Cancer: causes, symptoms, tests, treatment, is there a cure?

Cancer is one of the most prevalent diseases of the 21st century, being one of the biggest causes of death in the world.

However, contrary to what many imagine, cancer is not a single disease, but a set of more than 100 different diseases that operate within the body in a similar way.

Learn more about cancer in the text below!

Index – in this article you will find the following information:

  1. What is cancer?
  2. Neoplasm, cancer and tumor: what is the difference?
  3. Types of cancer
  4. Terminal cancer
  5. What are the stages of cancer?
  6. Malignant and benign cancer: what is the difference?
  7. Causes
  8. Cancer risk factors
  9. Symptoms of cancer
  10. How is the diagnosis of cancer made?
  11. Can cancer be cured?
  12. What is the treatment of cancer?
  13. Cancer Medicines
  14. Living together
  15. Prognosis
  16. Complications
  17. How to prevent?
  18. Common questions

Contents

What is cancer?

” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” />

Contrary to what many believe, “cancer” is not a disease. On the contrary, cancer is the name given to a set of more than 100 diseases that operate within the body in a similar way .

Also called “neoplasia”, cancer occurs when there is a disorderly, abnormal and accelerated growth of cells in a specific tissue or region of the body.

As this growth increases and the cells accumulate, a tumor forms , which can be classified as malignant or benign.

It is difficult to talk about cancer in general precisely because of the number of diseases that this name encompasses, but it is still possible to provide some interesting data and statistics.

Currently, there are treatments capable of curing about one third of the types of the disease, especially in cases of breast cancer , cervix, mouth, colon and even some types of more complicated diagnosis, such as testicular cancer, acute leukemia and lymphomas.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the second leading cause of death globally.

It is estimated that 1 in every 6 deaths occurs due to cancer, and in 2018 this average represented approximately 9.6 million deaths.

Also according to the WHO, around one third of cancer deaths occur due to 5 behavioral factors. Are they:

  • High Body Mass Index (BMI);
  • Poor intake of fruits and vegetables;
  • Lack of physical activity;
  • Alcohol use;
  • Tobacco consumption.

Of all these behaviors, tobacco is considered to be the biggest risk factor for cancer, accounting for approximately 22% of all cancer deaths.

The most worrying is that this disease generates several expenses, both for the individual, who is often obliged to spend a lot of money on treatment, and for governments and populations.

In 2010, the cost of the disease to the world was approximately US $ 1.16 trillion.

About 30% to 50% of cancer cases could be prevented by implementing prevention strategies and reducing exposure to risk factors.

The use of early detection techniques is also an important measure to avoid the incidence of these diseases.

Cancer can be found in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) under code C80 .

Neoplasm, cancer and tumor: what is the difference?

Although they are often used interchangeably, neoplasia, cancer and tumor have different and very clear definitions.

The term ” neoplasia ” is derived from “neo” = “new” and “plasia” = “growth”. In other words, “neoplasia” means “new growth” and describes the mechanism of cancer cell multiplication.

“ Tumor ”, on the other hand, refers to the mass effect. Thus, a tumor serves as a synonym for anything that accumulates and leads to the growth of a tissue or a certain region – which can happen due to inflammatory reactions, increased fluids or, as in the case of cancer, the uncontrolled proliferation of cells .

Finally, ” cancer ” is the term used to categorize a malignancy.

Types of cancer

There are more than 100 types of cancer, as the disease can happen anywhere in the body.

Some are more frequent than others.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer cases are:

  • Lung cancer – 2.09 million;
  • Breast cancer – 2.09 million;
  • Colorectal cancer – 1.80 million;
  • Prostate cancer – 1.28 million;
  • Skin cancer (not melanoma) – 1.04 million;
  • Stomach cancer – 1.03 million.

Also according to the Organization, the types of cancer that cause the most death are:

  • Lung cancer – 1.76 million deaths per year;
  • Colorectal cancer – 862 thousand deaths per year;
  • Stomach cancer – 783 thousand deaths per year;
  • Liver cancer – 782 thousand deaths per year;
  • Breast cancer – 672 thousand deaths per year.

Remembering that these are absolute numbers. It is not because lung cancer kills more people that it is the most dangerous or difficult to treat.

As there are more than 100 types of cancer, we have made a list with the main ones, taking into account the severity and incidence in the population. Check out:

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the type of cancer that most affects women in the world, representing a total of 2.09 million new cases and 672 thousand deaths per year.

The ratio of men to women is 1: 100, that is, for every 100 women who develop the disease, a man also manifests it.

Ovary cancer

Ovarian cancer can affect the production of eggs and female sex hormones. It is more common to affect women over 50 and early diagnosis is difficult, as clinical manifestations only become apparent in the advanced stages of the disease.

Prostate cancer

The prostate cancer is the second tumor makes more victims among men, second only to lung cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute (INCA), 68 thousand new cases of prostate cancer are registered per year in Brazil, with estimates indicating more than 13 thousand deaths per year.

Despite the high mortality, if the detection is made early, the chances of controlling the disease go up to 90%. For this reason, it is very important to periodically perform the digital rectal exam for men over 50 years old.

Penile Cancer

Penile cancer is considered a rare tumor, with a higher incidence in men over 50 years of age.

According to the INCA, this type of tumor represents about 2% of all types of cancer that affect men and it happens more frequently in the North and Northeast regions.

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer usually arises as a result of infection with the human papilloma virus ( HPV ), which is transmitted during sexual intercourse.

Symptoms may not appear until the cancer has spread or increased, making early diagnosis difficult.

In the United States, the cervical type is the third most common gynecological cancer among all women, being more frequent in younger women.

Esophageal cancer

According to INCA, esophageal cancer is the 6th most common among men and the 15th among women, causing difficulty or pain when swallowing, pain behind the bone in the middle of the chest, nausea and vomiting.

