Cancer. The big C. There is good reason why cancer is such a scary and anxiety-inducing word, particularly when it’s a diagnosis for you or a loved one. In fact, most lives have been affected by cancer—when you consider these recent statistics from the National Cancer Institute (NCI):
- Over 1,685,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
- With roughly 600,000 succumbing to the disease.
- Breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, colon (and rectum) cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma (skin) cancer, non-hodgkin lymphoma, thyroid cancer, kidney (renal) cancer, and leukemia are considered the 10 most prevalent U.S. cancers.
So what is cancer?
Cancer is the medical term given to a collection of related diseases characterized by the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells. This means cells in the area of the body affected start to rapidly divide and grow at a faster rate than normal, often producing a benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) lump (or tumor).
What causes cancer?
Many contributing factors have been identified as enabling the development of abnormal cell growth, including:
Heredity—or a family history of cancer.
Nutrition—or lack thereof, is shown to exacerbate prostate and colon cancer risk in individuals who consume diets high in excess fat foods.
Excess weight—may increase the risk of colon, ovarian, prostate, uterine, and breast cancers.
Hormone replacement—or prescribed HRT (estrogen and progesterone) for women during perimenopause and menopause has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers (i.e., breast and endometrial cancers).
Environmental factors—or long-term exposure to damaging chemicals (i.e., radiation, pesticides, ultraviolet rays (sun), and asbestos) can increased the risk of skin cancer.
Smoking—including smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and exposure to secondhand smoke is considered a contributing factor for cancers of the lung, esophagus, throat, and mouth.
Common cancer signs and symptoms
The first indication of cancer often differ due to the type of cancer as well as the cancer stage. For instance, most cancers progress in four stages that range from the first sign of tumor growth to the infiltration of nearby tissues (i.e., lymph nodes). For cancer to be treated successfully, early detection is key. Once the cancer has spread, both treatment success and survival rates decrease significantly. For this reason, knowing the prominent symptoms of early cancer is vital.
If you notice the following early warning signs of cancer, please see a doctor immediately:
Persistent and stubborn cough.
- Unusual and unexplained weight loss.
- Chronic indigestion.
- Changes in bowel movements.
- Urination issues.
- Abnormal moles that change in size, shape, color, and texture.
- Issues eating and swallowing.
- Tissue damage (i.e., injuries, cuts, or abrasions) that won’t heal.
- Strange bleeding or discharge.
The appearance of abnormal lumps or tumors anywhere on the body.