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A flesh-colored lump that bleeds or turns scaly

Cancer is a condition when some of these cells start to multiply in an uncontrolled manner.

What do you need to know about cancer?

Author: Dr Rakesh Choudhary MBBS Honours, MS Orth, FRCS UK, FRCS Trauma and Orth, MChOrth Liverpool. He is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon practising in the UK.


As a building is made up of multiple bricks the human body is made up of millions of units called cells. Many cells in an adult stop multiplying and some keep on multiplying. Cells of the lining of the gut, and the cells within the cavity of the end of long bones are typical examples where these continue to multiply.

Cancer is a condition when some of these cells start to multiply in an uncontrolled manner. These cancerous cells know no boundaries and can invade and destroy surrounding part of the body. Sometimes these cells can get detached and enter the blood vessels. They can travel with the blood and spread to other areas of the body such as liver, lung, brain and bones. This is called metastasis.

The cancer cells can produce symptoms in a number of ways as for example

  1. They can cause a visible or palpable lump called tumour in Latin
  2. Tumour can cause compression of nearby structures and cause symptoms.
  3. The detached cells can start growing at another body site and cause symptoms. As for example when it lodges in a bone it may cause bone pain or even a fracture which may not heal.
  4. When cancer cells multiply fast they can consume much of the nutrition from the patient and the patient loses weight
  5. Cancer in the glands causes symptoms due to over/ underproduction of hormones.
  6. Ultimately patient may die due to the effects of cancer.

What causes cancer: Sometimes cancer may develop without any apparent cause. The following may cause cancer.

  1. Smoking: Smoking is known to cause lung cancer. Even for those who smoke only little, there is still a risk of developing cancer. In both sexes, smoking 1–4 cigarettes per day was associated with a significantly higher risk of dying from ischaemic heart disease and from all causes, and from lung cancer in women (British Medical Journal 2005). 
  2. Tobacco chewing: Gutkha and paan masala containing tobacco may lead to oral cancer (mouth cavity, tongue)
  3. Obesity: Obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking in the UK, but research shows that only 15% of the public are aware of the link. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of several cancers, including those of the breast (in women past menopause), colon and rectum, endometrium (the lining of the uterus), oesophagus, pancreas, liver, and kidney, as well as several others.
  4. Radiation: X-ray and even background radiation can cause cancer. That is why you doctors are cautious in advising for X-ray, CT scan etc.
  5. Infection by a virus -  A few types of HPV (human papillomaviruses) are the main causes of cervical cancer, which is the second most common cancer among women worldwide.
  6. Occupational: Exposure to a certain type of asbestos may cause a type of lung cancer. Therefore, now asbestos is banned in house building in many countries. Certain dyes and tetrafluoroethylene used for dry cleaning can cause cancer
  7. Genetic: Some people have a fault in their inherited genes which increase their risk of developing particular cancer. If a closer member of your family has had one or more types of cancers mentioned below you may want to consult an oncologist to find out more. Secondmedic has a team of highly specialist oncologists to help.

These cancers are bowel cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, melanoma, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, womb cancer, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, retinoblastoma (eye cancer).

  1. Finally, sunray can cause skin cancer in fairer skinned persons, mostly seen in Caucasians (white people).

Cancer Screening: according to cancer research UK Cancer screening involves testing apparently healthy people for signs of the disease.

It can save lives by finding cancers at an early stage or even preventing them. Screening is not the same as the tests a person may have when doctors are diagnosing or treating cancer.

I will discuss cancer screening in my next article and how Second Medic can help? After the screening, I will discuss the following

Can air travel cause cancer?

Can mobile phone radiation cause cancer?

Can Cancer be cured?

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