Throat cancer

Throat cancer develops in the larynx, pharynx, tonsils or any other part of the throat.

It is considered rare, but it can occur especially in people who smoke or use alcohol excessively.

Since it can develop very quickly, it is important to be aware of the symptoms to prevent the tumor from becoming aggressive.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer is the type that kills the most in the world, being more common in smokers. It is estimated that almost 90% of lung cancer cases occur due to smoking.

It can also appear in patients who are constantly exposed to cigarette smoke or chemicals considered carcinogenic, such as arsenic (used in preservatives, insecticides and herbicides), carbon (used as a solvent) or lead (used in batteries), for example .

Life expectancy after the discovery of the disease varies from 7 months to 5 years, depending on several factors, such as general health, the type of lung cancer and the start of treatment.

Still, even when the disease is discovered in the early stages, the chances of a cure are not very high, as the possibility of the tumor coming back is great, occurring in about half of the cases.

Non-melanoma skin cancer

Non- melanoma skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Brazil, representing about 30% of all malignant tumors registered in the country.

In general, it has high cure rates if it is detected and treated early.

Among skin tumors, it is the most frequent and has the lowest mortality rate, however, if not treated correctly, it can leave very expressive scars.

It is much more common in people over 40 and, in children and black people, it occurs more rarely, with the exception of those who already have skin diseases, such as infections, nodules, abscesses, etc.

Melanoma skin cancer

Melanoma skin cancer occurs when the pigment-producing cells that give color to the skin, the melanocytes, become cancerous, that is, when they start to multiply in an uncontrollable way.

Symptoms range from the appearance of abnormal nodules to changes in existing spots, which can occur anywhere on the body.

Stomach cancer

Stomach cancer can also be called ” gastric cancer ” and, according to the INCA, more than 20 thousand new cases are diagnosed each year in Brazil.

Among the main causes we can mention the infection by H. pylori bacteria, the consumption of poorly preserved or preserved foods in salt.

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer affects the large intestine, which is subdivided between colon and rectum.

Most cases originate from polyps, which are small elevations in the colon and rectum wall that grow very slowly and can take several years to become malignant.

This allows these polyps to be identified and removed before they become malignant tumors through colonoscopy .

Liver cancer

Liver cancer can be silent. Although it can be diagnosed early, its signs and symptoms often appear only in more advanced stages of the disease.

These include weight loss, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and enlarged liver.

The condition can still have complications such as hypercalcemia (excess calcium in the blood), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) and gynecomastia (swelling of male breast tissue).

Brain cancer

The brain tumor originates in cells of the Central Nervous System (CNS). The causes of the brain tumor are still unknown, however, heredity is one of the main risk factors, including exposure to carcinogenic materials.

It is a very serious tumor and difficult to treat because of the locality, which requires detailed therapeutic methods and precision surgeries.

Mouth cancer

Mouth cancer affects the lips and the inside of the mouth, reaching the gums, cheeks, roof of the mouth, tongue (especially at the edges) and the region under the tongue.

It is more common in white people and generally more common on the lower lip.

Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer usually affects the right side of the organ and is difficult to detect, in addition to aggressive behavior, which causes it to have a high mortality rate.

In Brazil, about 2% of all types of cancer diagnosed are pancreatic cancer. It is more common from the age of 60 and the incidence is higher in males.

Terminal cancer

Terminal cancer is one that, unfortunately, can no longer be treated.

Usually, this stage happens when the cancer has metastasized, which is when the tumor has spread to another organ and other parts of the body.

This occurs when a group of cancer cells detach from the primary tumor and spread throughout the body, being taken to another location, where a new tumor forms.

What are the stages of cancer?

The stage of the disease is determined at the time of diagnosis according to the spread of the cancer (when it spreads through the body) and the severity. For this, there are, in general, two ways to classify the stages of cancer, by the traditional system or by the TNM system. Understand:

Traditional system

Traditionally, cancer is divided into numbers from 0 to IV. These numbers refer to the ease of removing the tumor in surgery:

Stage 0

Also known as carcinoma in situ, cancer, when in stage 0, refers to tumors that have not yet invaded other tissues, being restricted only to the area of ​​origin.

At this stage, the chances of a cure are high, usually requiring only to remove the tumor surgically.

Stage I

In stage I, the tumor is usually small and has not grown much towards adjacent tissues. On that occasion, it can be called early-stage cancer.

Stage II

Normally, when a tumor is in stage II it means that it is larger than in stage 1, but has not yet spread to adjacent tissues.

In some cases, saying that the cancer is in stage II is the same as saying that the cancer cells have already spread to the lymph nodes (antibody-producing organs) closest to the tumor. This, however, depends a lot on the type of cancer.

Stage III

A cancer is said to be in stage III when it is already considerable in size and has already begun to spread to adjacent tissues, in addition to the certainty of the presence of cancer cells in the lymph nodes.

Stage IV

When a cancer is in stage IV, it means that the tumor has already spread to other organs and other parts of the body. It can also be called advanced stage cancer or metastasis .

TNM System

The TNM system is most used by doctors to know the stage of different types of cancer and is updated every 6 or 8 years to include scientific advances.

In this system, each type of cancer receives a letter or number. Understand:

  • Letter T: describes a primary tumor;
  • Letter N: describes a lymph node – a type of cancer that has spread to nearby lymph nodes;
  • Letter M: classifies a metastasis, that is, the cancer that has already spread to other organs.

When a tumor is categorized as T, it means that it is a primary tumor, which has not spread to adjacent tissues.

From there, it is categorized in other aspects and given a letter or number. Understand:

  • TX: a tumor classified as TX is one that cannot be evaluated;
  • T0: a tumor classified as T0 is one that cannot be found;
  • Tis: A tumor classified as Tis, also called cancer in situ or pre-cancer, is one in which cancer cells are found only in the most superficial layer of the tissue, without invading deeper tissues.

