Cancer is a collective term for a variety of malignant diseases that can affect virtually all organs of the human. In Germany, colon cancer and lung cancer are particularly common - in addition to breast cancer as the most common cancer of women and prostate cancer as the most common cancer in men. New cells are constantly being created in the human body and old, sick or broken cells are being degraded or are dying off. Different types of body cells age differently: red blood cells circa 4 months, a hair several years, and the age of nerve cells corresponds to age - that's why nerve damage is so dramatic.
Causes: How does cancer develop?
Cancer means that a cell breaks out of this structure and uncontrollably forms a new cell cluster. Often a genetic mutation is responsible for this process. The control mechanisms that stimulate or inhibit cell growth are also affected by many carcinogenic factors. These include infectious agents such as papilloma or hepatitis viruses or Helicobacter, addictive substances such as alcohol and nicotine, unprotected sunlight, as well as free radicals and food components such as acrylamide, which is produced during grilling, or toiletries such as deodorants with paraben.
Even diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis are associated with an increased risk of cancer. In the context of cancer, the terms polyp, adenoma and carcinoma often refer to different tissue structures. In women, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer as well as the cancer most women die of - prostate cancer is most common in men but more lethal to lung cancer. The cancer registries of the individual federal states keep a close record of which type of cancer occurs and how many die each year.
First symptoms of cancer
Unfortunately, many cancers for a long time cause no symptoms or discomfort, so only a consistent cancer prevention helps to track down the malignant diseases. Many types of cancer damage the immune system - for example, in leukemias, the functioning immune cells in the bone marrow are displaced - so that fatigue, infections and increased disease propensity may be the first symptoms of cancer. Itchy, easily bleeding lesions may be actinic keratoses and thus a precancerous skin cancer. You also have to get to the bottom of elevated liver values - because some chronic liver infections promote liver cancer. In the gastrointestinal tract colon cancer sometimes expresses late with a bowel obstruction and makes no complaints before.
- Anamnesis (ask the history of the disease): Through specific questions, it is sometimes possible to determine more exactly when a cancer has occurred. Thus, in bowel cancer is often a change in the stool behavior (more flatulence, smaller chair portions).
- Inspection (viewing), percussion (knocking) and auscultation (eavesdropping): liver spots can be so altered that an experienced doctor can see if they are suspected of causing skin cancer. Lung cancer, on the other hand, can narrow the bronchia so that the breathing sound changes.
- Examination of cells or tissue samples: Most important in cancer suspicion is the work of pathologists, because they examine the suspicious tissue samples. In leukemias, the disease is reflected in an altered blood composition, in fact, body fluids such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid and urine and stool must be examined very closely. Blood admixtures in urine or bowel movements are always suspicious of cancer until proven otherwise!
- Hormone examinations: In addition, there are so-called tumor markers, which are body substances that are produced by the cancer. In the course of a disease, for example, it is possible to determine whether new foci are forming - in prostate cancer, the PSA test is such a procedure.
- X-ray, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): The imaging techniques play a special role in suspected cases of cancer because they can be used to determine the extent of the tumor. In breast cancer diagnostics, mammography plays a key role. Recently, there is also a digital version, which manages with lower radiation exposure.
- Endoscopy: As uncomfortable as the endoscopic methods are for those affected, they are often unbeatable in the early detection of cancer. The novel zoom endoscopy is an improved version. All the studies together reveal how cancerous the cancer is and how far the cancer has spread throughout the body. This classification is called staging. Depending on the Stagingeingruppierung the therapy for the person concerned is determined.
Cancers per sex
In women, breast cancer, in men prostate cancer lists the frequency statistics. Then follow in both sexes colon cancer and lung cancer. But cancer can actually affect any organ.
In women, in addition to the breast, the uterus or the uterus are often affected, while skin cancer or leukemia are rarer. In men, bladder cancer, gastric cancer and kidney cancer are more common than testicular cancer or thyroid cancer.
Skin cancer distinguishes actinic keratosis from basal cell carcinoma, spinal or melanoma. Fortunately, liver cancer is a very rare cancer. The malignancy of cancer also depends on how fast the daughter tumors (metastases) form and how sensitive the cancer is to the available therapy options.
Precaution: how can I prevent?
Avoidance of cancer-causing factors and early detection of cancer are the two pillars of cancer screening. Avoid means abandonment and abandonment is often difficult for us. But if you realize that smoking not only nicotine, but also other ingredients are carcinogenic, passive smoking is also very harmful and in addition to lung cancer by smoking and tumors of the oral cavity, esophagus and stomach are promoted - maybe it will be easier then.
Sunbathing is balm for the soul and with the right sunscreen - tailored to the skin type and suitable for children's skin - health-promoting. A tanning visit, however, should be considered carefully. Studies show that a vitamin and fiber rich diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps to prevent cancer. There are many cancer-preventive substances such as green tea or parsley - vitamin D also seems to help with cancer more than previously thought.
In Germany, many health check-ups are paid by the health insurance companies - whether skin, breast, prostate or intestine: early detection can save lives. The offer is constantly being reviewed and increased - for example, a nationwide mammography screening is being introduced and zoom endoscopy is being tested as an extension of colonoscopy.
Treatment: forms of therapy for cancer
Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are important methods to fight cancer. The drugs used in chemotherapy are called cytostatic drugs, they can destroy the bone marrow so that then a stem cell donation is necessary. The smallest instruments from micromedicine enable gentle surgery - which benefits the challenged health of a cancer patient.
Psychoneuroimmunology deals with the self-healing powers of individuals and is also used in cancer therapy. The Cancer Compass helps cancer patients find the right clinic and in the tumor bank PA.TH you can store your tumor tissue after surgery. In addition, side effects such as fatigue, pain and nutritional problems must be treated. Pain therapy may contain opioids or, for some years, cannabis and should be individually tailored. As the cancer progresses and no cure is possible, palliative care and hospices can alleviate the suffering.