Dealing with Cancer: Causes, Diagnosis, Recovery, Types, Treatments

Cancer statistics, types, treatments, support groups & more.

An in depth resource on coping with cancer and getting support

Did Hippocrates get pinched by a crab? What an odd question to start with. 

 

There are both salt water crabs beach side and fresh water crabs to be found at Antimachia Springs on the Island of Kos, so it is not inconceivable that when Hippocrates named an affliction he was witness too, as a physician, that he indeed did get pinched by a crab in the past.

 

Ask what the Greeks / Romans ever gave us, and it is arguably Cancer – or at least the word.

 

Cancer, derived from the Greek ‘Karkinos’ and then the Latin equivalent because the shape of the tumour looks a bit like a crab’s legs extruding from the body, and the tumour itself has a hard shell.

 

Cancer & Leukaemia, known about for over 2500 years and yet very little still known as to its exact cause. That should be no surprise considering the disease is cellular by nature, but progress is being made. 

What is cancer?

It’s the basic breakdown of cell creation. 

 

The body goes into overdrive, creates cells at a faster rate, so fast that production of each is not the quality expected. 

 

The cells divide and multiply and take over areas of the body from blood stream to tissue layers forming tumours, some of which spread, preventing the body from doing what it should be and protecting and offering immunisation and defence against other ills.

Cancer Stats in the United Kingdom

  • 356,860 Number of people diagnosed with cancer in 2014
  • 163,444 Deaths due to Cancer in 2014
  • 42% Percentage of cases with preventable cancer
  • 46% Death due to Lung, bowel, breast and prostate cancers
  • Someone dies of cancer every 4 minutes.

How does Cancer Start?

What we do know is it all begins in the genes and with changes over time, in DNA and changes in sequencing during a lifetime. The body develops and we do not know even today if old age is normal, in fact cancer is the faster version of getting old.

In age, development cell growth (the division of itself) slows, see degradation and parts of your body stop being repaired as well as before because the DNA at the end of the chromosome is less than the cell that came before it.

 

With Cancer a gene change forced certain cells to divide abnormally faster and continually and go on to conquer the body, usually to its detriment. 

 

Cancer could be genetic in nature. Take for instance the p53 gene mutation which is present in more than 50% of cancer cases – its damage is acquired from your parents.

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What Causes Cancer To Take Hold In Our Bodies?

The doctors and scientists claim 40% of cancer cases need never have occurred. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t have got cancer at a later date by another means, simply that 40% of diagnosed cancers could have been prevented by a lifestyle change.

 

They believe these causes to be smoking, obesity, alcohol, a not so balanced diet, being in the sun too much and your place of work if around dangerous substances. 

 

But these are risks that all play a part in degrading your immune system if you overload your body continually. The same can be said for the opposite, if you exercise too much you will be susceptible to getting more colds and the flu.

Diagnosing Cancer And The Path To Recovery

Symptoms:

When I was growing up, Mum, like most I presume, had a medical book. It was the same size as the two volume dictionary that required a magnifying glass to read it. It was as hopeless as it was brilliant.

 

Symptoms for cancer range from unexplainable pains and aches, breathlessness, blood in faeces or urine, weight loss, excess sweating, sores that won’t heal, unusual lumps and the list goes on. 

 

None of these mean you have cancer, it might be something else or nothing. Visit your doctor and find out what the symptoms may be being caused by, but do get them checked out.

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Screening:

 

In medical terms screening is a form of preventative care, it’s a method the NHS should offer more of.

 

While there is much research on whether to offer screening for lung and ovarian cancer, currently only three exist that are recommended.

 

For Bowel cancer, Breast cancer, Cervical cancer and Prostate cancer upon request.

Why just three?

 

Because screening is only offered where results are more than just fairly accurate, tests aren’t harmful and where treatment is known to be life saving.

 

For instance screening the entire population for a diagnosis that isn’t treatable and results in death would not be considered worthwhile or cost effective.

