Every year on 4th February, we observe World Cancer Day. It was first held in the year 2000 and it has been an annual international observance to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its detection, treatment and prevention.
In this article, we will be deep-diving into these topics:
Types of tumours and cancers
Causes of cancer
Detection and prevention of cancer
Cancer is a complex disease characterised by the uncontrolled proliferation and spread of abnormal cells in the body. This is when the normal life cycle of cells in the body is disrupted due to changes in the DNA which causes them to divide and grow more than they should. Thus, forming tumours.
Not all tumours are cancerous and we can divide them into three main groups as shown in the table below.
Type of tumour
There are more than 200 types of cancer, each with its own name, symptoms and treatment. We can classify each cancer type according to the type of cell they originate from. The common types of cancers are:
Sarcoma: Cancer of bones or soft tissues
Melanoma: Originates from melanocytes in the skin and eyes
Carcinoma: Originates from epithelial tissue that lines most of your internal organs such as lungs and pancreas)
Lymphoma: Originates from immune system cells
Leukaemia: Cancer of the blood and bone marrow
Central nervous system cancers: Originates from the brain or spinal cord
It is widely known that cancer is an unbiased illness that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. There is no single cause that leads to all cancer types. There are multiple elements and illnesses that can contribute to the predisposition of a cancer diagnosis. Similarly, the majority of cancers are a result from the exposure to more than one of such causative factors. We can categorise cancer risk factors into two classes, modifiable risk factors or non-modifiable risk factors.
Modifiable risk factors
Overconsumption of alcohol
Overweight and obesity (BMI >25)
Infections (e.g. Hepatitis B and C virus, Human Papillomavirus, Epstein-Barr Virus, etc)
Prolonged unprotected exposure to radiation (e.g. x-rays, ultraviolet rays from the sun, etc.)
Non-modifiable risk factors
It is important to keep in mind that while we may not have control over all factors, approximately one-third of cancer cases can be preventable through modification of dietary and lifestyle behaviours.
Given the vast array of cancer treatments available in the market and some exciting scientific breakthroughs underway, being diagnosed with cancer still has an indisputably debilitating impact on one’s health and quality of life.
With the advancement of current-day technology, the diagnosis and treatment of this intricate disease is more personalised while being less invasive. To leverage on these developments made by the medical industry, early detection will continue to be a key to improving disease outcomes and increasing the chances of a successful treatment and recovery.
Cancer screening refers to the process carried out with the aim of detecting cancer or precancerous statuses before any symptoms appear. There are several types of cancer screening tests, including mammography for breast cancer, colonoscopies for colorectal cancer, Pap tests for cervical cancer, and PSA tests for prostate cancer. These assessments can detect cancer at an early stage, when it is most treatable.
Here’s why early detection is important:
Reduced healthcare costs
More time to seek support
Decreased chance of complications
Prompt treatment increases the chance of recovery
Less intense treatment regime is usually needed for early stage diagnosis
Regular cancer screening is essential for maintaining good health and catching potential issues early. It is also important to note that not all cancer screening tests are suitable for every individual. Factors such as age, family history, personal medical history, and overall health should be taken into consideration when determining which screening tests are appropriate for you.
Speak to a doctor to find out which tests are appropriate based on your medical history and lifestyle.