What exactly is cancer?

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World Cancer Day

February 4 is World Cancer Day. On this date, health institutions at the international level intensify actions to make the population aware of the importance of healthy lifestyles as a way of preventing various cancerous pathologies.

The term cancer designates a wide group of diseases that can affect any part of the body, such as the lungs, liver, intestines, colon, breasts, cervix, prostate, skin, oesophagus, mouth, etc.

Other denominations used by the medical literature to refer to this pathology are “malignant tumours” or “malignant neoplasms”.

A cancerous tumour can originate anywhere in the body and metastasize, which means that other organs are invaded by abnormal cells that multiply rapidly.

Approach from the public system

Within the scope of the Ministry of Public Health, there is an Oncology program run by medical oncologist Belén Franzini.
Among other actions, this program distributes supplies for the early detection of cervical cancer in the various effectors in the province with the capacity to perform Pap tests and colposcopy.
The patients included in the program receive the drugs for their treatment from the Province, which makes periodic purchases. Women between the ages of 50 and 70 should undergo a mammogram and a breast exam every two years.
Men and women over the age of 50 should get a faecal occult blood test to avoid colorectal cancer. Men above the age of 65 should also undergo regular medical exams to avoid prostate cancer.

Importance of early detection

Depending on the progression of the cancer, it may be possible to cure it with surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy. For this reason, early detection is of the utmost importance and that the patient follows an adequate and systematic treatment. Other methods of approaching cancer are immunotherapy and hormonal therapy.
Early diagnosis is essential to prevent deaths from cancer, since the disease in its initial phase has a high potential for cure, especially when it affects the cervix and breasts.
For this reason, the Ministry of Public Health recommends early consultation with a doctor in case of any symptom or anomaly that is observed in the functioning of the organism.

Risk and protective factors

About 30% of cancer deaths are related to tobacco and alcohol use, overweight and obesity, lack of physical activity, and low intake of fruits and vegetables.
In the prevention of cancerous pathologies it is of great importance:
• Lead a healthy lifestyle.
Pay attention to behavioural and dietary risk factors.
Avoid the consumption of tobacco and alcohol.
• Do not expose yourself to the sun without wearing sunscreen.
• Limit your intake of unhealthy foods.
· Avoid being overweight or obese.
• Engage in some type of physical activity on a regular basis.
Other factors that affect the development of the disease are exposure to ultraviolet rays (solar radiation), viral infections, such as those caused by hepatitis B and C, human papillomavirus (HPV) and human immunodeficiency (HIV).

Healthy habits

A healthy lifestyle consists of:
Eat more fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts.
• Limit your intake of animal fats, such as those found in cold meats, sausages, butter, and whole milk.
• Limit your intake of trans fatty acids, which can be found in baked goods, candies, and snacks.
• Engage in daily physical activity for at least 30 minutes.
Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
• Do not expose yourself to the sun without protection between 10 am and 5 pm, especially children under three years of age and people with fair skin, light hair and eyes.

Cervical and colorectal cancer

To prevent cervical cancer in adult life, 11-year-old girls should receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which is compulsory and free throughout the country.
Women, from the age of 25, should have a Papanicolaou (Pap) test every three years and consult a gynaecologist for any abnormality. Women between the ages of 50 and 70 should undergo a mammogram and a breast exam every two years.
Men and women over the age of 50 should get a faecal occult blood test to avoid colorectal cancer. Men above the age of 65 should also undergo regular medical exams to avoid prostate cancer.

 

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