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Cancer: All You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Feb 02, 2022

Cancer: All You Need to Know

Know the Basics

In 2018 alone, over 17 million people were diagnosed with cancer.  And in spite of more advanced forms of cancer treatment, 9.6 million died in 2018 because of cancer.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for one out of every six deaths. This is why it is important to be informed about what causes cancer, what forms of cancer treatment are effective, and how cancer can be prevented.

But what exactly is cancer? Cancer is a disease that causes the cells in the body to grow abnormally, and reproduce uncontrollably. In addition, without proper cancer treatment, cells can infect other organs, spreading cancer throughout the body.

Cancer usually starts in one part of the body, and over time it can grow and spread to other organs in a process called metastasis. 

This is why early detection is key when it comes to cancer treatment, since the risk of dying from cancer is lower if it can be found and treated immediately.

How Common Is Cancer?

According to statistics, about 38.4% of men and women will get diagnosed with a form of cancer during their lifetime.

This number might seem very high, but it is mainly due to the fact that people nowadays have a longer life expectancy. Because the older a person gets, they have a higher risk of developing cancer.

In fact, about 60% of cancer patients are aged 65 and older. 

Symptoms & Causes

What Are the Symptoms of Cancer?

The common symptoms of cancer vary depending on the organ affected. However there are also some symptoms that are shared among different types of cancer. Here are some of those symptoms:

  • An unexplained lump or growth in the body, especially in the breast
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Yellowing, darkness, or redness of the skin, as well as growth or changes to moles
  • Changes in bowel movement
  • Fatigue, or constantly feeling tired
  • Discomfort after eating

Cancer can also cause symptoms that are more uncommon. These include:

CAUTION: Know the Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

When Should I See My Doctor?

If you experience any of the symptoms above, it would be a good idea to visit your doctor to get yourself checked. Early detection is key when it comes to successful cancer treatment, so it is important to not ignore any peculiar symptoms that you might have.

Your doctor can also recommend certain screening procedures for some of the most common types of cancer. This would depend on your risk profile, such as lifestyle factors and family history.

Some of the types of cancer that are assessed by screening programs are lung cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer. 

Once determined, your healthcare provider can come up with the best cancer treatment for you.

What Causes Cancer?

Cancer happens as a result of cell mutations. These mutations can either cause the cell to replicate uncontrollably, grow and divide quickly, or make DNA errors when it replicates. 

These mutated cells are considered diseased cells and do not function as normal cells should.

Without cancer treatment, these cells can spread throughout the body and cause healthy organs to stop functioning which can lead to death.

These mutations can either be genetic or inherited, which means that you were born with it, or caused by outside factors that affect cell growth.

These include things such as smoking, exposure to carcinogens or chemicals that cause cancer, or being unhealthy.

It is fairly normal for cells to mutate when they grow and divide. However, these mutations are corrected before they can become cancer cells. But when these mutations are not corrected in time, that is when cancer starts.

It can take years for cancer to develop in the body. It is even possible for cancer to be at an advanced stage before it can even be discovered and by that time, cancer treatment might not be as effective.

This is why knowing the risk factors and avoiding those risks can greatly help when it comes to cancer treatment and prevention.

What Illnesses or Viruses Can Cause Cancer?

Risk Factors

What Increases My Risk for Cancer?

There are many possible risk factors for cancer. These include the following:

  • Age is a big factor when it comes to cancer risk. As a person grows older, the possibility that they will develop cancer also increases, and it can also take years for cancer to develop in the body.
  • Health habits also play a role when it comes to cancer. For example, smokers are at a higher risk of lung cancer compared to people who do not smoke.
  • Cancer can also be hereditary. Certain types of cancer can be passed down from parent to child, and if your family is predisposed to develop one of these types of cancer, it becomes a risk factor for cancer.
  • Even if you are not a smoker, exposure to cigarette smoke also increases your risk of developing cancer. The same goes for chemicals called carcinogens that increase your risk for cancer. These can be chemicals found in your workplace or even chemicals found in the home.
  • Your overall health also contributes to the risk of acquiring cancer. Being unhealthy and not taking care of your body can increase the risk of cancer. These include habits such as not using sunblock, having a sedentary lifestyle, unsafe sex, and drinking too much alcohol. 
  • Avoiding the risk factors listed above can help in preventing cancer. 

