Cancer: An Overview of the Diseases – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Cancer?
Cancer is a word used for more than 100 diseases. The subject of cancer is extremely vast. Each type of cancer is different and varies greatly to each other. This article will focus on cancer in general, and will not describe one kind of cancer in much detail. To fully comprehend the word, there needs to be some dissection of the human cell. Each cell contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which is genetic material that makes up all humans.

Cancer Loss of Normal Growth

Normal cells divide to create new cells and eventually die when they are not needed anymore. Cancer cells do not die; they continue to grow, and form abnormal cells that invade other tissues in the body. The body doesn’t need these cancer cells. The DNA in these cancer cells are damaged due to an injury or the environment, thus any cells created onward from these cells will be flawed as well. A mass is formed from the cancer cells called a tumor.
Malignant VS Benign

Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood stream. More tumors can grow as a result of this migration. Tumors can crowd normal tissues in the body. Tumors are not cancerous by definition. Some tumors are benign and some are malignant.  Benign tumors can grow and cause minor health issues; however they can’t invade other tissues. Malignant tumors are cancerous and invade other tissues. Doctors who specialize in cancer diagnosis and treatment are called oncologists. These physicians work with their patients on a one-on-one basis to create an appropriate plan for treatment (National Cancer Institute, 2014).

Categories of Cancer
The National Cancer Institute (2014) provides a description of the main categories of cancer in the following:

Types of Cancer

  • Carcinoma- cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs. There are a number of subtypes of carcinoma, including adenocarcinoma, basil cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and transitional cell carcinoma.
  • Sarcoma- cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessel, or other connective or supportive tissue.
  • Leukemia- cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the blood.
  • Lymphoma and myeloma- cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system.
  • Central nervous system cancers- cancers that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.


Statistics on Cancer
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014, the United States will have over a million new cases of cancer and over five hundred thousand deaths. Millions of people survive cancer each year. The number of survivors of cancer has been steadily increasing every year.

Cancer Survivors

Over 13 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with cancer, and lung cancer has been reported with the highest percentage of deaths among both men and women. There are many different types of cancer.  The risk of developing cancer increases with age. Some cancers are more prevalent among certain populations, and some are exclusive to one gender such is the case with Prostate Cancer and men.

Cancer Survivors
Breast Cancer afflicts more than 2 million women in the United States. If Breast Cancer is caught in the early stages, the chances for survival are over 95%. Cancer as a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean the person will die from the disease. Millions of people survive from cancer each year (American Cancer Society, 2014).


Causes of Cancer
Cancer can be caused by one or more factors. The American Cancer Society states that the causes of cancer are connected with genetics, tobacco, diet, physical activity, sun exposure, radiation exposure and other carcinogens.

Smoking WomanSome cancers are hereditary due to an abnormal gene mutation being passed down from parent to child. Up to one-tenth of all cancers are inherited. Smoking cigarettes/cigars are very dangerous and can be detrimental to a person’s health. Smoking cigarettes has been proven to cause different types of cancer such as lung, oral, and esophageal cancer.
Cancer and Exercise
There is a link between diet and physical activity and cancer. Poor diet and lack of regular physical activity increases the chances of developing the disease. Research studies show that aerobic exercise and weight training boosts the immune system in cancer survivors and lowers the risk of cancer.

20 Cancer Fighting Foods

Research has recently shown these foods to be effective in fighting cancer.

Over 33% of deaths from cancer are related to poor diet (American Cancer Society, 2014). Diets high in trans fats can increase the risk of cancer.  See our article “What is Good Fat?” and “20 Cancer-Fighting Foods.”   Recent studies have shown that increasing acidity and lowering cancer cell pH (increasing acidity) is effective against cancer cell mitosis in the laboratory studies.

