The Causes and Symptoms of Cancer

Anybody is susceptible to cancer, we all have the potential within our own bodies.  There are more than 100 different types of cancers affecting different parts of the body, and this disease happens when healthy cells start to mutate and they become malignant.  Your body is supposed to generate new cells all the time but sometimes things don’t work right and you generate new cells before you are supposed to and the old ones don’t die off when they should.  These extra cells can form a tumor.  The cancer cells that make up the tumor can also spread to other parts of your body.

Some Common Symptoms

Cancer symptoms can vary depending on the type of cancer and what stage you are at.  Here are some warning that you should never ignore, if you have any of these then get yourself to a doctor to have them checked out.

  • Unusual discharge or bleeding
  • Lumps in your breast or in a testicle
  • Changes in the color or shape of a mole
  • A cough that won’t go away
  • Changes in your bowels or bladder
  • Chronic indigestion

Early Diagnosis

Early diagnosis and treatment improve your chance of survival.  Many cancers can be detected with routine checkups or self-examination such as the case with breast or testicular cancers.  There are still too many types of cancer that go undiagnosed until it is too late.  Most cancers fall into one of the following four categories.

  • Sarcoma: This type of cancer happens in the bone, muscle, fat, cartilage or any of the connecting tissues
  • Leukemia: This type of cancer starts in the bone marrow and affect the production of blood
  • Lymphoma: These cancers affect the lymphatic systems and your immune system
  • Central Nervous System: These types of cancers affect the brain and nervous system

Causes of Cancer

There are countless factors that can cause cancer such as age, genetics, gender, your local environment, lifestyle, diet, tobacco use just to name a few.  Some of these factors are beyond your control like genetics but others you can focus on prevention.  There are still causes that remain unknown to science and there will be patients who are diagnosed with cancer who have a combination of any of these factors.   Often it is very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause.

There are habits within your own life that you can change to prevent cancer like quitting smoking and staying out of the sun.  Regular checkups and early detection can be the key to surviving cancer if you find yourself with the dreaded diagnosis.

Common Cancer Treatment Options

There are very few things more terrifying than receiving a cancer diagnosis.  Cancer research and treatments have come a long way and you’re chances of survival are better than they have ever been.  Today you have options that you didn’t have even 20 years ago.  Before your mind goes to the worst case scenario, talk to your doctor about your treatment options.  Much of it will depend on the type of cancer you have and the stage that you are at.  Here are some common cancer treatment options.

Surgery

Surgery is the oldest and still one of the more common treatments for cancer particularly cancerous tumors.  If your tumor is operable then the cancerous mass and sometime the affected tissue surrounding the tumor is taken out by an oncological surgeon.  Surgical intervention for cancer can come in two forms, minimally invasive or open surgery. Minimally invasive surgery is done through a small cut in the body and a laparoscope to locate and remove the cancer.  Open surgery is a larger incision that removes the cancer and often the lymph nodes closer to the cancer are removed as well to prevent spreading.

Chemotherapy

One of the characteristics of cancer cells is the rate in which they grow and multiply, chemotherapy is used to stop that process or at the very least to slow it down.  Chemotherapy is used to both cure cancer and to treat the symptoms.  Tumors can cause pain and a number of other issues depending on where they are located.  Chemotherapy can be used to shrink a tumor enough that it can be removed surgically.  It can also be used to kill the cancer cells that couldn’t be removed when a tumor is taken out.

Chemotherapy has plenty of side effects many of which are unpleasant.  While it does destroy the cancer cells it can also wreak havoc on the healthy cells it can make the patient very sick along with hair loss.  Chemotherapy is hard on the patient and they may spend a lot of time recuperating both from the disease and the treatment.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy works similar to chemotherapy in that it is designed to shrink tumors and stop cancer cells from growing.  Unlike chemotherapy it uses high doses of particles damaging to the cancer cells.  Once the cancer cells die then the body will eliminate them on your own.  A machine is used to aim radiation particles at the affected area, or radiation can be administered through a pill or liquid form, it will all depend on the type of cancer you have.

While these are the most common treatments for cancer, there are still others that are available to cancer patients.  Research is constantly being done and treatments like immunotherapy, where doctors use the body’s own immune system to help fight cancer are showing great promise.  Hopefully one day we will find a cure and this disease will finally be conquered.

The Current Research

With our continued focus on the early detection of lung cancer, we have been able to expand our research efforts in the following areas:

Developed a secure data base allowing us to register and track vital information from newly diagnosed lung cancer patients.

Continued research support for Thymidine Kinase 1 (TK1) which included a presentation “Thymidine Kinase 1 Staining Aids in Lung Cancer Prognosis” at the 2011 American Association for Cancer Research Conference in Orlando, Florida. As part of this study, a variety of lung tumors were stained showing TK1 expression in the early stages of lung cancer with an increase in the TK1 expression as the cancer became more advanced.

Expanded our funding to include Dr. Celine Mascaux, a highly qualified lung cancer researcher who is currently working under the direction of Dr. Fred Hirsch, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Pathology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Working in the Hirsch lab, Dr. Mascaux has been able to further test TK1 as a possible early detection biomarker and also continue independent research on other forms of early detection biomarkers for lung cancer.

On April 29, 2004 our lives were to be forever changed … Gary was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer. Having never smoked, the diagnosis came with shock and disbelief. But the biopsy and CT scan revealed a deadly disease that had gone undetected in its early stage and now left very little hope of a cure.

Determined to beat tremendous odds, Gary did everything he could to preserve his life for his family. This included standard cancer treatments as well as a rarely done double lung transplant. However, despite his heroic efforts, Gary succumbed to lung cancer September 9, 2007.

Lung cancer is a silent killer that takes life one breath at a time. Because symptoms usually do not occur until late stages, it is difficult to treat and cure. For this reason, there is a great need for an early detection screening.

Gary’s journey with lung cancer began long before he was even aware of its presence … long before chemotherapy, radiation and a double lung transplant. It was his greatest hope to give others the advantage of early detection, the best chances for treatment and above all … the gift of life and breath.