A household term today, cancer is a generic name given to multiple diseases. Cancer is a sped-up growth of cell tissue that results in tumors. Malignant or cancerous tumors increase and are often fatal for the patient. Though cancer is one name given to all kinds of malignant tumors, its causes, symptoms, and diagnosis could be diverse.
So, what causes cancer?
Cancer develops because of different causes; however, we cannot pinpoint any single reason for each case. Carcinogens cause cancer; these carcinogens could be a chemical substance present in cigarette smoke. However, smoking could not be the only cause of all cancers. One could categorize the leading causes of cancers in the following groups:
1. Biological factors-
Internal factors such as age, gender, inherited genetic defects, and skin type could be the causes of cancer. When it comes to genetics- cancer is not hereditary. It is instead the genetic defect that could make an individual more prone to getting cancer. According to the current scenario, only about one in 10 cases of cancer is associated with a genetic predisposition.
2. Environmental exposure-
Exposure to UV radiation and fine particulate matter is a stimulus that is closely related to cancer. Excessive exposure, asbestos fibers, tar and pitch, polynuclear hydrocarbons and plastic chemicals such as vinyl chloride could make a person more vulnerable to cancer.
The UV radiation in sunlight is one of the leading causes of skin cancers. Excessive usage of tobacco and alcohol may lead to different kinds of cancers like-
4. Bacteria and viruses-
Many types of infections could be responsible for cancer, some main ones being
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori, which causes gastritis)
- HBV, HCV (hepatitis viruses that cause hepatitis)
- HPV (human papillomavirus, papillomavirus, which causes changes, e.g. Cervical cells)
- EBV (Epstein-Barr virus, is the herpes virus that causes inflammation of the throat lymphoid).
5. Drugs and medication-
Taking specific antineoplastic agents and hormones may increase the risk of cancer. Prescription drugs that lead to immune deficiency could make a person more receptive to cancer.
Identifying cancer is a multi-stage process that often starts when a patient discusses his or her symptoms with the doctor. Though many times the detection of cancer is by chance, as there are no symptoms that can directly be linked to anyone kind of cancer. Not all cancers are discovered in the same way.
When targeting cancer detection, doctors depend on different methods like:
Doctors carry out a thorough clinical examination based on the patients’ symptoms. This is where doctors take a detailed account of factors like heredity and other possible reasons for the symptoms that a particular patient shows.
Radiological imaging could determine the extent of cancer as the oncological imaging is continually becoming more advanced. Different kinds of imaging used to detect various cancers are:
- Computed Tomography (CT)-
This is the most popular imaging method that detects cancer and monitors its expanse by providing cross-sectional computerized imaging.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)-
With the use of powerful magnetic fields, MRI is used to study the cancers in the head and neck region.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)-
PET scans use a radioactive tracer to understand the metabolic rate of cancer.
This kind of scanning is used to examine the cancers of the cervix, pancreas, liver, and kidneys.
This involves a camera that inspects the gastrointestinal tract, bronchial tubes, cervix, prostate, bladder or head, and neck region.
X-ray imaging is used to examine breast tumors.
Blood work helps in monitoring blood counts to understand the connection between the symptoms and the disease. Laboratory tests help in determining cancer markers. Markers help in detection, monitoring and prognosis evaluation of cancer.
A biopsy is a cancer confirmation that involves removing a sample trace from a tumor for testing. A biopsy is performed under local anesthesia, and doctors examine the samples to understand the nature of the tumor.