Extensive lifetime exposure to UV rays in sunlight can lead to Skin Cancers such as basil cell and melanoma cell cancers. Radiation exposure agents include x-rays and gamma rays. The Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site (2014) describes the characteristics of x-rays and gammas rays as “electromagnetic radiation like visible light, radio waves, and ultraviolet light”. High and frequent exposure to these agents causes cancer. People who work in nuclear power plants have a greater risk of developing cancer cells than those working in regular office buildings. Small amounts of these agents can be found in medical imaging tests and other sources. Carcinogens or environmental factors leading to cancer provided by the American Cancer Society include:

  • Lifestyle factors (nutrition, tobacco use, physical activity, etc.)
  • Naturally occurring exposures (ultraviolet light, radon gas, infectious agents, etc.)
  • Medical treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, immune system-suppressing drugs, etc.)
  • Workplace exposures
  • Household exposures
  • Pollution

Symptoms of Cancer
The symptoms of cancer depend on the type of cancer you may have. Mayo Clinic (2014) provides a list of the general symptoms people may exhibit from the diseases.

Cancer SymptomsThe symptoms include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin
  • Weight changes, including unintended loss or gain
  • Skin changes, such as yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin, sores that won’t heal, or changes to existing moles
  • Changes to bowel or bladder habits
  • Persistent cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Persistent indigestion or discomfort after eating
  • Persistent, unexplained muscle or joint pain
  • Persistent, unexplained fevers or night sweats


Diagnosis of Cancer
Physical self-examinations are important preventative measures to diagnosing cancer. If you display one or more of the symptoms expressed in the previous passage, it’s recommended to seek out a physician for a professional opinion. The physician will perform a physical examination of the area in question and take a complete medical history.

Doctor and patient
A biopsy is usually performed by taking a sample of the lump and examining the cells under a microscope. The American Cancer Society (2014) states that other tests that may be performed include: “x-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and fiber-optic endoscopy examinations”. If the tests come back positive for cancer cells, more tests need to be performed to determine exactly what kind of cancer is present and in what stage the cancer is in which is process called staging. The National Cancer Institute has created a chart to show how oncologists categories the stage of their patient’s cancer. The Cancer Staging Chart is provided below.

Stage

Definition

Stage 0 Carcinoma in situ (abnormal cells are present only in the layer of cells in which they developed)
Stage I, Stage II, and Stage III Higher numbers indicate more extensive disease: Larger tumor size and/or spread of the cancer beyond the organ in which it first developed to nearby lymph nodes and/or tissues or organs adjacent to the location of the primary tumor
Stage IV The cancer has spread to distant tissues or organs

Chart A: Cancer Staging Chart

 

Treatment of Cancer
Cancer can be treated in many different ways. The traditional methods to treating cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. New treatments are targeted therapy, immunotherapy, hyperthermia, stem cell transplant, photodynamic therapy, and laser in cancer treatment. Surgery is most often used to get rid of cancer growing inside the body.

Chemo

Chemotherapy is the use of certain Food and Drug Administration Approved or FDA drugs and medicines to combat the cancer. With radiation therapy, a high-energy beam targeted at the site of the cancer is used. In some cases, a combination of these treatments has been proven to be very effective in getting rid of cancer cells (National Cancer Institute, 2014).

 

Complementary/Alternative Treatments of Cancer
Complementary/Alternative treatments have not been proven to cure cancer; however they play an active role in reliving the side-effects of cancer treatments. People who are diagnosed with cancer sometimes choose other methods for a variety of reasons.

Cancer Patient ExerciseThe National Cancer Institute (2014) describes some of these reasons below:

  • They would like to relieve the side effects of mainstream cancer treatment without having to take more medicine.
  • They are seeking a less unpleasant treatment approach that might have fewer side effects.
  • They want to take an active role in improving their own health and wellness.
  • They prefer alternative theories of health and disease, as well as alternative treatments.

Eating healthy food

In addition to making changes in nutrition, diet and physical exercise, other types of complementary/alternative treatments can help in relieving the side-effects of cancer treatments and in lowering the risk of cancer.   The complementary/alternative treatments are specific to the side-effects that manifest.

The Mayo Clinic (2014) provides a chart to show the most appropriate treatment to try for each side-effect from traditional cancer treatments.

