X-Ray Results

Common Conditions

Cancer

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by abnormal cells that reproduce at a much faster rate than regular cells.  Cancer cells often form tumors, or a congregated mass of cells.  Cancerous tumors can be malignant, meaning they can spread throughout the body via the bloodstream, local invasion, or the lymphatic system. There are also benign tumors, meaning they do not spread throughout the body.  Different types of cancer include carcinomas, sarcomas, leukemias, and lymphomas among others.  Cancer is ranked in a series of stages ranging I-IV, I being mild and IV being severe. Most forms of cancer affect one of the following:  colon, brain, lung, breast, prostate, testicles, blood cells, lymphatic system, nervous system, bones, ovaries, cervix, skin, kidneys, liver, pancreas, stomach, esophagus, mouth, or uterus.

Cause

Cancer is caused by changes to the genes in DNA that regulate how cells grow and reproduce.  Cancer cells have genes that cause them to replicate and grow at a much faster rate than regular cells.  Risk factors for cancer include having a close family member with a history of cancer, tobacco use, obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet/high fat diet, exposure to toxins or chemicals (carcinogens), exposure to radiation (specifically UV radiation from the sun), hormone therapy (estrogen and progesterone for women), virus exposure (Example: human papilloma virus or HIV), and age (most cancer patients are 65 or older).

Symptoms

Symptoms of cancer vary depending on the type of cancer. Common symptoms include:

  • Significant pain to one area of the body

  • Fatigue/weakness

  • Unusual lumps in or under the skin

  • Changes in urination or bowel movements

  • Unusual bleeding, discharge, or bruising 

  • Chronic joint or muscle pain

  • Chronic fever or night sweats

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Skin changes or sores not healing

  • Moles or warts changing

  • Chronic cough, hoarseness, or shortness of breath

  • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing

Treatment

Treatment for cancer may be an attempt to get rid of the cancer completely or to simply prolong life and minimize symptoms.  Treatments may involve the following:

 

  • Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy uses drugs that destroy cancer cells and good cells in hopes that the cancer cells will be killed off first.  Chemotherapy can cause severe sickness.

  • Radiation therapy - Radiation therapy uses beams of high energy from a special machine to kill cancer cells.

  • Surgery - Surgery can help remove cancerous tumors or cells, and in some cases surgeons can remove the part of the body that is infected with cancer

  • Hormone therapy - Cancer patients can be given hormones to remove other hormones in the body that cause or worsen cancer

  • Immunotherapy - Immunotherapy involves boosting the body's immune system to help fight cancer more efficiently through injections or substances introduced to the body

  • Stem cell transplants - Stem cell transplants involve transplanting bone marrow from someone's own cells or from a donor's cells to replace diseased bone marrow or to allow doctors to treat cancer with higher doses of chemotherapy

  • Drug therapy - Certain drugs can be helpful in fighting cancer cells

  • Enrollment in clinical trials - Clinical trials are research that investigates new methods to treat cancer, and many clinical trials need cancer patients to participate.

Prevention

The most effective measures that can be taken to avoid cancer are to avoid smoking or secondhand smoke exposure, stay up-to-date on all vaccines, have regular cancer screenings (especially a colonoscopy at age 50 or below), practice safe sex habits, drink alcohol in moderation or not at all, eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, stay physically active and engage in regular exercise, avoid excessive exposure to the sun, chemicals, or radiation, maintain a healthy weight, and see a doctor regularly.

Resources

Cleveland Clinic. (2016, July 27). Cancer overview: Management and treatment. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12194-cancer-overview/management-and-treatment 

Cleveland Clinic. (2016, July 27). Cancer overview. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12194-cancer-overview 

Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, March). Cancer overview. https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/cancer-overview-a-to-z

John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Overview of cancer. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/cancer  

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, December 12). Cancer. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20370588 

National Cancer Institute. (2015, February 09). What is cancer? National Institutes of Health. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/what-is-cancer 

The University of Kansas Cancer Center. (n.d.). Cancer overview. https://www.kucancercenter.org/patients-caregivers/cancer-education/cancer-overview 

University of Rochester Medical Center. (n.d.). Cancer overview. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=p07300