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Cancer: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Cancer
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What is Cancer?

Cancer is a wide category of diseases with certain similarities. It forms when cells in the body divide and reproduce abnormally and spread into the surrounding tissues and infect them. The cells may multiply too quickly or too slowly (x).

Although cancer is an age-old disease, modern scientists have more understanding for how the condition works and how it develops in the body. There have been remarkable advances in cancer research, prevention and treatment and today, more people with the disease are living longer (x).

How Does Cancer Form?

Normal, healthy cells divide and replenish themselves in an orderly and organized way. When cells die, new and stronger ones replace them. This cycle repeats itself from birth until death and it is an essential bodily function to remain healthy. But cancerous cells do not grow like normal cells. When they multiply too fast they prevent different parts of the body from functioning properly. Cancer cells can form and spread through different parts of the body in a process called metastasis (x).

The cancer cells build up in the body and may cause masses of tissue called tumors that disrupt the body’s systems (x). Not all cancers form tumors and not all tumors turn into cancer. There are two types of tumors—malignant and benign. Malignant tumors are cancerous and can spread into nearby tissues and infect them. They grow quickly and invade other organs. Benign tumors are not cancerous and do not spread. Most of them are not harmful, but they can cause other effects (x).

Causes of Cancer

Although there are several different causes, cancer is a genetic disease. Genetic mutations interfere with cell growth and protein production. Some people inherit gene mutations at birth, but they can also occur from certain behaviors or factors after birth, including (x, x, x):

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Poor diet
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Immunosuppression
  • Obesity
  • Radiation
  • Sun exposure (Always use sunscreen!)
  • Smoking

While these are not the only factors that can contribute, they are the factors that researchers suspect and study most often in relation to cancer (x).

Types of Cancer

There are five categories of cancer—leukemia, carcinoma, sarcoma, myeloma and lymphoma—based on the type of fluid or tissue and the location in which it develops (x).

Carcinoma is the most common type of cancer. It forms in epithelial tissue on organs, glands or body structures, such as the skin, lungs, pancreas and breasts. Examples include melanoma and breast cancer, which is the most common type (x, x).

Leukemia affects the bone marrow. It prevents the bone marrow from producing red blood cells, which prevent anemia, and white blood cells, which prevent infection (x).

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which produces white blood cells and cleans body fluids. It can develop in the nodes or glands (x).

Sarcomas are a widespread type of cancer that develops in the bone, muscle, fat, blood vessels, cartilage and other soft tissues (x).

Like leukemia, myeloma forms in bone marrow. But it forms in plasma cells and causes tumors (x).

Cancer Types

Cancer Symptoms

Cancer causes many different symptoms and different types cause different symptoms. One of the best ways to actively treat the disease is to recognize the signs early. However, not all the symptoms listed below are necessarily linked to cancer, so if you experience any of the symptoms for an extended period, consult a doctor (x).

  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Severe, constant fatigue
  • Lumps under the skin
  • Skin changes like yellowing, sores that won’t heal or changes in existing moles
  • Pain
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Frequent cough or trouble breathing

Cancer Treatment

Thanks to new medical research, there are treatment options and technologies to treat cancer. Depending on the type of cancer, what stage it is in, where it has spread and the patient’s overall health, physicians may be able to offer treatment including (x):

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Surgery

Supplements for Cancer

Along with medical treatment, there are many natural remedies that can help strengthen different systems in the body and prevent cancer. Always consult a doctor before adding supplements to your diet. Supplements are not a replacement for medical treatment.

Garlic Extract

With a host of natural antioxidants, garlic extract is an anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral agent. Due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it may help prevent cancer. It can enhance genetic repair and prevent the carcinogenic substances from forming in the body (x).

Garlic has three main plant compounds that may fight cancer, namely allicin, flavonoids and allyl sulfides. Allicin is a natural antibiotic. Flavonoids are high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and help prevent cell damage. Allyl sulfides are an anti-mutagen and help block cell damage and stimulate the body to repair damaged DNA (x). The recommended dosage is 650 mg twice a day with meals.

Ginger Root Extract

High in vitamin C and magnesium, ginger root may help treat some side effects of cancer. It may treat stomach problems, such as morning sickness, gas, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and nausea. However, more research is required to confirm its effectiveness (x).

6-Shogaol is an active ingredient in ginger and it has recently been studied for its potential cancer-fighting abilities. One study tested its effectiveness in treating breast cancer and concluded that ginger may inhibit cancer cell production (x). The recommended daily dosage is 1,000 mg once or twice a day with food.

Turmeric

The main active compound found in turmeric is a polyphenol called curcumin. It has antioxidant properties and can help decrease inflammation, making it a possible alternative cancer fighter. Research suggests that curcumin helps slow cancer cell growth and potentially prevent them from forming. However, there is not enough sufficient evidence to confirm that turmeric can prevent or treat cancer (x, x, x). The recommended daily dosage is 1,000 mg per day in extract or tablet form.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble substances that help the body use calcium and phosphorus to strengthen bones and teeth. It is an essential vitamin for our bodies to be healthy. It not only aids in bone strength, but also plays significant roles in immune system health and muscle function. For example, osteoporosis can form from vitamin D deficiency. Researchers are studying if its immune-boosting properties may work as a cancer preventative, but further research is necessary (x). Vitamin D is present in certain foods and the body can naturally make it from safe sun exposure. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for adults is one softgel daily.

The Bottom Line

Cancer is a general term for a long list of specific diseases. It is caused by excessive cell growth that infects and kills healthy cells and interferes with bodily functions. The rapid cell growth may produce masses called tumors that can spread to other areas in the body. Doctors divide cancer into five different categories — leukemia, carcinoma, sarcoma, myeloma and lymphoma. 

Thanks to modern medicine and continuous research, there are treatment options for cancer patients. Natural supplements such as garlic, ginger, turmeric and vitamin D may be able to help prevent cancer by strengthening the immune system and treating inflammation. While cancer is a common disease, survival rates are improving and research on prevention methods is continuously developing.

About the author

Mia Russell


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