 

If you’re experiencing

Then consider trying

Anxiety Hypnosis, massage, meditation, relaxation techniques
Fatigue Exercise, massage, relaxation techniquesn, yoga
Nausea and vomiting Acupuncture, aromatherapy,hypnosis, music therapy
Pain Acupuncture, aromatherapy,hypnosis,  biofeedback, massage music therapy
Sleep problems Exercise relaxation techniquesn, yoga
Stress Aromatherapyhypnosis, massage, meditation,exercise, tai chi, yoga

Chart B: Alternative Treatment Chart

 

 

References
American Cancer Society. (2014). Understanding Cancer. Cancer Basics. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/index

Guidance for Radiation Accident Management. (2014). Characteristics of Gamma Radiation and X-Rays. Basics of Radiation. Retrieved October 17, 2014, from https://orise.orau.gov/reacts/guide/gamma.htm

Mayo Clinic. (2014). Definition. Cancer. Retrieved October 18, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/basics/definition/con-20032378

National Cancer Institute. (2014). Defining Cancer. What is Cancer?. Retrieved October 18, 2014, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/cancerlibrary/what-is-cancer

 

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This articleHang Pham, MBHA Health Educator is written by Hang Pham. Hang Pham is a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator. Hang Pham was born in Hoc Mon, Vietnam. She came to America in 1994, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2011. Hang graduated from Seaside High School with diploma and received her AA in General Studies from Monterey Peninsula College in 2011. She received her BA in Collaborative Health and Human Services from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2012. In addition to working as a volunteer staff with the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, she currently works as a Clerical Aid in the Human Resources Department of Salinas City Hall. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.


Disclaimer:  
The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

20 Cancer-Fighting Foods

Kia ora, health and wellness friends!

FOOD IS A POWERFUL MEDICINE
Cancer research has recently focused on cancer-fighting foods.

20 Cancer Fighting Foods

Research has recently shown these foods to be effective in fighting cancer. Fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), a change in diet is helpful in reducing cancer risk, yet  no single food or food component can protect you against cancer by itself.  Strong evidence does show that a diet filled with a wide variety of healthy vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans helps lower risk for many cancers.

AICR recommends filling at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans.  Always check with your doctor or trusted health care provider or practitioner before making a change in your diet.

WHAT ARE THE MOST POWERFUL CANCER-FIGHTING FOODS?

oranges lemonsORANGES and LEMONS can be helpful in fighting cancer cells.  Citrus fruits, help protect against DNA-damaging free radicals that can cause cellular damage, alter the DNA and  increase the risk of cancer.  Citrus fruits contain hundreds of bioactive compounds with anti-cancer properties. Citrus fruits contain flavonoids and monoterpenes.  Foods high in vitamin C, can protect against cancer of the esophagus, and foods high in fiber can help to decrease  colorectal cancer risk.

blueberries-strawberriesBLUEBERRIES and STRAWBERRIES have been shown to have cancer-fighting properties. Blueberries are among the highest antioxidant fruits, having many phytochemicals.  Strawberries also contain a wide variety of phytochemicals, called flavonoids. AICR has evidence that berries high in vitamin C and fiber protect against cancer. Laboratory studies show that phytochemicals seem to have have anti-cancer properties and that they are effective in preventing cancers of the bladder, lung, breast, skin, and esophagus.

grapesGRAPES contain a plant chemical called resveratrol, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, hidden in grape skins – especially purple and red ones.  Studies from the AICR have shown that resveratrol keep cancer cells from growing and inhibit tumors. Laboratory research has shown resveratrol’s ability to slow cancer cell growth and the forming of tumors in stomach, liver, breast and lymph cells. Resveratrol has also shown to be effective in destroying colon and leukemic cancer tumors.

