What is Cancer? Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Options

Cancer is a strong adversary that affects millions of people globally. The uncontrolled growth and transmission of rogue cells within the body are the indicators of this complex disease. And despite tremendous advances in medical science, cancer is still the world’s leading cause of death.

Cancer can grow in practically any organ or tissue, interfering with regular cell activity and possibly expanding on neighbouring tissue. 

Cancer cells have a tendency to grow and metastasise, which means they can spread to other parts of the body and interfere with vital functions if left unchecked. In this article, we will learn about the details of cancer, exploring its types, causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a disease characterised by uncontrollable abnormal cell growth in the body. Sometimes, cells multiply too much or don’t break down properly. This can result in the formation of tumours (a mass of tissue) and can interfere with normal body functions. 

Malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous) tumours are the two types of tumours. A malignant tumour can cause severe illness by attacking surrounding tissues and spreading to other parts of the body. Cancer can surface in any part of the body, including the lungs, breast, prostate, colon, skin, and blood. 

Types of Cancer

Cancer includes a wide range of diseases, each with distinct features and methods of treatment. Carcinomas, sarcomas, lymphomas, leukaemias, central nervous system cancers, and other abnormal forms are among the widely classified common cancer types.


Carcinomas are among the most common types of cancer, making up a significant amount of cancer diagnoses globally. These cancers start in the epithelial tissues that line the body’s cavities and surfaces. Bronchial, colorectal, prostate, and lung cancers are a few types of carcinomas. The different locations and varying degrees of aggressiveness of carcinomas often make them unique challenges.


Sarcomas are an uncommon but hazardous class of cancers that transpire in the connective tissues of the body, such as blood vessels, cartilage, muscles, and bones. Sarcomas are challenging to diagnose and treat because they can develop in a variety of anatomical locations. Sarcomas can have a significant impact on a patient’s life and necessitate specialised care from multidisciplinary healthcare teams despite their low incidence.


Leukaemias, the cancers of bone marrow and blood, are indicated by the abnormal growth of white blood cells. These cancers disrupt the body’s ability to produce healthy blood cells, which can result in complications like anaemia, infections, and bleeding disorders. 

A wide range of illnesses, including distinct subtypes and clinical manifestations, are collectively referred to as leukaemias. Chemotherapy, molecularly targeted therapy, and stem cell transplantation are all used in combination for effective treatment.


Lymphomas impact the lymphatic system, which is essential to the body’s immune response. These cancers can occur in the bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes, or other lymphoid tissues. 

Enlarged lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss are some of the symptoms of lymphomas, which impair the body’s defences against infections. Immunotherapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation are all possible treatments for lymphomas.

Central Nervous System Cancers

Cancers affecting the central nervous system (CNS) can hinder essential neurological functions and are primarily found in the brain or spinal cord. These tumours can either be malignant or benign and in order to reduce neurological damage, specialised treatment methods are needed. 

CNS cancers present unique difficulties because they are situated inside the delicate brain and spinal cord structures. Depending on the type and place of the tumour, treatment options may include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.

Causes of Cancer

Causes of cancer include:

Genetic Factors

The family history plays a crucial role in the development of cancer, as specific inherited mutations predispose individuals to particular cancer types. Germline mutations, family history of cancer, and genetic syndromes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations can greatly influence one’s vulnerability to cancer.

Genetic testing and counselling can help people understand their genetic risk factors, which can then help them make decisions about screening, prevention, and treatment.

Environmental Factors

The development of cancer is significantly increased by exposure to environmental carcinogens. The chance of getting cancer can be greatly improved by carcinogens like tobacco smoke, UV light from the sun, asbestos fibres, and pollutants in the air and water. 

Geographical variables, lifestyle decisions, and occupational dangers can all influence the incidence of cancer. Cancer risk can be decreased on both a personal and social level by recognising and limiting exposure to environmental carcinogens through workplace safety measures, lifestyle changes, and environmental regulations.


Unhealthy lifestyle choices increase the risk of cancer by a significant margin, highlighting the significance of adopting a healthy way of life in order to prevent cancer. Among the most crucial lifestyle-related risk factors for cancer are tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, a poor diet deficient in fruits and vegetables, physical inactivity, and obesity. 