 

Tests:

There are a range of different testing methods that enable your doctor to base their results on fact. Which then allows them to offer a staging recommendation:

  • Staging refers to which stages you are at with a particular cancer, it offers an idea of how long you may have left to live with or without treatment and which treatment you should receive.
  • The range of tests vary for each suspected or diagnosed cancer. They may be intrusive or unobtrusive, for instance, a Barium x-ray, Colonoscopy, CT scan, Ultrasound scan, MRI scan, PET scan, Endoscopy, Blood tests, Bone marrow testing or Flexible sigmoidoscopy among others.
  • These may be one offs or further and similar testing during treatment to check on how the drugs are fighting the cancer and if there has been an improvement or to find out if treatment should be upped and more aggressive.
  • NICE: Doctors have never really been known for their sense of humour, male doctors dressing up as females nurses probably being their best gag. When you go through something as traumatic as testing for cancer you'll come across NICE cancer.
  • NICE stands for National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. They offer referral guidelines as to how patients will be referred for treatment. It is worthwhile reading about recent changes, as you will find out how you should be referred, the stages and whether all is being proceeded with correctly. Everything from the 62 day waiting charter to level of local support provided.
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The Many Different Types Of Cancer

I have read a few articles and they state the ‘most popular types of cancer,’ like we queue and choose on the way to the hospital “Hey that one looks interesting!”

 

The truth is, yes there are certain forms of Cancer that are more predominant than others, that’s not to say they are more popular.

 

There are also some individual strains and affected areas of the body and cellular tissue that fall into the same category.

 

Cancer comes in many forms and by different names though there are several main subsets. As opposed to named areas such as Breast or Lung, Cervical or Ovarian cancer which would still fall into one of these categories.

 

There are Brain and Spinal cord cancers, Leukaemia, Sarcoma, Carcinoma and Lymphoma and Myeloma. The difference between all of these is not really the part of the body but the layer of tissue or cell the cancer begins in.

 

Of which a different number are present and combined with other cells in different parts of the body so as to do a range of differing tasks.

 

Cancer at inception cannot be seen by the naked eye, the initial event occurs at only a level that can be reached by microscope when a tissue sample is observed.

 

Now time for a very brief biology lesson. Your skin – itself an organ, and all internal organs, bones, connective tissue, muscle and blood vessels are all made from cells, as well as maintained by cells dying or committing suicide and being born (divided).

 

Sometimes cells are present and activate when needed at other times they’re working around the clock to fight disease or simply keep your body in check. They may even make you ill to make you feel better – clever eh? At microscopic level there are biologically weaponised cell wars going on in your body much worse than any in Syria or Iraq.

 

It’s the structures of these cells and how they operate in each part of the body, for instance, the bladder or the skin on your arm or within your breasts.

 

No Sir, for you we’ll call it Gynaecomastia but yes you too can get Breast cancer so do check for lumps. Each make up of cells can be affected by cancer in different ways causing an outbreak that has different symptoms and conclusions. Some very rare, some more dominant and common but never popular.

Carcinoma: Look at your arm. Residing on your arm is part of the largest organ of the human body, the skin and the tissues underneath help your body stay cool, keep warm, absorb vitamins and generally does more than you’ll ever thank it for. It is built up of similar cells that the outer layer of your internal organs have – Epithelial tissues.

There are dozens of types of cancer, here are the ones that develop as Carcinoma. 

85% of cancer cases involve one of the following diagnosis:

  • Adenocarcinoma:

    Originates in Adenomatous cells which are fluid creating glandular cells helping to keep the tissues moist.
 
  • Basal cell carcinoma:

    Basel cells are at the very basis of skin cells and make up the form you inherently know as skin cancer.
 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma:

    Another skin cancer or throat cancer or mouth cancer. These Squamous cells, are believe it or not, the ones you are most familiar with as they reside on the surface of the oesophagus, lips and oral cavities.
 
  • Transitional cell carcinoma:

    Transitional epithelium, itself a epithelial tissue can expand when necessary. For instance when you store a lot of urine and your bladder expands, the cells helping you keep it in are Transitional epithelium. Yet more cancers derive from this break down, namely cancer of the ureter, urethra, urachus and kidney.
 
  • Leukaemia:

    This is the one most talked about in films in the eighties. We all know that the fight against this cancer is between red and white blood cells and that’s thanks to Hollywood and the unfortunate fact that most cases, though rare (3%) affect children and British TV adverts helped educate the population.

    Basically the bone marrow goes into hyper drive and creates far too many white blood cells (leucocytes), rapid growth that means they are undeveloped and fail to do their job which is to fight infection, floating around mucking everything else up.

    Subcategories are Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and Hairy cell leukaemia.
 
  • Sarcoma:

    This form sprouts up from supportive and connecting tissues such as bone, cartilage, muscles, fat or blood vessels, so pretty much anywhere in the body.

    The two main subcategories are soft tissue cancer and bone cancer. Soft tissue sarcomas derived their names from Chondrosarcoma – Cancer of the Cartilage and Rhabdomyosarcoma – Cancer of muscle cells.
 
  • Brain and Spinal cord cancers:

    The central nervous system is combined of both the brain and the spinal cord, held within is the body’s own internet, sending messages back and forth between cells and nerves, stating what the reaction should be.