Swiss Chard KaleKALE, SWISS CHARD, other dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce,  and chicory  are high in fiber, folate and carotenoidssuch as lutein and zeaxanthin, and also saponins and flavonoids.AICR’s s report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, stated that foods containing carotenoids probably protect against cancers of the larynx, pharynx and mouth.

broccoli BROCCOLI is probably the best known cruciferous vegetable. Broccoli, CABBAGE (green),  cauliflower, brussels sprouts, rapini,  and turnips (white), it forms a “head.” Others known as the “headless crucifers” are the dark green leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens. Research has shown that cruciferous vegetables can aid in preventing cancers.

garlicGARLIC can be effective in stopping the growth of cancer tumors.  According to AICR’s report, garlic and others belonging to the family of vegetables called Allium (which also includes scallions, onions, , chives and leeks) can protect against stomach cancer and colorectal cancer and to slow or stop the growth of tumors in bladder, stomach, prostate, and colon.

green teaGREEN TEA contains polyphenols and flavonoids, which are strong antioxidants. Tea is the best source of catechins in the human diet, and green tea contains about three times the amount of catechins found in black tea.  Catechins have been recently studied for their anti-cancer properties.  Green tea has been shown to slow and/or prevent the development of cancer cells in liver, breast, prostate, and colon in laboratory studies.

tomatoTOMATOES can be powerful cancer-fighting foods. The red color comes primarily from lycopene.  AICR’s report shows convincing evidence that foods containing the phytochemical lycopene probably protect against prostate cancer.  Lycopene and its related compounds tend to concentrate in tissues of the prostate. Researcher’s have been studying the tomato in the laboratory, and tomato components have stopped the forming of cancer cells including endometrial, breast,and  lung.

lentilsLENTILS and beans are legumes. They are also an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin. Foods containing folate most likely help reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer because of folate’s role in healthy cell division and repair of damaged cells.


Chili pepperCHILI PEPPERS
contain a plant compound known as capsaicin. Recent research with laboratory animals suggests that capsaicin may represent a potential treatment for colon cancer.  A study in Taiwan in Taiwan exposed human colon cancer cells to capsaicin and suggested that capsaicin may effectively block tumor growth in colon cancer patients. The results of this research appeared in the December 2010 issue of the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.”

avocadoAVOCADOS may be helpful in stopping cell growth in prostate cancer. Avocados contain the highest amount of the carotenoid luteinutein of all common fruit. They also contain related carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene, and significant amounts of vitamin E.   A very recent study showed that an extract of avocado containing these carotenoids and tocopherols inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells.

ginger rootGINGER has been shown to halt cancer cell growth. Scientists at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center studied the effect of ginger in ovarian cancer cells. Ginger selectively killed the ovarian cancer cells that resisted standard cancer therapy treatment.

turmericTURMERIC is a spice produced from the rhizomes Curcuma longa. Curcumin gives turmeric most of its medicinal benefits. Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco and  Jane Higdon, a cancer researcher at Oregon State University examined the possible reasons why turmeric provides protection against cancer and aids in apoptosis, the process where the body removes genetically damaged cells and unwanted cells.

flax seedFLAXSEED and its oil have been promoted since the 1950s as a food and dietary supplement with anti-cancer properties. Most of the evidence of its ability to prevent the growth or spread of cancer has come from studies in animals. Recently there has been some clinical evidence suggesting that flaxseed supplements may be useful in men with early-stage prostate cancer.

More research is being conducted every day. Always check with your trusted, chosen health practitioner and health-care provider when choosing a new diet or plan of treatment.

RESOURCES
American Cancer Society – “The Color of Prevention,”
American Cancer Society  – “ACS Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention,”
American Institute for Cancer Research – “AICR’s Foods that Fight Cancer” 
American Institute for Cancer Research – “Carotenoids and Breast Cancer Prevention”
American Institute for Cancer Research – “Tomatoes Plus Soy May Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer
American Institute for Cancer Research – “The Spices of Cancer Prevention”
Oncology Nutrition, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Cancer Fighting Foods”
Dyer, Diana. A Dietitian’s Cancer Story, www.cancerrd.com

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Jean E. DartThis article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.

Disclaimer:  The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.