Cancer is a term that describes over 200 different types of cancers. In 2008 there are an estimated 12.7 million new cases of cancer worldwide. It is not easy to explain why one person develops cancer while another does not. However a person’s risk of developing cancer increases with certain risk factors such as getting older, smoking, sunlight, ionizing radiation, exposure to certain chemicals and substances, viruses and bacteria, certain hormones, family history of cancer, alcohol, poor diet, lack of physical activity or being overweight. Although not all, many of the risk factors can be avoided by making changes and adopting a healthy lifestyle changes to prevent it.
In 2011 the four most common cancers in the UK are; Breast cancer, Lung cancer, Prostate cancer and Bowel cancer, which accounted for around 53% of all new cases.
Symptoms of Cancer
Cancer symptoms vary depending on the type and location of the cancer. Often there are added symptoms as a consequence of cancer treatments which can affect the bone marrow, hair follicles, cells in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, reproductive system, kidney, bladder, lungs and nervous system. Generally, most individuals will experience tiredness and fatigue, and other physical symptoms can range from nausea, vomiting, loss of hair, diarrheoa, constipation, sore mouth, change in sense of taste, numbness in hands and feet, breathlessness, dry flaky skin and others.
Treatment of Cancer
There are a number of cancer treatments used depending on the type and location of the cancer. Generally these can be grouped into the following types;
- Hormonal therapy
- Biological therapy
In most cases a combination of treatments are used. Surgery is used for the removal of the tumour and this is usually the main treatment for most cancers. This is much more effective if the cancer is isolated in one area of the body. Radiotherapy is the use of high energy x-rays targeted at the tumour area to destroy the cancer cells. When the cancer has spread to other parts of the body systemic treatments such as chemotherapy, hormonal and biological therapy can be introduced.
Integrative & Complementary medicine
An integrated approach to treating cancer would be aimed at exploring options to reducing the symptoms caused by the cancer, and side effects resulting from cancer treatments e.g. fatigue, nausea and pain. The goal is to support the body’s recovery and healing functions.
Acupuncture is commonly used to help people to reduce stress, anxiety and pain relief. Additionally, it can also help with sleep and general fatigue. Nausea and fatigue resulting from chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment can also be alleviated. For women with breast cancer hot flushes may be reduced in intensity as well as frequency. Click here for more.
Nutrition is essential to managing cancer particularly as loss of appetite is common symptom. Filling up with high-energy foods is important to ensure that the body’s nutrient requirements are met. Supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids help to better tolerate chemotherapy treatment, reduce inflammation in the body and seems to restrict tumor cell growth. Antioxidants (e.g. beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamin C, E and A) lowers the risk of developing various forms of cancer, but also protect cells from damage caused by free radicals which may lead to cancer.
Aromatherapy & Massage can help with symptoms of, anxiety, pain, depression, stress and tiredness. Aromatherapy essential oils ( e.g. ginger and peppermint) can help to lift mood and may also help reduce nausea and vomiting resulting from cancer treatments. Other essential oils also have anti bacterial and immune boosting properties. Click here for more.
Other therapies: Herbs such as aloe, black cohosh, echinacea, green tea, ginseng and St. John wort have been associated with managing cancer. However due to issues of safety relating to drug interactions, it is important to seek professional health advice prior to starting any herbal products.