After this classification, it can be numbered, such as T1 , T2 , T3 or T4 . These numbers describe the size of the tumor and its spread to nearby tissues.

The greater the number of T, the larger the tumor.

When a tumor is classified as N, it means that it has spread to the nearest lymph nodes. Understand:

  • NX: tumors classified as NX are those that cannot be evaluated;
  • N0: tumors classified as N0 are those in which the closest lymph nodes have not yet been affected by cancer.
  • N1, N2 or N3: tumors classified as N1, N2 or N3 are those in which it is possible to describe the size, location and number of lymph nodes with cancer. The more the number, the more the cancer has spread.

Category M, on the other hand, describes metastasis, which is when the cancer has spread to other sites and more distant organs. Understand:

  • M0: cancer in which no spread has been found is classified as M0;
  • M1: cancer that has already spread to more distant tissues and organs is classified as M1.

Malignant and benign cancer: what is the difference?

The difference between malignant and benign cancer is due to the appearance and structure of the cancer cells.

In benign cancer, the cells are very similar to the ones from the place where they originated (if the tumor developed in the stomach, the cancer cells are similar to normal stomach cells) and do not have the ability to generate metastases.

Malignant cancer, on the other hand, is aggressive, differentiated from the cells of the place of origin and has the ability to infiltrate other organs.

In such cases, surgery to remove the tumor is more urgent.

Causes: what causes a person to get cancer?

It is not known exactly what causes all types of cancer. The reason for some of them is known, such as cervical cancer, which is often caused by HPV infection.

Even so, we can say that the common cause of all cancers is the occurrence of a mutation in the genetic material of one or more cells, causing them to divide in an uncontrolled way.

The whole problem happens because of the growth factors.

Every cell within the human body has receptors for growth factors on its surface. When these factors bind to their respective receptors, they signal to the cell that it is time to grow and divide.

The moment the receptors are activated, other molecules inside the cells start to act, connecting to the receptors and deactivating them, precisely in a control scheme.

This control makes it possible for the cell not to grow and multiply in a disordered way. It is a way for the human body to regulate cell growth.

Cancer begins to happen when mutations occur in the parts of DNA that control the functioning of this system of growth and cell division.

This causes growth-stimulating receptors to be active all the time or not to be deactivated.

In this way, the affected cells begin to grow and divide uncontrollably, giving rise to the tumors.

Read more: HPV infection may be related to laryngeal cancer in young people

Cancer risk factors

Although the cause of all types of cancer is not yet known, there are several known risk factors that increase the chances of developing cancer. Understand:

Smoking

The smoking is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the leading cause of preventable death.

In addition to cancer, smoking is responsible for the development of approximately 50 more diseases and it is estimated that around 4.9 million people die every year from cigarettes.

This is all because the product contains about 4,720 toxic substances, of which at least 70 are carcinogenic.

The worst thing is that smoking is not only harmful to smokers, since smoke is toxic and harms even those who are in the position of passive smokers, with the risk of lung cancer, infarction and increased respiratory diseases.

Obesity

The obesity is considered the second main risk factor for the development of cancer, second only to smoking.

This is because it increases the number of inflammations and the amount of insulin in the body, which stimulates cell multiplication and, consequently, the appearance of tumors.

In addition, excess fat in the body can alter the production of hormones, which in turn increases the risk of cancer.

Processed meats

Ham, sausage, sausage, bacon, salami, bologna and turkey breast are processed meats and can increase the chance of developing cancer.

This includes any type of meat that has been processed by salting, curing, fermenting, smoking and other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.

They are usually used in sandwiches, snacks, pizzas and other quick preparations.

They are considered carcinogenic, as the substances present in the smoke from the smoking process, preservatives and salt can cause tumors to develop in the stomach and intestine.

Therefore, at snack time, opt for white cheeses, salads and pastes prepared with grains or vegetables.

Infections

Some types of viruses and bacteria can be responsible for the development of cancer. Among the main ones, we can highlight:

  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) – can cause cancer of the cervix, penis, vagina, anus and mouth;
  • Hepatitis B and C virus – can cause liver cancer;
  • Epstein-Barr virus – can cause Burkitt’s lymphoma;
  • Helicobacter pylori – May cause gastric cancer.

It is possible to prevent infection from at least two of these agents. The hepatitis B vaccine and the HPV vaccine can be taken, helping to prevent not only these infections, but the cancer they can cause.

Read more: About 5.6 million Brazilians do not consult the gynecologist

Radiation

Radiation, as opposed to turning someone into a superhero, as the comic books say, is a known cause of cancer.

Two types of radiation are associated with a greater risk for the development of the disease: ultraviolet radiation , which comes from the sun, being considered the main cause of non- melanoma skin cancer , and ionizing radiation , which includes x-rays, tomography computed tomography, fluoroscopy and nuclear medicine exams.

Ionizing radiation is related to leukemia, thyroid cancer and breast cancer, but it can also be associated with multiple myeloma and lung, stomach, colorectal, esophagus, bladder and ovary cancers.

Symptoms of cancer

As each type of cancer affects a part of the body, each causes different symptoms. Following the list of most common types of cancer, check out the symptoms:

Breast cancer

The main symptoms of breast cancer can vary a lot in each patient, and some of them may not show any of these signs.

Even so, it is recommended that women know their breasts well, so that they notice changes and alert the doctor in time.

The best time of the month for women who are still menstruating to evaluate their breasts and look for changes is a few days after menstruation, when they are less swollen.

For women who have passed menopause , self-examination can be done at any time of the month.

Among the main signs and symptoms that may appear, the following stand out:

  • Emergence of a single, hardened nodule;
  • Irritation of part of the breast;
  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if it does not feel like a lump);
  • Edema (swelling) of the skin;
  • Erythema (redness) on the skin;
  • Feeling of mass or lump in one breast;
  • Sensation of enlarged lump in the armpit;
  • Thickening or retraction of the skin or nipple;
  • Bloody or serous discharge from the nipples;
  • Swelling of the arm;
  • Pain in the breast or nipple.

