Cancer may be used as a broad term, which occurs when cellular changes cause the uncontrolled growth and division of cells. These Cancerous cells may appear in one area, then spread via the lymph nodes. Finally invading different tissues of the body, leading to serious health problems.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the second-leading cause of death globally behind heart disease. About 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer.

What causes cancer?

The statement “everything causes cancer” has become a popular hyperbole and one that some people use rhetorically to excuse their own dietary and lifestyle failures, particularly as they pertain to cancer risk. But the truth of the matter is that Cancer is a complex group of diseases with many possible causes. The substances that cause cancer are called carcinogens. A carcinogen may be a chemical substance, environmental agents, viral or genetic factors, however, we cannot attribute the disease to a single cause.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), common causes of cancer include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Dietary factors, including insufficient fruit and vegetable intake
  • Physical inactivity
  • Chronic infections from Helicobacter pylori, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and some types of human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Environmental and occupational risks including radiation
  • Certain drug intake
  • Genetics

Leading the race for the top cause of cancer is Tobacco use. It is the most important risk factor and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer deaths. Smoking can cause at least 15 different types of cancer. And nearly 9 out of 10 lung cancers are from puffing away on cigarettes.

Cancer-causing infections, such as hepatitis and human papillomavirus (HPV), are responsible for up to 25% of cases.

Ageing is another fundamental cause of cancer. The incidence of occurrence rises dramatically with age, most likely due to a build-up of risks for specific cancers that increase with age. The overall risk accumulation is combined with the tendency for cellular repair mechanisms to be less effective as a person grows older.

Obesity may cause chronic inflammation, which over time can damage DNA and is one of the factors close to tobacco and age risks that cause cancer. That extra fat tissue does more than make your clothes not fit: It produces excess amounts of estrogen and other hormones that may stimulate cell growth. The more often the cells divide, the more opportunities cancer has to develop. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of colon, breast and endometrial cancer among several others.

In addition to all of the above, causes of cancer include heavy alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and poor nutrition.

Symptoms of cancer

Since the disease has many manifestations so does its symptoms. The symptoms of cancer may vary from mild to severe depending upon the stage of the carcinoma.

The American Cancer Society describes seven warning signs that an imminent threat may be present, and which should prompt a person to seek medical attention.

  • Change in bowel or bladder habits
  • A sore throat that does not heal
  • Main causes of cancerUnusual bleeding or discharge (for example, nipple secretions or a “sore” that will not heal)
  • Thickening or lump in the breast, testicles, or elsewhere
  • Indigestion (usually chronic) or difficulty swallowing
  • Obvious change in the size, colour, shape, or thickness of a wart or mole
  • A nagging cough or hoarseness

Other signs or symptoms of cancer may include the following:

  • Unexplained loss of weight or loss of appetite
  • A new type of pain in the bones or other parts of the body that may be steadily worsening, or come and go, but is unlike previous pains one has had before
  • Persistent fatigue, nausea, or vomiting
  • Unexplained low-grade fevers may be either persistent or come and go
  • Recurring infections which will not clear with usual treatment
  • Persistent night sweats
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising

Anyone with these signs and symptoms should consult their doctor; these symptoms may also arise from non-cancerous conditions.

Many cancers will present with some of the above general symptoms but often have one or more symptoms that are more specific for the cancer type. For example, lung cancer may present with common symptoms of pain, but usually, the pain is located in the chest. The patient may have unusual bleeding, but the bleeding usually occurs when the patient coughs. 

Types of cancer

There are over 200 types of cancer the most common ones being –

  • Breast cancer

Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumour that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. A tumour is malignant (cancerous) if the cells can grow into surrounding tissues or spread to areas of the body.

Death rates from female breast cancer have dropped 39% but breast cancer death rates have been steady in women younger than 50, but have continued to decrease in older women. These decreases are believed to be the result of finding breast cancer earlier through screening and increased awareness, as well as better treatments.

The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 38 (about 2.6%). Breast cancer in Indian women has recently overtaken cervical cancer in terms of high mortality rates. Although cervical cancer still remains most common in rural India. According to the study published in Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology, breast cancer was found as high as 41 per 100,000 women for Delhi, followed by Chennai (37.9), Bangalore (34.4) and Thiruvananthapuram District (33.7) in 2017. According to this study, a number of cases of Breast cancer will become almost double (17, 97,900) by 2020.

  • Cervical cancer

Besides breast cancer ovarian cancer is also a big silent killer. Ovarian cancer has emerged as one of the most common malignancies affecting women in India. This is a highly aggressive cancer leading to women’s death. Ovarian Cancer is one of the most fatal gynaecological cancers because it remains silent for a long time and It can occur in different parts of the ovary without any prominent symptoms, like the patient can have symptoms like abdominal bloating and urinary complaints which are common symptoms of other things as well hence making the carcinoma detectable at an early stage impossible. Ovarian cancers were previously believed to begin only in the ovaries, but recent evidence suggests that many ovarian cancers may actually start in the cells in the far end of the fallopian tube.

Types of cancerProstate cancer, Oral Cancer, Basal cell cancer, Melanoma, Colon cancer, Lung cancer, Leukaemia and Lymphoma are some of the other common types of cancer. To know in detail about common cancer types, corresponding symptoms and treatments visit our blog Understanding types of cancer and the need for cancer insurance.

In 2017, an estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases were diagnosed, with 600,920 deaths resulting from cancer in the United States.

In India, the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, reports that there are approximately 2.25 million people living with the illness with over 1.16 million new cases in 2018. The cancer deaths reported in 2018 was approximately 7.84 lakhs.

A report on prevention and early detection of cancer by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare provides the following data on the estimated incidence of cancer cases in India State/UT-wise –

State Number of Cases
Uttar Pradesh 2,45,231
Maharashtra 1,32,726
Bihar 1,30,628
West Bengal 1,07,906
Haryana 30,611
Delhi 20,015
Madhya Pradesh 89,315

While the numbers are frightening, ironically they also hold some hope. Thanks to advanced treatments, more and more people are surviving and thriving despite a cancer diagnosis. In fact, the number of people surviving cancer is set to rise to 19 million by 2024. Recent Medical support and strategies are rapidly increasing for living beyond the disease.

Since no man is an island and it is the battle of a lifetime, we understand that “Together we are stronger”. Companies like Shriram Life Insurance with their holistic plans want to make it easier for the next cancer warrior going through this tough time.

Shriram Life Insurance Company is just the vital stepping stone for that. Buying a cancer care plan is a great way to relieve the stress of what if?

Personal suffering and the suffering of those providing care can be drastically reduced if there is a plan already in action. Not that we are hoping the worst but being prepared for a fifty-fifty scenario may just take the burden off.

Your body and mind would be fighting a tough battle going through many changes which are some of the reasons we insist on embracing the thought of a solid Cancer Care Plan. It really is a war and be prepared to be on active duty for a long time. The Cancer Insurance Policy may be just the reason things look up in a time of trouble; Alive with the knowledge that the only option is to keep fighting.