Monday, June 24, 2019

We’ve all heard of cancer but what exactly is it? Cancer is a group of diseases that about 90.5 million people have (2015), and each year the number of new cases is about 14.1 million. Cancer also causes nearly 16% of all human deaths worldwide. Over one-fifth of all cancer deaths are caused by tobacco, and another 10% is called by poor diet, lack of exercise, and excessive alcohol.                                        

Cancer includes a group of related diseases. In each type of cancer, some cells in the patient’s body start to divide. This process continues and spreads to tissues surrounding the cancerous cells.

The human body has trillions of cells and cancer can start nearly anywhere in the body. In a healthy person, the cells in the body then divide to provide the body with new cells. After the cells become old or get damaged, they die then new cells replace them.

What happens when a person has cancer? This process falls apart. The cells keep becoming old, stay damaged, or abnormal. Also, new cells form when they’re unnecessary, divide continuously, and create growths known as tumors.

Cancer tumors are “malignant.” In other words, they can spread to/invade tissues nearby. Some of the cancer cells can also travel via the blood or lymph system and develop new cancer tumors.

Then there are also benign tumors. They don’t spread to or invade tissues nearby. However, these tumors can be very big. After they’ve moved they typically don’t grow back although malignant tumors do sometimes. It’s worth noting that benign brain tumors can become deadly, but the majority of benign tumors throughout the body aren’t.

Cancer causes genetic changes in effect three kinds of genes: tumor suppressor genes, pro-oncogenes, and DNA repair genes. These are the ‘drivers” of cancer. When the cancer spread to a place beyond where it began this is known as “metastatic cancer.” Metastasis is the process by which cancer cells move to other parts of a patient’s body.

This type of cancer contains the same name/type of cancer cells in the primary (original) cancer. Let’s say that the tumors start as breast cancer then spread to develop a metastatic tumor in the lung. It is known as metastatic breast cancer rather than lung cancer.

Various treatments can help to boost the lifespan of some people who have metastatic cancer. However, the main goal of treating metastatic cancer is to control cancer growth or reduce the symptoms. Metastatic tumors can cause major damage to the body’s functionality, and the majority of cancer deaths result from metastatic diseases. 

History

The “history” of cancer dates back to ancient Egypt. Scientists have discovered human mummies with fossilized bone tumors and written references in ancient manuscripts. There’s also been bone damage to heads/necks due to cancerous cells.

The oldest written reference to cancer dates back to around 3000 BC in the Edwin Smith Papyrus. It’s referred to in an Egyptian textbook about trauma surgery. A tool is known as a “fire drill” was used to treat 8 cases of breast cancer tumors. The ancient cancer reference states that there’s no effective treatment for the disease.

The Greek physician Hippocrates was known as the “Father of Medicine” was the first person to use the term “cancer.” Hippocrates referred to “carcinos” and “carcinoma.” These Greek words refer to a crab and describe the finger-like spreading of the powerful disease.

People’s understanding of cancer has improved greatly since the 1600s. These included various autopsies that helped the medical world better understand blood circulation and the cause of cancer. Scottish surgeon John Hunter suggested in the 1700s that surgery could treat some types of cancer. Almost a century later the use of anesthesia allowed surgery to treat “movable” cancers that hadn’t moved to other human organs.

Regarding cancer screening/detect in the first widely used screening test was the “Pap” test of George Papanicolaou. He reported in 1923 that the test could be used to detect cervical cancer. Meanwhile, modern mammogram tests were officially recommended by the American Cancer Society (ACS) in 1976.

Cancer treatments have evolved over the past centuries. Roman physician Celsus observed that cancer tumors seemed to return after surgery. Around the start of the 1900s, English surgeon Stephen Pagent discovered that blood circulation spread cancer cells. Around this time German professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered X-rays, which were used to diagnose and treat cancers. Radiation therapy started with radium.

During the past century or so, other types of cancer treatments have been developed. The observation of soldiers during  World War II resulted in nitrogen mustard to treat lymph node cancer known as “lymphoma.” Then in the 1800s when Thomas Beatson observation that removing ovaries in advanced breast cancer later resulted in the development of hormone therapy. Immunotherapy has also been developed through biological response modifier (BRM) therapy. These biological agents have been developed to treat cancer.

  1. Symptoms/Treatment (specific drugs)

Symptoms

  • Lump/Thick area under skin
  • Skin changes including tone/sores/moles
  • Bleeding/bruising
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Muscle/joint pain
  • Fevers/night sweats
  • Coughing/breathing problems
  • Indigestion
  • Problems swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Change in bowel/bladder habits
  • Fatigue

If you or a loved one is experiencing several of these symptoms, it’s advisable to be screened for cancer. There’s a chance it might not be cancer, but it’s a good idea to be tested.

Treatment

  1. Surgery

In this type of procedure, the surgeon removes cancer tumors in your body. Surgeon use tools to cut through skin/muscle/bone and remove the cancer cells. Different types of anesthesia are used so the patient doesn’t feel pain during the procedure. There are other types of surgery that doesn’t include cutting using scalpels including cryosurgery, Lasers, Hyperthermia, and Photodynamic Therapy.