Although in most cases the redness, swelling of the skin and even the enlargement of the axillary nodes are due to inflammation or infection, it is important to inform the doctor if any of these symptoms arise.

Ovary cancer

It is estimated that around 75% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer only discover the disease in advanced stages, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms, to ensure early diagnosis.

Among the main symptoms, we can highlight:

  • Frequent back pain;
  • Pain in the abdomen and pelvis;
  • Irregular menstrual cycles;
  • Frequent tiredness;
  • Sensation of gases;
  • Pain during sexual intercourse;
  • Vomiting;
  • Swollen stomach;
  • Excessive hair growth or hair loss;
  • Constipation.

Read more: Can excess gas be a sign of a disease?

Prostate cancer

The symptoms of prostate cancer are unspecific and can be confused with any other problem in the same region of the body.

Among the main symptoms, we can mention:

  • Difficulty starting to urinate;
  • Very weak stream of urine;
  • Frequent desire to urinate, even at night;
  • Feeling of a full bladder, even after you have urinated;
  • Presence of drops of urine in the underwear;
  • Impotence or difficulty maintaining an erection;
  • Pain when ejaculating or urinating;
  • Presence of blood in the semen;
  • Pain in the testicles or near the anus.

Penile Cancer

Cancer of the penis can cause very characteristic symptoms, such as the appearance of lumps or wounds that take a long time to disappear. Among the most common symptoms, we can highlight:

  • Appearance of reddish wounds that do not heal;
  • Lump in the penis, glans or foreskin;
  • Thicker penis skin or color changes;
  • Smelly discharge that comes out of the urethra;
  • Bleeding from the penis;
  • Swelling of the tip of the penis;
  • Pain and swelling in the groin area.

Cervical cancer

Identifying cervical cancer is not easy, as the symptoms are usually the same as for several other diseases, which makes diagnosis difficult. Among the main ones, we can mention:

  • Genital warts;
  • Unusual discharge;
  • Pain or bleeding outside the menstrual period;
  • Urinary problems;
  • Sudden weight loss;
  • Recurring pains in the legs and back.

Esophageal cancer

Unfortunately, most cancers in the esophagus do not cause as many symptoms until they have reached an advanced stage. So be on the lookout for symptoms like:

  • Difficulty swallowing (swallowing);
  • Chest pain;
  • Weight loss;
  • Hoarseness;
  • Persistent cough;
  • Vomiting;
  • Hiccups;
  • Bone pain;
  • Bleeding.

Throat cancer

Throat cancer causes symptoms that can include:

  • Emergence of wounds that do not heal in the throat;
  • Persistent cough;
  • Pain and difficulty swallowing;
  • Earache;
  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Weight loss;
  • Lump or mass in the neck.

Lung cancer

The first signs and symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • Cough;
  • Chest pain;
  • Hoarseness;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Shortness of breathe;
  • Fatigue;
  • Cough with mucous sputum;
  • Cough with blood sputum;
  • Infections.

When the disease spreads to other organs, it can cause symptoms such as:

  • Bone pain;
  • Changes in the nervous system;
  • Jaundice (yellowish pigmentation of the skin and the white part of the eye).

Non-melanoma skin cancer

The main signs and symptoms related to non- melanoma skin cancer are the appearance of skin lesions in areas of sun exposure (forearms, neck, face) and lesions in general, which start as a small nodule.

Over time, they may increase in size and bleed.

Read more: How to use sunscreen every day and in any situation

Melanoma skin cancer

Changes in the skin are usually the first warning sign for melanoma , however, the diagnosis can only be made by a doctor.

Thus, melanoma can arise in different ways in any part of the body, including those that are not so exposed to the sun.

Among the main signs and symptoms we can highlight:

  • Emergence of a new spot, irregularly shaped, dark brown, with darker or black areas;
  • Simple birthmarks that change color (darken), size (grow), texture (become hardened) or that peel or bleed;
  • Emergence of lesion with irregular border with red, white, blue, gray or bluish-black area or dots;
  • Emergence of a new shiny and firm protuberance on any part of the body;
  • Dark spots under the nails of the hands or feet, on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or on the mucous membranes.

Stomach cancer

Among the most common signs and symptoms of stomach cancer are:

  • Lack of appetite;
  • Weight loss;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel;
  • Heartburn or indigestion;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting, with or without blood;
  • Swelling or accumulation of fluid in the abdomen;
  • Anemia.

Colorectal cancer

Among the main symptoms caused by colorectal cancer, we can highlight:

  • Changes in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea for no apparent reason);
  • Anemia;
  • Weakness;
  • Abdominal colic;
  • Weight loss;
  • Bleeding from the rectum;
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation.

Liver cancer

Among the main symptoms of liver cancer, we can point out:

  • Pain in the belly, especially on the right side;
  • Swelling in the belly;
  • Weight loss without apparent cause;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Excessive tiredness;
  • Yellow skin and eyes;
  • Constant seasickness.

Brain cancer

It is quite difficult to define the characteristic symptoms of brain cancer, as it can affect several different areas of this organ, causing different symptoms. However, we can highlight:

  • Headache, nausea and persistent vomiting;
  • Visual and auditory changes;
  • Convulsions;
  • Motor agitation;
  • Muscle weakness or stiffness;
  • Loss of sensation in any part of the body;
  • Lack of coordination;
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding what is said;
  • Forgetfulness of words;
  • Problems with reading and writing inexplicably;
  • Involuntary movements;
  • Motor deficit of the limbs.

Mouth cancer

Among the main symptoms of bocva cancer, we can highlight:

  • The appearance of lesions in the oral cavity or on the lips, which tend not to heal for another 15 days;
  • Appearance of red or whitish spots and plaques on the tongue, gums, roof of the mouth or cheek;
  • Emergence of lumps, also called nodules, in the neck;
  • Prolonged hoarseness.