    Cancer Treatment & Diagnosis

    How Is Cancer Diagnosed?

    Cancer diagnosis can be done through different ways, depending on what type of cancer it might be. Here are some of the tests that your doctor might use to check for cancer:

    • A physical exam might be conducted in order to check for lumps or any unusual growth in your body. Your doctor might also check for any skin discoloration that could indicate the presence of cancer.
    • Your doctor might also ask you to take laboratory tests in order to check for the presence of cancer. A good example is a blood test which can show if a person has leukemia or cancer of the blood or bone marrow.
    • A biopsy or tissue sample might also be taken in order to be examined. The location of the biopsy depends on what type of cancer might be suspected, and in some cases it is the only way to confirm that you may have cancer.
    • Imaging tests such as a computerized tomography or CT scan, bone scan, magnetic resonance imaging or MRI, positron emission tomography or PET scan, ultrasound, and X-ray may be done to check for cancer in your body. 

    If your doctor confirms that there is cancer, then they will try and determine what stage it is currently in. Cancer has four stages, with Stage I cancer as the earliest stage, and Stage IV as the most advanced stage.

    What Cancer Treatment Can I Expect?

    Cancer treatment depends mostly on what type of cancer it is, as well as what stage it is currently in. 

    Here are some of the different types of cancer treatment:

    • Chemotherapy, or a form of treatment that uses drugs to treat cancer might be recommended by your physician.
    • Radiation therapy, wherein radiation is used to kill the cancer cells directly, might also be used to remove cancer from the patient’s body.
    • Immunotherapy is another form of treatment wherein the patient’s immune system is utilized in order to kill the cancer cells in the body.
    • Bone marrow transplants are also used as a form of treatment. This helps patients endure chemotherapy, as well as a replacement for diseased bone marrow.
    • Hormone therapy is a form of therapy that changes the levels of certain hormones in the body to help stop the growth of cancer cells.
    • Surgery is also used to cut out and remove parts of organs that are infected with cancer cells.

    These types of cancer treatment may be used in conjunction with one another in order to completely eradicate cancer cells in the body.

    In cases where the cancer has progressed to a point that it can no longer be cured, or the patient already has terminal cancer, palliative care might be given in order to ease the patient’s symptoms.

    Chemotherapy in Cancer Treatment: All You Need to Know

    Lifestyle Changes & Home Remedies

    What Are Some Lifestyle Changes or Home Remedies that Can Help Me Manage Cancer?

    When it comes to managing cancer, lifestyle changes and home remedies are best used in conjunction with cancer treatment for the best chance of success. This is because right now, alternative forms of cancer treatment have not been proven to work.

    It is also important to be transparent and open with your physician regarding other remedies you may be trying because some of these can interact with or affect the course of your cancer treatment.

    Despite this, alternative forms of cancer treatment can help alleviate some of the symptoms that a patient might be experiencing, especially during more intensive forms of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

    Here are some lifestyle changes and home remedies that can help with cancer:

    • If you are a smoker, it would be best to quit smoking since cigarette smoke is a known carcinogen.
    • Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Daily exercise helps keep your body strong and boosts your immune system.
    • Eat healthy foods. The types of food you eat have a direct impact on your health. Nourish yourself with fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables in order to keep your body strong.
    • Keep your weight down. Being obese or overweight not only increases the risk for certain types of cancer, but also increases the risk for heart disease.

    Health Habits That Can Lower Your Risk of Cancer

    If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

    Learn more about the different types of cancer treatment, here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Feb 02, 2022

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