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What is Cancer?

Cancer is a disease which occurs when changes in a group of normal cells within the body lead to uncontrolled, abnormal growth forming a lump called a tumour; this is true of all cancers except leukaemia (cancer of the blood). If left untreated, tumours can grow and spread into the surrounding normal tissue, or to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic systems, and can affect the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems or release hormones that may affect body function.

facts about
cancer

  • 10 million people die from cancer every year
  • At least one third of common cancers are preventable
  • Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide
  • 70% of cancer deaths occur in low-to-middle income countries
  • Up to 3.7 million lives could be saved each year by implementing resource appropriate strategies for prevention, early detection and treatment

Signs and symptoms of Cancer

With so many different types of cancers, the symptoms are varied and depend on where the disease is located. However, there are some key signs and symptoms to look out for, including:

  • Unusual lumps or swelling – Cancerous lumps are often painless and may increase in size as the cancer progresses
  • Coughing, breathlessness or difficulty swallowing –Be aware of persistent coughing episodes, breathlessness or difficulty swallowing
  • Changes in bowel habit –Such as constipation and diarrhea and/or blood found in the stools
  • Unexpected bleeding – Includes bleeding from the vagina, anal passage, or blood found in stools, in urine or when coughing
  • Unexplained weight loss –A large amount of unexplained and unintentional weight loss over a short period of time (a couple of months)
  • Fatigue – Which shows itself as extreme tiredness and a severe lack of energy. If fatigue is due to cancer, individuals normally also have other symptoms
  • Pain or ache – Includes unexplained or ongoing pain, or pain that comes and goes New mole or changes to a mole – Look for changes in size, shape, or colour and if it becomes crusty or bleeds or oozes
  • Complications with urinating – Includes needing to urinate urgently, more frequently, or being unable to go when you need to or experiencing pain while urinating
  • Unusual breast changes – Look for changes in size, shape or feel, skin changes and pain
  • Appetite loss - Look for changes in size, shape or feel, skin changes and pain
  • Heartburn or indigestion – Persistent or painful heartburn or indigestion Heavy night sweats – Be aware of very heavy, drenching night sweats
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