In more advanced cases, the following symptoms may appear:

  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing;
  • Difficulty speaking;
  • Sensation that there is something stuck in the throat.

Pancreatic cancer

There are some symptoms that may indicate the presence of cancer in the pancreas.

Some may look like symptoms caused by other illnesses, such as hepatitis, so talk to your doctor. Check out the main ones:

  • Yellowish skin and eyes;
  • Dark urine;
  • Stools more whitish or with the presence of fat;
  • Itchy skin;
  • Severe abdominal pain, which usually radiates to the back;
  • Difficulty of persistent digestion;
  • Lack of appetite that causes weight loss;
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting;
  • Formation of blood clots or bleeding;
  • Diabetes.

Pancreatic cancer can also affect cells responsible for the production of hormones.

This can lead to symptoms such as excess stomach acid with subsequent development of ulcers, sudden changes in blood sugar levels, an enlarged liver or severe diarrhea .

How is the diagnosis of cancer made?

Diagnosing cancer can be a difficult task, but through the patient’s report and specific clinical examinations, it is possible to reach a conclusion.

Read more: Watching injuries is not enough to diagnose skin cancer

Below are the main tests for the diagnosis of cancer:

Tumor biopsy

A biopsy is nothing more than the collection of samples from any part of the body for later analysis in the laboratory.

Depending on where the suspected tumor is located, different extraction techniques may be used.

Some types even remove the entire organ, while others can take samples of the tumor with a fine needle.

Among the main types of biopsy, we can highlight:

Needle biopsy

Needle biopsy can be done with a fine needle (this technique is also called fine needle aspiration) or a slightly thicker needle (called a core biopsy).

In general, they can be performed under local anesthesia and on an outpatient basis (without hospitalization).

Excisional and Incisional Biopsy

In an excisional biopsy, a surgeon makes a cut on the skin to remove the entire tumor, while in the incisional one, a cut is made to remove only a fragment of it.

The entire procedure is done with the patient under local or regional anesthesia.

If the tumor is lodged inside the chest or abdomen, anesthesia is general.

Endoscopic Biopsy

In endoscopic biopsy, an endoscope (a flexible tube with a camera on the tip) is inserted to take samples for diagnosis.

Different types of endoscopes are used to observe each part of the body.

For an endoscope used to observe the inside of the nose, for example, is different from the endoscope used for the digestive tract.

Laparoscopy

Laparoscopy is a surgery in which small holes are made (from 3 to 6) through which a microcamera will be inserted, with a light source to observe the interior of the organism, and removal instruments.

In this way it is possible to identify the location of the tumor and remove it.

Laparotomy

Laparotomy occurs through an incision in the abdomen. It is indicated when the suspicious area cannot be assessed using less invasive exams.

During laparotomy, a tissue sample can also be collected and the surgeon can directly observe the size and location of the tumor, in addition to observing nearby tissues.

This procedure is only performed under general anesthesia.

Skin biopsies

There are several types of skin biopsy and it will depend on the type of tumor. Melanomas, for example, need more accurate tests and may require removing deeper layers of skin.

In this type of examination, a small portion of the skin or mucosa is removed for further analysis with the help of razors, scraping or a scalpel.

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a procedure in which the doctor injects a small amount of radioactive material and a small amount of blue dye.

After approximately one hour, a surgeon, through a small incision, is able to remove the injected material and analyze whether or not cancer cells are present.

This type of examination has become more common to find out whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, that is, whether it has gone to another stage.

For this function, the test works especially with melanoma and breast cancer.

Bloodtests

There are some blood tests that can be ordered by the doctor to diagnose cancer. They look for tumor markers, which are substances produced by cancer cells or by the tumor itself.

The collection is the same for all types, what changes from one to another are the tests done in the laboratory with the collected samples. Check out the main ones:

AFP

The AFP test seeks to detect the presence of alpha fetoprotein (AFP), which indicates the presence of tumors in the stomach, intestine, ovaries or the presence of metastases in the liver.

MCA

The MCA exam looks for the mucoid antigen associated with carcinoma (MCA), which may indicate the occurrence of breast cancer.

BTA

Bladder tumor antigen (BTA), which indicates the presence of bladder cancer, can be detected by the BTA exam.

PSA

PSA searches for the prostate antigen (PSA), a protein produced for the prostate, but which in cases of prostate cancer has its concentration in the blood increased.

CA 125

CA 125 is a marker used to monitor the development of ovarian cancer.

Calcitonin

This test looks for the presence of calcitonin, a hormone produced by the thyroid (gland located in the neck) that may be increased in people with thyroid cancer, but also in people with breast or lung cancer.

Thyroglobulin

The presence of elevated thyroglobulin in the blood may indicate the presence of thyroid cancer.

CEA

The presence of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) may indicate the presence of different types of cancer, including intestinal cancer.

Complete blood count

complete blood count is a blood test that, in addition to helping to detect cancers such as leukemia, can also detect infections, inflammation and immune system problems.

The test analyzes leukocytes (white blood cells), red blood cells (red blood cells) and platelets, providing a variety of information about blood cells.

Bone marrow biopsy

Bone marrow biopsy is done to study the characteristics of bone marrow cells, a soft tissue that is found inside bones and is responsible for the manufacture of blood cells.

The test helps the doctor make diagnoses and monitor the evolution of diseases such as lymphoma, myelodysplasia or multiple myeloma, as well as to identify infections and the presence of metastasis.

In general, the procedure is done with local anesthesia, but in some cases sedation is necessary. The extraction is usually done with a thick needle, specially developed to reach the inner part of the bones.

The bones chosen are usually those of the pelvis, in a place called the iliac crest, but it can also be performed on the tibia (leg bone), usually in children.

