Cancer is a non-communicable disease (NCD), it is
a malignant growth of abnormal cells that form masses.

Cancer have the ability to invade other tissues and form secondary tumors called metastases.

Throughout life most cells in the body grow, multiply and replace themselves. During this process errors or changes called mutations occur. Whereas in normal cells growth and development are controlled, in cancerous cells when certain mutations occur, cells become abnormal and continue to grow long after; these malignant cells are cancer.

There are almost 100 types of cancers from cancer of the brain to cancer of the colon.
All cancers have the two main characteristics:an
uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells forming tumors and the ability to invade other cells.

Causes of Cancer
Researchers believe that the most common causes involve an interaction between the person’s genes and the environment. The small changes that occur bring about changes in the proteins that maintain and regulate body function. Common environmental factors are tobacco, radiation and asbestos. Some cancers appear to run in the same family, this may be because of inherited bad genes known to be a cause.

Lifestyle choices such as poor diet, drugs and alcohol may also trigger changes in the cells DNA.

In about 1/3 of cancer cases an unhealthy diet is a factor. Physical inactivity along with a high fat diet increases the risks in most cancers. Alcohol with tobacco use increases the risk of certain cancers such as cancer of the mouth, larynx and oesophagus.

Risk Factors:

  • Unhealthy eating

  • Excessive use of alcohol, as in liver cancer

  • Inherited bad genes

  • Exposure to radiation and ultra violet rays as in skin cancer

  • Sexual behavior as in cervical cancer

  • Hormone replacement therapy

Since the exact cause of the disease is not known, prevention is in reducing or eliminating the risk factors.

In many cases this would involve certain lifestyle behaviours and self care. A healthy lifestyle developed early in life can contribute to elimination of risk factors later.

There is a lot of evidence to support healthy eating, physical activity and keeping weight within limits as important preventive measures.

Lifestyle changes to correct sexual habits, smoking and unhealthy eating are important preventive steps.

Online health managment programs make it possible for anyone to learn disease prevention strategies. Some prevention measures are:

  • A diet with lots of vegetables and fruit
  • A diet low in fat.
  • Regular physical activity
  • Weight control
  • Avoiding tobacco and second hand smoke

Treatment-Treatment will depend on the type of cancer, location, patient’s health, the stage and whether there is metastases. After successful treatment the patient may be required to make lifestyle changes.

Surgery- This is the removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue. In many cases the organ or gland is removed. If the tumor has spread, surgery will include removal of the new cancerous tissue and lymph nodes. Surgery is the treatment of choice in stage1 and 2 cancers.

Radiation therapy- This is the use of high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors. Radiation may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to remove remaining cancer cells. It may also be used in the advanced stage of certain cancers to relieve symptoms. There are unpleasant side effects such as tiredness, loss of appetite and skin reactions.

Chemotherapy-This is the use of anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs are either given orally or into the veins. They may be administered instead of other treatments or along with other treatments. They may be given before surgery and radiation, or following surgery to kill remaining cancer cells. There are side effects such as hair loss, nausea, vomiting and menstrual changes.