sickness. Some of these cancer cells separate themselves from the tumor and travel to other parts of the body, continue to grow and form new tumors, spreading the cancer. This is called metastasis.
Yes, cancer, the C-word, is scary. We all know someone who has suffered and succumbed to the disease. Usually, we hear of adults with cancer, but children are also at risk. The good news is – early diagnosis can mean successful treatment and cure.
World Cancer Day – Not Beyond Us #HealthyLives
This year the theme of World Cancer Day is “Not Beyond Us,” to emphasize that solutions exist and are reachable. The campaign’s goal is to implement what is already known in the areas of cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and care.
World Cancer Day 2015 has identified 4 main areas for education and action:
Choosing healthy lives: Healthy lifestyle choices can lower the risk for cancer. They include avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption, eating right, getting plenty of exercise, and staying away from the sun and other sources of UV rays.
Achieving treatment for all: All people have the right to access proven and effective cancer treatments and services on equal terms, and without suffering hardship as a consequence.
Maximizing quality of life: People with cancer and their caregivers deserve high-quality, compassionate care during treatment and survivorship. This includes care for the emotional, mental, and physical effects of cancer.
The key, with any disease or condition is awareness so we can take timely action.
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I am going to focus on cancer and women in this post to enable early detection and better quality of life.
Cancer and Women #EarlyDetection
The cancers that most often affect women are breast, colorectal, endometrial, lung, cervical, skin, and ovarian cancers. Awareness of these and knowing what you can do to prevent them or at least get an early diagnosis could save your life!
What unusual changes should you watch out for in your body?
Changes in your breasts
A breast lump needn’t mean anything, but better have your doctor check it. Make sure you let her know if there’s any skin dimpling/puckering, inward nipples, nipple discharge, redness or scaling of the skin in the breast area. Your doc will do a clinical examination and will want to know about your medical history. If she thinks it is necessary she may advise a mammogram or biopsy to test the tissue.
Bloating is generally nothing to worry about. Wait for a couple of weeks and it will probably disappear. But if you don’t’ feel better after that time, or if you also experience unusual weight loss and bleeding, it is time to visit your doctor. Persistent bloating could signal ovarian cancer. Your doctor will do a pelvic exam and prescribe blood tests and an ultrasound to investigate further.
Bleeding in between periods
If your menstrual cycle is still on, and you experience spotting between periods, let you doctor know. Unusual bleeding that does not belong to the monthly cycle can be due to a number of reasons. Rule out endometrial cancer or cancer of the lining of your uterus. If you’ve gone through menopause and experience bleeding, make that doctor’s appointment right now.
Changes in the skin
Moles and spots in particular. Check for changes in size, shape and color. Your doctor will do a thorough exam and a biopsy to investigate skin cancer.
Blood in the urine or stools
Bleeding from any part of the body that usually does not bleed is cause for concern. This applies to blood in the urine and stools. Consult your doctor know immediately. Blood in the stools can be from haemorrhoids or colon cancer. Blood in the urine is often a preliminary sign of bladder/kidney cancer.
Changes in Lymph Nodes
Those small bean-shaped glands in various parts of the body are lymph nodes. When there is an infection, they change. Some cancers including leukemia and lymphoma, results in their swelling. Don’t ignore any lump or swelling on your body if it doesn’t disappear after 3-4 weeks.
Difficulty in Swallowing
This is fine once in a while but frequent occurrences that are accompanied by vomiting and weight loss need your doctor’s attention right away to rule out throat or stomach cancer. You may undergo a throat exam and barium X-ray.
Unexplained weight loss
Losing weight is usually good news but rapid weight loss when you haven’t being trying is cause for worry, particularly if there is no change in your diet or exercise habits. Stress and your thyroid are likely causes. But you want to see your doc and take blood tests, imaging tests and probably a CT scan to rule out pancreatic cancer, stomach and lung cancers.
Overeating, drinking and stress are prime reasons for heartburn. Try a diet change to ease the symptoms. If the heartburn doesn’t go away or gets worse, see your doc as it may indicate stomach, throat, or ovarian cancer.
Changes in the mouth
If you are a smoker, check for white or red patches inside your mouth and on your lips. These are signs of oral cancer. Visit your dentist or doc right away.
Persistent and unexplained fever might signal leukemia or blood cancer. Carry your medical history when you see your doc.
Fatigue is a part of women’s lives with all they do. But when the tiredness refuses to go away no matter what, it is time to worry. Make an appointment with your doc for a thorough examination.
Coughs usually disappear in 3-4 weeks. If they last longer, particular if you smoke and feel breathless, and cough up blood, see your doc to investigate for lung cancer.
Pain is not usually a symptom of cancer but unbearable and continuous pain are known to signal bone, brain, or other cancers. If you experience aches that won’t go away even after a month, talk to your doc.
Stomach pain and depression
Stomach aches combined with depression have been known to signal pancreatic cancer especially if it runs in the family. Take action now.
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