X-ray

X-rays use X-rays to generate images of the inside of the body. In oncology, the most used type of radiography is that of the chest.

In this way, it is possible to examine the lungs and diagnose lung metastases, in addition to other problems, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and pleural effusions (fluid accumulation), in addition to assessing the shape of the heart and other structures of the chest.

It is also possible to do radiography of the abdomen and assess the health of the bowel loops (the places where the bowel folds), as well as to detect tumors in those regions.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a painless examination that uses sound waves to generate images of organs and other structures within the body.

In the exam, the professional distributes a little gel in the place that will be analyzed and places the transducer (ultrasound device) on top of the gel.

Then, the device is slid over the skin to generate images from inside the body, which will be viewed on a computer and analyzed later by the doctor.

Computed tomography

Computed tomography also uses X-rays to generate images of the body, which may be of bones, organs or tissues.

The test is painless and anyone can perform it, despite this, pregnant women should give preference to other tests.

In addition to cancer, computed tomography can detect hemorrhages, hydrocephalus , appendicitis, renal malformation, fractures, infections and several other conditions.

MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging is able to show the internal structures of the organs with definition, being one of the best exams to diagnose aneurysms, tumors, changes in the joints and other injuries in Organs internal organs.

The examination uses a large machine that creates a magnetic field capable of generating the agitation of the body’s molecules, which are captured and transferred by the computer and generate images.

The average duration is 15 to 30 minutes, but it may take longer depending on the extent of the areas analyzed. Precautions must be taken during the examination, as the large magnet can pull metals towards you and cause accidents.

Can cancer be cured?

It depends . It is not possible to state categorically whether or not cancer has a cure, as “cancer” is a general definition for more than 100 different diseases.

Some of these diseases are curable, while others are not so well understood by science. The truth, after all, is that it all depends on the type, stage of the disease, and the general state of health of the patient.

Despite this, even in situations where cancer is incurable, there are treatments that can improve the patient’s quality of life.

There is a wide variety of theories that claim that there is already a cure for cancer that is hidden from the general population by the pharmaceutical industry in order to generate profit through conventional treatment.

These theories, however, are not true, just as saying that “cancer can be cured” does not make sense if you do not specify which type of disease.

Learn more: Minute Investigate: have they invented the cure for cancer?

What is the treatment of cancer?

The treatment of cancer will depend a lot on the type of the disease, the affected area and the stage it is in. Among the main forms of treatment, we can highlight:

Surgery

The most traditional cancer treatment, cancer surgery, is also one of the oldest.

Its ultimate goal is to remove the tumor in whole or in part, depending on the type of cancer, the location, the size of the tumor and the stage at which it is.

When cancer is detected early, the purpose of surgery is usually curative. However, it can have other goals as well.

Among them, we can highlight the diagnostic, palliative, reconstructive and preventive functions.

Diagnostic surgery is necessary for most types of cancer to make an accurate assessment of the disease. This way, it is possible to know exactly which cells of which tissues are defective, as well as to determine whether the tumor is malignant or not.

In order to relieve symptoms, palliative surgery can serve, among other things, to:

  • Relieve pain;
  • Stop some type of bleeding caused by the tumor:
  • Insert feeding tubes, in cases of patients who suffer a lot of pain or have difficulty swallowing;
  • Prevent breakage of bones, as cancer treatment can affect their health.

Reconstruction surgery, in turn, is usually performed after surgery on a primary cancer and aims to restore the appearance or function of the body.

Preventive surgery is performed to reduce the risk of developing cancer, for example, the removal of pre-cancerous polyps (abnormal tissue growth) in the colon.

We can say, then, that cancer surgery seeks to directly treat the disease while the others are ways to help in the treatment and enable a better quality of life for the patient.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to destroy tumor cells.

Because it is a systemic treatment (that is, capable of affecting the entire body), it not only affects cancer cells, but also healthy cells.

In general, chemotherapy is administered intravenously, although it is possible to administer some chemotherapy drugs orally.

Depending on the goal, chemotherapy can be:

  • Healing (when seeking to obtain complete control of the tumor);
  • Adjuvant (when performed after surgery, to reduce the chances of recurrence);
  • Neoadjuvant (when used to reduce the size of the tumor to increase the chances of successful surgical treatment);
  • Palliative (when it has no curative purpose, but is used to improve the patient’s quality of survival).

Radiotherapy

Radiation therapy uses radiation to destroy or stop the growth of cancer cells.

According to the American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), 2 out of 3 patients diagnosed with cancer are treated with radiation therapy.

This type of radiation cannot be seen with the naked eye, because, scientifically speaking, it is waves or particles smaller than an atom. Among the most used, we can highlight:

  • X ray;
  • Gamma;
  • Electrons;

During application, the patient usually does not feel anything, however, side effects may occur. They happen because radiation can damage healthy cells in the body.

Despite this, these cells can usually repair themselves, which is not the case with cancer cells, which are permanently destroyed.

Each type of radiotherapy has a specific indication depending on the type of tumor and the stage of the disease. Therefore, radiotherapy can be used as a main or complementary treatment.

Hormone Therapy

Many tumors, such as breast, uterus and prostate cancer, need the direct action of hormones in order for them to grow.

To prevent hormonal action on cancer cells, hormone therapy enters.

It is a hormonal manipulation technique made using drugs that are able to block the patient’s own hormones, preventing them from stimulating the growth of tumors.

Target therapy

Within the cells of the human body there are several molecules that have the function of stimulating and maintaining cell multiplication.

They are very important for the functioning of the body, ensuring that cells are replaced and that the body operates in an orderly manner. In the case of cancer, these molecules are normally functioning in an uncontrolled and chaotic manner.

Seeking to reverse this effect, target therapy is used, which acts to combat these specific molecules in tumor cells, reducing their activity.

