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Cancer : Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Cancer is a disease that occurs due to the growth of abnormal cells that are not controlled, causing normal body tissue to be damaged. Basically, the human body consists of trillions of cells that are scattered in each organ and part. These cells will continue to grow and develop into new cells.

While cells that are old, unhealthy, and not functioning again will die naturally. While cancer cells will not die by themselves. This cell will continue to multiply and multiply until the amount that cannot be controlled anymore. This change can trigger the appearance of cancer cells. This disease can appear on any part of the body because it comes from cells in the human body. So, there are many types of cancer found in humans. It is reported that there are more than 200 different types of cancer.

Symptoms of cancer

Symptoms that arise due to cancer vary greatly depending on the type of cancer that is experienced and the organs affected by cancer. Some of the common symptoms experienced by cancer patients are:

  • Unusual lumps appear.
  • Changes to the skin.
  • Problems with lymph nodes.
  • Weight loss without cause.
  • Coughing or prolonged shortness of breath.
  • The appearance of pain without cause.
  • Bleeding is not normal.


If you experience one of the signs or symptoms of cancer mentioned above, or have any questions about the symptoms of this disease, you should immediately talk to your doctor.

Causes of cancer

The main cause of cancer is the mutation of DNA in cells, so cells break down at speeds exceeding normal. Finally, there is a buildup of new cells that are not needed by the body. These new cells will continue to grow into adulthood and then divide again, and so on.

In addition, mutations also occur in genes responsible for repairing DNA damage. Normally, this gene serves to see what abnormalities occur in the cell's DNA, then fix them. Because the gene is mutated, this gene is unable to repair the abnormalities that exist in cells until eventually the cells become malignant.

There are several factors that can cause mutations in normal cells, and can come from inside and outside the cell.

Mutations originating from cells are generally obtained genetically from parents. While the causal factors from outside the cell, the most common is exposure by substances that can trigger mutations (mutagen). Some substances included in the class of mutagens include:

  • Cigarettes
  • Radiation
  • Virus
  • Carcinogenic chemicals
  • Hormone


Mutations due to external factors can also be caused by other factors such as obesity, chronic inflammation and lack of physical activity. In general, external factors are more risky to cause cells to mutate compared to internal factors.

Risk factors that can increase a person's chances of getting cancer are as follows:

  • The development of cancer in a person can occur in a very long time, therefore most cancer sufferers are elderly people over the age of 65 years. Even so, cancer can also be experienced by anyone regardless of age.
  • Family history. Genetic mutations can be inherited from parents. If someone has a family member who has cancer, there is a possibility that the person is at risk of getting the same condition. It is recommended for people who have a history of cancer in the family to undergo genetic testing to check for genetic mutations inherited in that person.
  • Chronic health conditions. Some chronic diseases can increase the risk of cancer. Such as ulcerative colitis can increase a person's risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Environmental factors can increase a person's risk of cancer. Examples are dangerous chemical compounds such as asbestos or benzene. Smoking also increases the risk of cancer, especially lung cancer.
  • Some viruses can cause or increase the risk of cancer. Examples are hepatitis B and C viruses that can cause liver cancer. In addition, infection with the HPV virus (human papilloma virus) in women can cause cervical cancer.
  • Immune system disorders. People with immune system disorders or people with weak immune systems are more susceptible to cancer than healthy people. Immune system disorders can originate from infections such as HIV / AIDS or drugs that suppress the immune system.

Risk Factors

There are many factors that increase the risk of getting cancer. Among others:

  • Family history.
  • More than 65 years of age are more prone to cancer.
  • Bad habits. Like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure, obesity, and unprotected sex.
  • Health condition. Some chronic health conditions such as ulcerative colitis can significantly increase the risk of certain types of disease developing.
  • Living environment. Hazardous chemicals such as asbestos and benzene at home or work can be factors that increase the risk of this disease.

Cancer Diagnosis

It is advisable to diagnose the disease as soon as possible to get the best chance for healing, especially in the early stages. Doctors can use one or more approaches to diagnose this disease. Some of the cancer diagnosis steps that doctors generally make are:

  • Physical examination. Physical examination performed to show signs of cancer can include examining lumps under the skin, changes in skin color, and swelling of organs.
  • Laboratory test. Blood and urine tests can be done to check for abnormal body conditions. An example is in cases of leukemia, where doctors can do laboratory tests in the form of calculating the complete number of blood cells to diagnose the number of leukocyte cells that increase abnormally.
  • Imaging test. This test serves to map internal organs and bones without surgery. The imaging tests performed can be CT scans, bone scans, MRI, PET scans, ultrsound examinations, X-ray photos, and others.
  • This examination is done by taking tissue samples that are thought to have cancer to be observed using a microscope in the laboratory. Through a microscope, the structure of these tissue samples can be observed more clearly. Normal cells are usually seen as cells that are uniform in size and neatly arranged. Whereas in cancer cells, the size will look different and the arrangement is not neat. Biopsy is the most accurate examination in determining whether a person has cancer or not.