It’s important to learn the basics of different types of cancer surgery. There are pros/cons of each one so doing the research can help to pick the one that’s best for your particular needs. 

  1. Pharmaceuticals

There are several cancer drugs on the market. They’re used for different stages of the group of diseases. The demand for cancer drugs is skyrocketing. There are various causes for this increase in demand. They include expanding the middle class in emerging markets like India, increased healthcare in nations like China, and aging populations in countries like US and Japan. The best-selling cancer drugs in the US alone from #1 to #10 include:

  • Rituxan
  • Herceptin
  • Eloxatin
  • Erbitux
  • Xeloda
  • Avastin
  • Gleevec
  • Alimta
  • Velcade
  • Tarceva

It’s interesting to note that the best-selling cancer drugs have been around for a while. The top three drugs on the list were approved in 1997, 1998, and 2004. In fact, the newest drug on the list was approved by the FDA in November 2004.

  1. Radiation Therapy

It is also known as radiotherapy. It’s a treatment that uses high levels of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Low radiation levels can also be used to see inside the human body to help detect cancer. It’s important to note that the radiation therapy doesn’t zap the cancer cells immediately. The treatment can take days/weeks before enough DNA damage results in the cancer cells dying. In fact, the cancer cells keep dying for weeks/months after the radiation therapy ends.

  1. Chemotherapy

It is one of the most common ways to treat cancer. It works by stopping/slowing cancer cells, which grow/divide quickly. It should be noted that there are various functions of chemo. It can be used to treat cancer by curing cancer, stopping/slowing growth, or reducing the chance the cancer returns. Chemo is also used to reduce cancer symptoms by shrinking cancers that are causing various issues like pain. Chemotherapy can also be used with various other cancer treatments.

  1. Hormone Therapy

Here’s another type of cancer treatment. It slows/stops the cancer growth that needs hormones. This type of treatment is also known by other names like hormone treatment and hormonal therapy. The treatment can be used to treat cancer and reduce cancer symptoms. For example, it can be used to reduce/prevent symptoms of prostate cancer. It’s used when other options like surgery/radiation therapy aren’t possible.

  1. Drug Abuse of Cancer Medications

There are several effective cancer drugs on the market that can effectively treat the group of diseases. However, there’s also the chance that patients can become addicted to the meds they take for treatment. One example is an opioid addiction to drugs like morphine and oxycodone. These drugs can be very effective in treating the cancer patient’s pain, but can also be quite addictive. It can even happen when the patient is taking the correct doses of the pharmaceuticals. However, these drugs are still used because while cancer is a terminal illness addiction is treatable.

It can be very tough battling cancer and can cause a lot of pain. In fact, pain is reported as the biggest fear of cancer patients. Sometimes doctors’ only option is to prescribe pain-killers and anxiety meds to help their cancer patients feel more comfortable.

The problem is that patients not only have to deal with cancer but also the possibility of becoming addicted to their cancer medications. Opioids re in fact the most common medication used to treat cancer. They’re very effective in managing but also can become very addictive.

Long-term opioid use can change the functionality of a person’s brain. The brain cells become dependent on the meds, so the person also does. The addiction involves the drug become a “reward” for the cancer patient, and they’re unable to stay away from the drug when it’s unavailable. It can result in various “withdrawals” or unpleasant feelings/reactions. It happens when they stop using the drugs.

It’s important to note that cancer patients can even become addicted if they’re taking the right doses. In other words, the person can become addicted even if they don’t choose to become addicts to their medications. One of the main issues related to drug addiction is obsession/compulsion. For example, a cancer patient might count the hours until they receive their drug dosage. The compulsion is about losing control and using the drug even though they don’t need it or want it.

Various treatments are used to deal with opioid addictions. They include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to get to the cause of the problem. Things called “partial-opiates” are sometimes used so the cancer patient can deal with the craving and withdrawals related to their addiction. What’s most important is to note there isn’t a single treatment that works with all patients, so it’s important for physicians to try different ones to find the right solution.

  1. Drug Rehab/Recovery for Cancer Medications

It’s important for the cancer patient to get treatment to recover from their addiction to cancer medications. Cancer is one of the most common medical issues that’ are linked to drug addiction. They include lung/heart diseases, stroke, and mental disorders.

It’s important to note that any drug addiction to pharmaceuticals can be very dangerous. The reason is they can cause a wide variety of health issues like heart disease, stroke, cancer, Hepatitis B/C, and HIV.

Drug addiction can also result in mental illness. There are times the mental disorders existed before the addiction. However, there are times when the drug abuse can trigger or worsen mental disorders. It is especially true in certain situations. Several physical/psychological problems can result from drug addiction, so it’s important to deal with it as effectively as possible.

Dealing with cancer can be very difficult. In fact, it’s one of the most serious diseases that people can have. However, becoming addicted to cancer drugs can make the situation worse. The good news is the addiction is treatable. It highlights the importance of getting treatment as soon as possible so the patient can focus on their battle with cancer.

Opioid pain-killers are commonly used to treat cancer. However, they’re also often misused or abused by patients. It can lead to many serious issues including addiction. For example, opioids are often crushed then injected/snorted. It boosts the chance of addiction or overdose.It’s important to note that prescription drugs can still become dangerous even when they’re used by the cancer patient.