In this way, it is possible to make the tumor cells decrease their multiplication index or to stop multiplying altogether.

This treatment is based on drugs and each type of target therapy works differently, all of which have an effect on the way the cancer cell grows, divides, repairs itself and how it interacts with other cells.

Personalized medicine

Personalized medicine understands that cancer treatment must be personalized for each patient uniquely.

In it, the medical team takes into account the entire medical history, clinical, genetic and environmental data of each patient to decide the course of treatment.

Through the analysis of this information, the medical team is able to come up with an individual treatment plan, identifying prevention, screening and therapeutic conduction strategies that can be more effective than conventional treatment.

Immunotherapy

We all have the potential to develop cancer.

In fact, if it weren’t for the action of our immune system, most likely, this disease would hit us much more often and perhaps much earlier in life.

This is because errors at the time of cell replication happen all the time. We can say that cells appear with the potential to become tumors with certain frequency in the body.

These cells, however, only do not become tumors due to the action of the immune system, which is very efficient in the task of identifying and inactivating them.

However, it can happen that the immune system “lets go” of such a cell and it is in these cases that the cancer actually develops.

It was by analyzing this system that immunotherapy was developed. Its main objective is to use the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer, using antibodies produced by the patient’s body or made in the laboratory.

In this way, immunotherapy is able to stimulate the body’s defense cells, allowing them to identify tumor cells as an aggressor and destroy them.

Bone marrow transplant

Bone marrow is a type of tissue that stays inside the bones.

In it, blood components are produced, such as red blood cells (red blood cells), leukocytes (white blood cells) and platelets (which participate in the coagulation process).

Some patients may need a bone marrow transplant, especially those who have cancers that affect blood cells, such as leukemia.

In this sense, the transplant can be done with the patient’s own bone marrow or that of a donor.

Therefore, before being done, it is necessary to carry out compatibility tests, where the blood samples of the recipient and the donor are analyzed to ensure that the compatibility is complete.

From there, through several punctures the marrow aspiration occurs.

The patient undergoes a treatment that destroys the marrow itself and, finally, receives the new one in a procedure similar to blood transfusion.

Once the new marrow begins to circulate in the bloodstream, it also lodges in the bones, where it develops.

Cancer Medicines

Cancer is usually not treatable with the use of a single medication. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are usually used in conjunction with other medications to ensure treatment.

Read more: ANVISA releases new drug for cancer treatment

Among the most used drugs for the treatment of cancer, we can highlight:

  • Diclofenac Cholestyramine ;
  • Dolantine ;
  • Meticorten .

Attention!

NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained in this website is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Living together

Living with cancer can be a difficult task, especially because, although many types can be cured, the disease still suffers from a social taboo. Therefore, we have separated some tips for better living with the disease. Check out:

Find out more

Learning about the disease and how to treat it is a way of seeking some sense of control over what is happening. So, research, learn and ask all you can to the doctors who are assisting you on this journey.

Eat properly

A correct and balanced diet is good for everyone, especially for cancer patients.

Through healthier eating practices, it is possible to obtain the correct amount of vitamins and minerals for the immune system to function properly.

Read more: Exchanging animal proteins for vegetables reduces risk of disease

Express your feelings

For many people, it is difficult to talk about how you feel, but this small act can make things less difficult. Many feel that expressing sadness, fear or anger is a sign of weakness, but this is not true.

In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is very difficult to express strong emotions like this. Hiding them is easier, but it can make the task of coping with the disease more difficult. So talk to others and tell them how you feel.

If necessary, seek help groups. There you will find people who are going through similar situations and this helps a lot, because in these places it is easier to feel understood.

Many people can develop depressive conditions due to the disease. If you feel like this, don’t be ashamed to seek help from a family member and a professional in the field.

Appreciate yourself

Remember to always take the time to do something you like every day.

Cook your favorite meal, spend time with a friend or loved one, watch a movie, meditate, listen to your favorite music or do anything that makes you feel good.

Read more: Quality of Life: what can it help me with?

That way, you contribute to lowering your stress levels , which can have a positive effect on your immune system.

Work out

If your doctor agrees that you are fit, exercise. Exercises can be boring in their execution, but they are very good for physical and mental health.

Physical activity improves the quality of life of anyone, but for cancer patients, in particular, it improves the functioning of the body, decreases the feeling of fatigue caused by the chemo, helps to decrease anxiety and can increase self-esteem .

Not to mention the benefits to the body, regulating fat rates, decreasing the loss of muscle mass and assisting in the functioning of the heart.

In addition, adopting the practice during and after treatment can decrease the risk of relapse.

However, there are caveats. There is no point in doing all the physical activities at once and on your own.

It is important to seek follow-up and, especially if you have never practiced physical activities, start with light and short-term exercises.

Prognosis

The prognosis of a cancer case will depend a lot on the type and stage of the disease.

There are milder and easier to treat cancers, such as skin cancer, however, others, such as lung and brain cancers, have less chance of treatment and cure.

Still, even milder cancers, when diagnosed late, may have no cure.

Among the cancers that have the greatest chance of cure, we can highlight:

  • Breast cancer;
  • Prostate cancer;
  • Testicular cancer;
  • Thyroid cancer;
  • Melanoma;
  • Cancer of the cervix.

Complications

There are several complications that a tumor can cause, considering that the more than 100 types of cancer can cause very different complications.

However, among the main complications we can highlight:

Metastasis

Metastasis happens when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Usually, when this happens, the chances of treatment are reduced and there is the possibility that there will be no further cure.

Depression

Both due to the difficulty of dealing with the diagnosis and the side effects of the disease and its treatment, it may be that the patient feels unmotivated or more “down”.

