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How to stop fear of cancer?

Cancer is one of the leading cause of death worldwide, including in Thailand, and when it comes to cancer many people tend to think of a deadly disease that has no cure. However, in reality, diagnosing cancer at its early stages may often provide the best chance for a cure.

Cancer is a disease caused by cells in the body proliferating abnormally and uncontrollably. Cancer cells have the ability to spread to other organs. It can occur in every organ of the body such as the lungs, liver, breast, and colon. We usually name the type of cancer according to the organ of origin even if that type of cancer has spread to other organs such as lung cancer that has spread to the liver or bones.

Cancer is a disease caused by abnormal changes in the genes. There is a mutation in a gene that controls cell division and growth, causing those cells to become cancer cells. Gene mutations are something that happens naturally in our bodies. But some cells can build up too many mutations and stop working normally, grow out of control and lead to cancerous cells. Gene mutations can either be inherited or acquired.

There are many studies that have tried to determine the risk factors that cause cancer. However, we are unable to determine the exact cause. Why does a person get cancer and others don’t? The data from several studies found that there are certain factors that are associated with cancer such as smoking, drinking alcohol, advancing age, obesity, UV radiation, and certain infections such as hepatitis B and C, and HPV etc. As for food consumption, there is no clear conclusion, although most of the data obtained in animal studies, such as meat cooked at high temperatures causing substances such as Heterocyclic amines (HCAs)  and Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)  to occur, have been found to be mutagenic, causing changes in the DNA that may increase the risk of cancer.


Consider these lifestyle tips to help prevent cancer
• Do not use tobacco and avoid secondhand smoke exposure
• Abstain from drinking alcohol
• Eat a healthy diet
• Exercise regularly
• Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active
• Get vaccinated against certain viral infections such as that can lead to cancer such as Hepatitis B & HPV vaccine to decrease risk of developing liver & cervical cancer
• Regular health check-up

Not all cancers can be prevented despite having a healthy lifestyle, but there are other things you can do to help reduce your risk. So the question is, is it possible for us to detect cancer at an early stage in order to be cured and increase the survival rate, the answer is, ‘Yes’. This is what we call cancer screening. It is the detection of cancer in the early stages. Because cancer in the early stages may not have any indication at all, the sooner we detect cancer, the more chances of being cured when treatment is likely to work best.

The recommendation for cancer screening is also limited to certain types of cancer, most common types include:
• Breast cancer: Mammograms are recommended for women aged 40 and over.
• Cervical cancer screening is recommended for women aged 21 and over, either by Pap test or HPV test.
• Colon cancer screening is recommended in people aged 45 years and over by colonoscopy and stool examination
• Prostate cancer screening in men aged 55 years and over using the method of testing the PSA value in the blood.
• Other cancers such as liver cancer, lung cancer recommend screening only for those at risk.

Cancer screening is a very important part of overall healthcare and an effective way of early detection. If you are in the age group recommended for any type of cancer screening, it is best to see your doctor and discuss more details, without waiting for any abnormal symptoms to appear.

What are the symptoms & warning signs of cancer?
We may notice common symptoms such as:
• There are changes in the excretory system or urination, like defecating black colored stool or have blood in urine
• Have difficulty swallowing or have abdominal distension for a long time
• Hoarseness of voice or persistent cough
• Abnormal bleeding of a chronic wound
• Changes in warts or moles on the body
• There are lumps on different parts of the body.

Not all of these symptoms are specific to cancer alone and may be due to other reasons. Therefore, the best way to determine the cause of the abnormal symptoms is to see a doctor in order to help find and treat the problem as soon as possible. When doctors suspect cancer, additional tests such as a biopsy is ordered to get a definite diagnosis and details about the type of cancer cells and imaging tests, such as a CT or an MRI scan may also be indicated to determine further details of the metastasis and stage of the cancer, etc.

How to cure cancer?
Cancer treatment depends on the type and stage of the disease. It also differs from person to person. The main treatment methods include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Nowadays, we may have heard of how to treat cancer using targeted drugs and immunotherapy. Both of these treatments are regarded as revolutionary scientific breakthroughs in the field of cancer treatment.

Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment using drugs that target specific genes or proteins that help cancer cells divide and grow. Therefore, this group of drugs has a specific inhibitory effect on cancer cells and it is quite effective. Targeted drugs are currently being used in the treatment of various types of cancer, such as metastatic lung cancer with EGFR gene mutation, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, etc.

The immunotherapy is another way to treat cancer which uses the principle of stimulating the immune system in our body to destroy cancer cells. There are several ways, but in practice when it comes to immunotherapy, this usually means the use of antibodies called immune checkpoint inhibitors, which are injected drugs that work better for the cells in the body’s immune system and help destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy is currently used to treat many types of cancer.

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