After the tests are done and the patient is confirmed to have cancer, the doctor will determine the level (stage) of the cancer. In general, the division of cancer stages is as follows:

  • Stage 1. Indicates that the cancer is small and still exists in the organ where the cancer begins.
  • Stage 2. Indicates that the cancer has not spread to the surrounding tissue, but the size of the cancer is greater than stage 1. In some types of cancer, stage 2 means that cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes closest to the cancerous organ.
  • Stage 3. The size of the cancer is greater than stage 2 and the cancer cells have begun to spread to other tissues or organs, as well as to the lymph nodes around the cancer.
  • Stage 4. Indicates that the cancer has spread to other organs or tissues.


In addition to the stage level system, also known as the TNM level system, the details are as follows:

  • T (Tumor). Describes the size of the cancer and the spread of cancer to surrounding tissues. To describe the size of the cancer used numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, with number 1 which indicates the smallest size and the 4 largest.
  • N (node). Describes the spread of cancer to lymph nodes around cancer. To describe the spread of cancer numbers 0, 1, 2, 3 with 0 indicate that the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes and 3 indicates that many lymph nodes have cancer.
  • M (Metastasis). Describes the spread of cancer to other organs. Number 0 indicates cancer has not spread to other organs and number 1 indicates that cancer has spread to other organs.

In cases of cancer diagnosed at an early stage, a condition can be found in the form of an abnormal collection of cells in the body. The collection of cells can develop into cancer in the future, but it is too small to form a tumor. This condition is called dysplasia or carcinoma in situ which in the division of the level of cancer is called stage 0 cancer.

Some doctors call this condition a non-invasive cancer. Carcinoma in situ is generally difficult to detect due to its very small size, except in places that are easily visible (for example on the skin). Several types of screening tests can also detect carcinoma in situ in the breast or cervix.

Determination of the level of malignancy and the spread of cancer is a very important part of the diagnosis of cancer because it will determine the type of treatment that is most effective for patients.

Cancer Treatment

The cure for cancer basically depends on the type and stage of the disease, the potential for side effects, and the choice and general health of the patient.

The main goals of cancer treatment are as follows:

  • Healing patients. Healing is the main goal of various cancer treatments performed. Achieving this goal or not depends on many factors, such as the type and level of cancer malignancy and the general condition of the patient.
  • Primary treatment. The purpose of primary treatment is to remove or kill cancer tissue that is in the body as a whole without any cells left behind. Various types of treatment can be used so that cancer cells can be removed from the patient, but surgery is commonly used. If the cancer type of patient has sensitivity to radiotherapy or chemotherapy, both types of treatment can be used as primary treatment.
  • Adjuvant / supplementary treatment. The purpose of adjuvant treatment is to remove the remnants of cancer cells that are still inside the patient's body after primary treatment. Adjuvant treatment can also be done to prevent cancer from reappearing in patients. Adjuvant treatment that is commonly used is chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.
  • Palliative treatment. The aim of palliative treatment is to relieve the symptoms and side effects of primary and adjuvant treatment, not to cure.

There are various methods of cancer treatment, which are chosen based on the type and level of cancer malignancy suffered by the patient. In general, here are some of the most common cancer drugs:

  • Surgery, The purpose of surgery is to remove cancerous tissue that is in the body as much as possible.
  • Chemotherapy, is a treatment that uses chemicals with strong intensity to kill cells that grow fast in the body. Chemotherapy is most often used as a cancer drug, because this disease cell develops faster than normal cells in the body. Chemotherapy drugs can be used alone or combined as a cancer drug. Chemotherapy is an effective way to treat many types of this disease but has the risk of side effects that must also be watched out.
  • Radiotherapy, a treatment that relies on radiation by using high-energy waves such as X-rays, gama, protons, and electrons to kill cancer cells. Although radiotherapy is most often used as a cancer drug, but sometimes this therapy is also used to treat patients who are not affected by this disease, such as tumors and disorders of the thyroid gland.
  • Target therapy, is therapy that uses drugs or other chemicals to specifically identify and attack cancer cells without killing normal cells. These therapies include monoclonal antibodies, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors.
  • Stem cell transplantation, Stem cell transplants are also called bone marrow grafts that play a role in producing blood cells. Transplanted stem cells can come from patients or from stem cell donors. In addition to being done to replace bone marrow that has abnormalities or malignancies, stem cell transplantation can also be done to provide an opportunity for doctors to use chemotherapy with higher doses of other types of cancer.
  • Immunotherapy, Also known as a biological therapy that aims to help the immune system recognize cancer cells and then kill them. Cancer cells if not combated by the immune system can spread uncontrollably and endanger patients.
  • Targeted drug therapy, Giving medicines that can kill only abnormal cells, without attacking healthy cells.

Cancer Prevention

In addition to the above treatment, there are several ways you can do to treat cancer at home. Namely with lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit processed meat.
  • Maintain a healthy and physically active weight.
  • Protect yourself from the sun.
  • Get regular medical care.



Farkona, et al. (2016). Cancer Immunotherapy: The Beginning of the End of Cancer? BMC Medicine.

Cancer Research UK (2017). What is Cancer?

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Is a health and wellness enthusiast. In him free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.