You need to be aware of these signs, as they can be indications of depression . Therefore, be aware of the following symptoms:

  • Insomnia or other sleep disorders;
  • Lack or excess of appetite;
  • Variations in weight;
  • Extreme fatigue;
  • Feelings of irritability, agitation, worthlessness, guilt, despair or helplessness;
  • Thoughts of self-harm;
  • Suicidal thoughts;
  • Concern about death;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Crying crises;
  • Feeling more “slow”;
  • Loss of interest in activities that he previously enjoyed.

If you feel that your sadness is too much, that it is excessive, do not be ashamed to ask for professional help and talk to a psychiatrist.

If it is really depression, it is possible to treat it through the use of specific medications and therapy.

Ache

Both cancer and treatment can cause pain in patients. In such cases, the use of medications and other approaches can alleviate the symptoms.

Weight loss

It is common for people with cancer to experience some weight loss. It is usually associated with fatigue, weakness, loss of energy and inability to perform everyday tasks.

The truth is that both the disease itself and its treatment (chemo, radio, hormone therapy or target therapy) can have side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, sores in the mouth, changes in metabolism, loss of taste, among others.

With the exception of changes in metabolism (which can cause the body to consume more or less energy than usual), these symptoms can cause the patient to stop eating.

In such cases, it is important that food intake is increased, always in light meals before treatments, to avoid symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

If necessary, it is also possible to talk to the doctor about the possibility of receiving food directly in the stomach.

Relapse

Patients who have been cured of cancer have a greater chance of tumor recurrence. Some types of cancer are more likely to recur than others. Ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk of relapse.

How to prevent?

There are several precautions you can take to prevent the appearance of tumors. Among them we can mention:

Control the weight

A study by the International Cancer Research Agency (IARC) identified at least 8 types of cancer that are related to overweight and obesity.

They are cancer of the stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, ovary, thyroid, meningioma (type of brain tumor) and multiple myeloma (cancer that affects bone marrow cells).

In addition, other studies indicate that, in addition to these, cancer of the colon and rectum, breast (postmenopausal), prostate, esophagus, kidney and body of the uterus are also related to overweight and obesity.

Do not smoke

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer in the world. Approximately 90% of the cases of lung cancer have cigarette as the main responsible, and the other 10% are the result of secondhand smoke.

In addition to lung cancer, smoking can cause cancer of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, kidney, bladder, cervix and leukemia.

All of this is due to the presence of more than 4 thousand toxic substances, at least 400 of which are highly carcinogenic.

Don’t abuse alcohol

Excessive alcohol increases the chance of developing some types of cancer, such as intestine, esophagus and liver, in addition to potentiating the effects of tobacco.

In addition, according to the International Cancer Research Agency, just 18 grams (two doses) of alcohol a day is enough to significantly increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Use condom

Some viruses and bacteria, especially HPV, are responsible for the development of some types of cancer, such as that of the cervix, vulva, penis and throat. So, practice safe sex with a condom .

Avoid processed meats

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meats, such as bologna, ham and bacon, as carcinogens. So try to keep your distance from these foods.

Take care of your diet

Sugar, when consumed in excess, causes the body to release too much insulin to metabolize it. Insulin increases the production of pro-inflammatory substances that can increase the chance of cancer.

This does not mean that you should stop consuming sugar, but simply cool.

The same goes for red meat, which can stimulate the production of other pro-inflammatory substances and, thus, the development of cancer.

Protect the skin

Frequent exposure to UVA and UVB rays, generated by the sun, can cause cellular changes that may be related to skin cancer.

So, protect yourself from the sun. This way, you will not only be avoiding burns, but reducing the risks of the appearance of tumors on the skin.

Practice physical activity

Being physically active is good for your health in general, in addition to fighting cancer. Exercises, especially aerobic ones, decrease the circulation of pro-inflammatory substances and, consequently, cancer.

Maintain regular appointments

It is very important to perform examinations annually and keep an eye out for signs that the body gives. That way, you can identify the disease in the early stages, and with that, your chance of a cure is greater.

Common questions

Is cancer hereditary?

No. In general, we can say that cancer is not hereditary. There are some rare types that can be inherited, such as retinoblastoma, a type of cancer in the eye that occurs in children.

However, cancer develops due to several genetic and environmental factors. It is not because your father had stomach cancer that you will necessarily have it, although the chances may be greater.

Is cancer contagious?

No , cancer is not contagious or transmissible. Even those caused by viruses, such as cervical cancer, cannot be passed from person to person.

What is malignant neoplasm?

The malignant neoplasm is nothing more than the cancer that has managed to spread to other tissues and organs of the body, even if they are far from the place of origin of the disease. This process in which the cancer spreads is also known as metastasis .

Does Omeprazole cause cancer?

The idea that proton pump inhibitor (PPI) drugs, such as Omeprazole, Pantoprazole and Lansoprazole, could cause cancer came from a study published in the scientific journal Gut in 2017.

This survey was carried out with more than 60,000 people in Hong Kong and points to a 2.4-fold increase in the risk of developing stomach cancer in anyone using any medication.

However, despite these results, it is not possible to say that PPIs cause cancer.

This is because the development of stomach cancer only appeared in 0.25% of patients, in addition to the fact that other risk factors, such as obesity, smoking or family history, were not analyzed in the study.

But it does not mean that research is not of importance, however, both because of the results and because of flaws in its method, it is not possible to say that these drugs certainly cause cancer.

On the other hand, there are many other studies that demonstrate results in favor of omeprazole.

In any case, this article serves as a warning to never take medication without first consulting a doctor.

Have you invented the cure for cancer?

Yes and no . Yes, many types of cancer already have a cure, while others do not. The vast majority, not to mention the totality, of theories that say that the cure for cancer has already been invented is a lie. Find out more by reading our investigative text on curing cancer.

Which type of cancer is the most dangerous?

We can say that the most dangerous and lethal type of cancer is lung cancer, being responsible for 1.76 million deaths per year. This is because it usually comes with other diseases associated with smoking, such as emphysema, which reduces lung capacity and can make surgery unviable.

Loading...