While excessive alcohol consumption raises the risk of several types of cancers, including those of the liver, breast, and digestive tract, smoking tobacco is a known cause of lung cancer and other cancers of the respiratory tract. A higher risk of cancer is also associated with poor dietary choices that are deficient in vital nutrients and heavy in processed foods, red meat, and sugary drinks.

Symptoms of Cancer

Knowing cancer symptoms is essential for early diagnosis and effective treatment. Although the indications can vary based on the type and stage of the cancer, there are a few common symptoms to be aware of:

Unexplained Weight Loss

Unexpected and significant weight loss, particularly in the absence of dietary or exercise modifications, may indicate a medical condition, such as pancreatic, stomach, or lung cancer. A number of reasons, including appetite loss, metabolic changes, or the body’s reaction to cancer cells, can result in weight loss.


One common symptom of cancer, especially in its later stages, is persistent weakness or fatigue that does not go away with rest. Fatigue associated with cancer can have a crippling effect on day-to-day activities, compromising one’s physical and mental health.


Another warning sign of cancer is persistent or chronic pain that is unresponsive to standard treatments. Pain can occur in different parts of the body depending on the type and location of the cancer. As the disease progresses, pain may get worse over time.

Changes in Bowel or Bladder

Changes in bowel function, such as blood in the waste, constipation, or diarrhoea, can be signs of gastrointestinal cancers, including colorectal cancer. Similar to this, changed urination patterns, such as more than usual bathroom breaks or blood in the urine, may indicate the presence of prostate or bladder cancer.

Persistent Cough

Lung cancer or other respiratory disorders are indicated by a chronic cough that is not relieved by medicine or lifestyle modifications. Changes in voice quality or hoarseness may be signs of laryngeal or throat cancer, particularly if they are accompanied by breathing or swallowing difficulties.

Unusual lumps or Swelling

The doctor should be consulted if any new swellings or lumps appear in the body, particularly in the breast, testicles, lymph nodes, or other soft tissues. Even though not all lumps are cancerous, more testing may be necessary to rule out malignancy.

Changes in Skin Appearance

Skin lesions or moles that change in size, shape, colour, or texture could be signs of skin cancer, especially melanoma. Moreover, itching, unexplained rashes, and non-healing skin sores could be symptoms of leukaemia or lymphoma.

Treatment Options for Cancer

Let’s look at some of the most prevalent cancer treatment alternatives and how they fight with this harmful disease:


Surgery is the main treatment option for numerous types of cancers. Its goal is to remove the tumour and surrounding tissues while maintaining organ function. Depending on the location and stage of the cancer, surgery can be either curative (to eradicate cancer) or palliative (to alleviate the pain), reducing symptoms and enhancing quality of life.


During chemotherapy, potent drugs are used to either kill or stop the growth and advancement of cancer cells. These medications can be used either alone or in combination with other forms of treatment, and they can be given by mouth or via a vein.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy makes use of high-energy beams to target and eradicate cancer cells while reducing the harm to nearby healthy tissue. It is often utilised either on its own or in combination with chemotherapy and surgery.


With immunotherapy, the body’s immune system is enhanced to Identify and attack cancerous cells more efficiently. Patients with advanced or resistant cancers now have new hope due to this revolutionary approach that has transformed cancer treatment.

Targeted Therapy

Drugs used in targeted therapy are made to target cancer cells specifically by taking advantage of genetic mutations or molecular weaknesses specific to the tumour. Compared to conventional chemotherapy, these precision medications often give better results with fewer side effects.

Hormone Therapy

Treatment for hormone-sensitive cancers, like prostate and breast cancers, involves hormone therapy. This strategy can suppress the growth of cancer and enhance patient outcomes by preventing or inhibiting hormone receptors.

Stem Cell Transplant

Bone marrow transplants, also referred to as stem cell transplants, may be suggested for leukaemias, lymphomas, and multiple myeloma, among other cancers. To restore average blood cell production, diseased or damaged bone marrow is substituted with healthy stem cells.


Learning about cancer is of the utmost importance in the continuous fight against this deadly disease. By becoming knowledgeable about its various forms, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and available treatments, we give ourselves the ability to make wise decisions regarding our health. There is hope for better outcomes and a more promising future in the fight against cancer thanks to early detection, treatment advancements, and ongoing research.


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