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Types of cancer, syndrome & stages wise treatment

Cancer is one of the most common health problems today, which has claimed millions of lives across the world. Cancer is formed when there is a change in the DNA mutations of cells, causing abnormal growth and multiplication of cells in the body. These cells can form in any part of the body such as lungs, brain, breast, uterus, pancreas, etc. Cancer cells originate in one part of the body but can spread to other body parts. Although some tumours are benign and non-cancerous, while others are malignant and can be fatal.

Causes of Cancer

The exact cause of cancer cannot be identified and also varied per the location of the tumour. However, some reasons that increase the risk of a person developing cancer are:

  • Genetics
  • Increasing age
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Tobacco
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • Sunlight
  • Pathogens
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Unhealthy diet

Types of Cancer

The type of cancer depends on the part of the body it originates in. Essentially, cancer can develop in any part of the body and is named after the organ or tissue in which it first develops. There are more than 100 types of cancer, some of the most common ones include:

  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon and rectal cancer
  • Leukaemia or blood cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Oral cancer
  • Gastrointestinal cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Endometrial
  • Melanoma

Cancer Syndromes

The symptoms of cancer depend on the type of cancer and hence, vary per case. That said, some of the common syndromes of cancer include:

  • Fatigue
  • Lump
  • Weight changes
  • Thickening under the skin
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Problems after food
  • Indigestion
  • Unexplained muscle pain
  • Redness or skin rash
  • Bowel changes
  • Consistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Pale skin
  • Changes to existing moles
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Persistent night sweats
  • Fever

Symptoms of cancer also depend on the intensity and progression of cancer in the body.

Stages of Cancer and Stage-wise Treatment

Knowing the stage of cancer is critical for the surgeon to decide the course and intensity of the treatment. The stages of cancer are defined by the TNM system which implies:

  • T (tumour) – the size of the tumour
  • N (node) – the presence of tumour in lymph nodes
  • M (metastasis) – the spread of cancer to other body parts

Based on this analysis obtained through several diagnostic tests, there are typically four stages of any type of cancer. These include:

Stage 0: Often referred to as ‘carcinoma-in-situ’ – stage 0 cancer implies that the cancer cells are in the place of their origin and have not spread to any other part of the body. This stage is also sometimes referred to as the pre-cancerous stage, which contains cells that could become cancerous in the near future. This type of cancer is more localised and contained, and has higher chances of being treated successfully. The best course of treatment opted for this stage of cancer is surgery or radiation therapy. The type of surgery will depend on the type of cancer, position of the cancer cells, and the intensity of cancer growth. 

Stage 1: Often referred to as early-stage cancer, this cancer is more localised and very small in size. This stage of cancer implies that the tumour is in the body part where it originated and has only spread to the surrounding/close lymph nodes, but has not extended beyond that area to other body parts. In general, early-stage cancers can be easily treated through surgery chemotherapy, radiation and targeted drug treatment.

Stage 2: This stage of cancer is characterised by a regional spread of the cancerous cells. In this stage, cancer has penetrated the surrounding tissues and also affected other nearby lymph nodes but has not spread to distant lymph nodes or other body parts.This is also a form of localised cancer though this is a slightly advanced stage.This stage of cancer is treated with local therapies such as surgery or radiation therapy. 

Stage 3: Similar to the Stage 2 cancer but slightly more advanced where cancer has penetrated the walls of the surrounding tissue and also impacted other close lymph nodes, though it has not affected any other distant part of the body.This is often referred to as locally advanced cancer. In some cases of Stage 3 cancer, the tumour may have grown to a significant size and contain multiple tumours.These types of cancers are metastatic cancers – implying they spread beyond their area of origin. This stage of cancer is treated by surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or targeted drug treatment. A combination of these methods can also be used to improve effectiveness.

Stage 4: This is the most severe stage of cancer where the tumour has gained a reasonable size and has spread to areas beyond its origin into other distant organs and lymph nodes.This is a metastatic and an advanced stage of cancer in which cancer has metastasised to other parts of the body to form secondary cancers (metastases). This stage of cancer is very difficult to treat, though common treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In a general sense, these cancers are unlikely to be cured in the long-term although treatment could help shrink the size of the tumour, control the spread of the tumour and relieve symptoms. 

Today, cancer is one of the top two leading causes of death worldwide majorly because of lack of awareness of its causes, symptoms and treatment. Hence, awareness about cancer needs to spread so that one knows when to seek medical help.

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