    When you hear about brain cancer, it is often stated as a brain tumour of which there are several; Glioma, Ependymoma, Vestibular Schwannoma Oligodendroglioma, Craniopharyngioma, Haemangioblastoma, Lymphoma in the brain, Meningioma, Primitive neuroectodermal tumours (PNET) and Spinal chordoma among others.

    Not much is known about how the cancers are caused. Some tumours can be benign (non cancerous).
 
  • Lymphoma and Myeloma:

    Not unlike Leukaemia the white blood cells, lymphocytes divide and continue to divide abnormally so that the end result is any battle against infection is lost because the cells are not at full growth and are unable to complete their task of defending properly.

    A situation which affects 5% of diagnosed cancer cases. Primarily affecting the lymphatic system, the tubes and glands that carry the body’s fluids and blood stream.

    The collective white blood cells can amass in one area and cause tumours causing for instance cancer of the spleen. Myeloma is a similar disease but found in plasma cells.

    The immunoglobulins which are produced in the bone marrow are defective, causing yet again, a break down in defence and allows infections to take hold. These cases amount to 1% of diagnosed cancers in the UK.

The Different Treatments For Cancer

It would be impossible to list all the treatments for each cancer in one article, just as it would be to cover all 200+ cancer variations.

 

That said, most people only really understand that of Chemotherapy, effectively poisoning an area of the body with a variety of toxins to halt cancerous cell division. 

 

It is just one attempt at seeing off the illness and may be used in conjunction with other methods. These being:

  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Biological therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Bisphosphonates
  • Bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants.
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“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

 

 – Steve Jobs

You may also discover complimentary and alternative therapy options which revolve around Acupuncture, Meditation, Herbal medicines and Reflexology among another 30 alternatives.

 

Each therapy is developed for different types of cancer and either offered as a proven method to deter or make you more at ease, as an effort to reverse cancer or as part of medical trials which you may sign up to. 

 

People do recover from Cancer. 

 

Rates of which vary greatly depending on diagnosis, chosen treatment and lifestyle choices both before, during and after as Cancer can return.

Cancer Survival Statistics in the UK

CANCER SURVIVAL IMPROVEMENT:

 

24-50% DOUBLED IN LAST 40 YEARS

CANCER VARIATION IN THE UK:


1%-98% SURVIVAL BETWEEN CANCER TYPES

CANCER SURVIVAL IN THE UK:


50% SURVIVE CANCER FOR 10+ YEARS

How To Deal With Cancer When You Are Diagnosed With It Yourself

Some people call it mind numbing, others say an emptiness arrives, as if space has opened in the mind and nothing exists any more to think about. 

 

Your body may feel a cold going through it all at once, a shake, a cold tingle, your muscles in your face just remain as they were. It’s a nothingness, it’s shock.

 

On the outside, after a while you may joke – you’re British after all, on the inside you may be devastated. 

 

We each deal with the stages of incredibly disappointing news in different ways, the best thing for any of us though is to not deny it, but to accept our feelings about it.

 

Believe it or not, having a healthy relationship with your current circumstances may be one path to take. Counselling is important.

How To Deal With Cancer When Someone Else Is Diagnosed

The thing to remember is that while behind told someone has cancer is absolutely shocking, they haven’t died. 

 

In this day and age it is quite the possibility that a person will survive with treatment or at least extend their life past that of predictions. It is perfectly normal for both patient and close family and friends to feel the five stages of grieving in slow or quick success at just the announcement.

 

These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is strange to feel the same and react the same to news of cancer as if the person had died.

 

You can deal with the fears, anxiety and panic, shock and denial together. In most instances it’s the friends and family that have to put a brave face on as the person diagnosed may well have adjusted quicker, because they had to.  

 

Again counselling / talking about it, is important. We have an article about coping with grief and loss which may be of interest to read.

Cancer Support Groups in the UK

Mini Cancer FAQ And Links To Knowledge Base

What are the current chances of getting cancer?

Currently one in two people get a form of cancer.

 

So it could be said that you have a 50% chance of being diagnosed with cancer. However, if you don’t smoke, and make sure you have a good diet and exercise regularly, the odds of you not doing so greatly appreciate.

 

This all aids in a good immune system. It won’t however prevent DNA and genes already damaged that you were born with but may help you better fight it, should it occur.

 

We hope this article has been of use to our readers.

 

If you have any suggestions for edits, additional information or data, please email me directly: matt@funeralguide.co.uk

 

Sources:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130754101
http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics-for-the-uk

http://www.ncin.org.uk/home
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases