<p>Every year, World Cancer Day is commemorated globally on 4 February. It is celebrated to raise awareness about the disease and remind us that cancer can spread uncontrollably throughout your body if not monitored and treated in time. It remains one of the leading causes of death globally, yet survival rates are improving due to constant advancements in screening and treatments. Through substantial efforts and support, cancer cannot only be curable but may also preventable.</p><p>At the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), our oncology patients receive multidisciplinary medical care from doctors and nurses in the emergency room, intensive care unit (ICU), special care units, coronary care units, haemodialysis, and diagnostic units, as needed. In addition, several specialised clinics for oncology patients are offered, such as the anti-coagulation clinic, palliative care clinic, and nutrition clinic – together they ensure our cancer patients receive holistic care.</p><p>According to Dr Zehra Fadoo, Professor and Service Line Chief Oncology at AKUH, “Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer develops when the body's normal control mechanism stops operating." Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells, she adds, and these extra cells may form a mass – known as tumour - or destroy other normal cells of the body.
</p><p><strong>Types of cancer</strong></p><p>Carcinoma is the most common type of cancer. It affects organs such as the lungs, breasts, pancreas, and skin. It is formed by epithelial cells, which cover the inside and outside surfaces of the body.</p><p>Sarcoma affects soft or connective tissues, such as muscle, fat, bone, cartilage, or blood vessels.</p><p>Osteosarcoma is the most common form of bone cancer. Most cases of this form of cancer occur in people in the ages of 10 and 30 year; though it can form in other age groups too.</p><p>Melanoma cancer is a form of cancer which can develop in the cells that pigment our skin. Melanoma starts in cells that become melanocytes, which are specialised cells that make melanin (the pigment that gives skin its colour). Most melanomas develop on the skin, but melanomas can also form in other pigmented tissues, such as the eye.</p><p>Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in lymphocytes (T cells or B cells) and affects the white blood cells. In this form of cancer, anormal lymphocytes build up in lymph nodes and vessels, as well as in other organs of the body.</p><p>There are two main types of lymphoma:</p><p>Hodgkin lymphoma – which usually forms in the B cells.</p><p>Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can grow quickly or slowly and develop in B cells or T cells.</p><p>Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and does not form solid tumours. Instead, large numbers of abnormal white blood cells accumulate in the blood and bone marrow, crowding out the normal blood cells. The low level of normal blood cells make it difficult for the body to get oxygen to the tissues, control bleeding, or fight infections. </p><p><em>Source: </em><a href="https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/what-is-cancer#types"><em>National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services</em></a></p><p><strong>
</strong></p><p><strong>Symptoms</strong></p><p>According to Dr Zehra Fadoo, symptoms largely depend on the type of cancer. Common cancers include breast cancer, which presents as a lump, abnormal growth/pain, or discharge; Colon cancer which usually presents with bleeding from the rectum, abdominal pain, weight loss and change in bowel habits; and Lung cancer which presents with persistent ulcers in the mouth and oral cavity, cough, and blood in sputum and weight loss.</p><p>In children, the most common form of cancer is Leukemia (blood cancer), which presents with prolonged fever, bleeding, and weight loss. Brain tumours in children are also common, surfacing in the form of constant headaches.
</p><p><strong>Causes</strong></p><p>An unhealthy lifestyle that includes consuming high-fat and sugary foods and lack of exercise increases the risk of various types of cancer. Exposure to multiple toxins such as asbestos, pesticides, and radon can cause cancer, while ultraviolet radiation from the sun and prolonged exposure to radiation treatment can also be a high-risk factor for skin cancer.
</p><p><strong>Is cancer treatable?</strong></p><p>While being diagnosed with cancer is undoubtedly difficult, in most cases, cancer is treatable or manageable, allowing with a good quality of life with the right intervention. In children, the survival is as high as 80% if treated early and appropriately. There are three primary therapy modalities, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, and may be used in combination as per the treatment requirement..</p><p><strong>Our role in the fight against cancer?</strong></p><p>Fighting and ultimately beating cancer largely depends on being aware of the early signs symptoms and encouraging your family and friends to seek timely medical help. Providing a supportive environment for those fighting cancer and undergoing this life-changing experience is essential and ensures their return and acceptance back into society, a role we must all play.</p><p><strong>For more information, please visit our </strong><a href="/pakistan/Health-Services/oncology/Pages/default.aspx"><strong>oncology health services</strong></a><strong> </strong><strong>page.</strong></p><p><strong>To book an appointment call: 021 111 911 911</strong></p>