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CANCER

CAUSES, SYMPTOMS, RISK FACTORS AND PREVENTION

Cancerous growths
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Cancer refers to uncontrolled or abnormal multiplication of body cells hence changing the normal functioning of body tissues and organs. In most cases, the cancerous growth can spread to other body parts. Cancer is the second leading killer disease in the world. Being diagnosed with cancer does not mean a death sentence. Over time, there has been marked improvement in survival rates for many cancers due to better screening procedures and treatment.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
They vary depending on the cancer one suffers from. Some of the general symptoms include:

  • Significant weight loss since cancers deprive normal cells of nutrients
  • Changes in bowel movement- diarrhoea or constipation
  • Changes in skin colour- it can become yellow or exhibit some redness
  • Frequent prolonged coughs
  • Lumps or thickening under the skin
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Breathing difficulties e.g. shortness of breath
  • Regular indigestion
  • Unexplained persistent fevers
  • Regular muscle or joint pains
  • Extreme sweating at night
  • Pain though not always
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Extreme nausea
  • Frequent thirst and urination resulting from chemical imbalances
  • Regular headaches associated with brain cancer.
  • Seizures –sudden attacks involving unconsciousness or violent movement

CAUSES OF CANCER
Cancer is a result of DNA changes/ mutations in body cells. DNA is responsible for directing the cell on which functions it should perform and how it should grow and divide. Therefore; if an error-a change occurs during the process of giving instructions, DNA will allow abnormal multiplication which in turn exposes the body to cancer.

TYPES OF GENE MUTATIONS OR CHANGES
Gene mutations are divided into two:
Inherited-the patient is born with abnormal genes passed on by his or her parents. This accounts for a very small number of cancer cases.
Acquired – these mutations occur after birth. They may result from exposure to a carcinogen that is cancer-causing chemicals.

RISK FACTORS
Factors that predispose one to cancer are:

Lifestyle choices
Cancer is linked to smoking and excessive drinking. Other risk factors include regular exposure to direct sunlight, obesity and having unprotected sex.

Old age
The risk of cancer increases with age. It is common in people who have attained 65 years and above given that cancer takes decades to mature.

Family history
A person with a family history of cancer is likely to inherit mutated genes thus pre-disposing him or her.

Pollution
Living in an environment full of harmful chemicals like benzene and asbestos can increase the chances of cancer.

Certain health conditions
Some health conditions such as The Human Virus and ulcerative colitis can put one at a higher risk of contracting cancer.

PREVENTION
Here are a few tips that can help reduce the risk of cancer:

1. If you have to, drink moderately- one drink a day.
2. Watch your weight. This can be achieved by eating healthy and exercising regularly.
3. Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun. You can do this by wearing protective gear, applying sunscreen or staying in the house or shade.
4. Regular exercises can also help. Ensure that you spare thirty minutes for this.
5. Avoid or quit smoking.
6. Eat healthy- go for lean proteins, fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
7. Get immunized against cancer risk factors such as HPV and Hepatitis B.

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