Our body is made up of billions of tiny building blocks called cells. Usually our body produces healthy cells which work normally and make sure our body functions like it should. However once in a while, something goes wrong and the body produces a harmful or mutated cell. This cell is able to copy and split itself into two identical cells which can then split over and over again uncontrollably.
Eventually these cells may form masses of tissues called tumors which can continue growing and spreading to other parts of the body. These tumors get in the way of the body’s normal function and this is known as cancer. Imagine cancer as an evil army that keeps on growing bigger and bigger as it fights and tries to overtake the good tissues in your body. Yikes!
Cancer can happen to anyone at any age. However, older adults have a higher chance of getting cancer and have a harder time recovering. Cells become cancerous because its genes, or the cell’s programming becomes changed or damaged. It takes time for the genes to be changed enough to cause cancer. The older people get, the more time and changes there are for the cells to become cancerous.
As many older adults may have other diseases/ health conditions, this would affect cancer treatment and recovery. There may be low tolerance to the stress of the treatment or to the pain and their body may not be strong enough to handle it. This may make cancer very hard to deal with.
There are about 200 different types of cancer. This means that there isn’t only one reason why it occurs. Cancer is caused by a number of factors including the person’s environment, genes and personal health.
Below are some of the factors that might increase the risk of cancer. But remember, just because a person is in or is doing one of the factors, doesn’t mean that the person will definitely get cancer.
1. Smoking: You’ve probably seen people holding and smoking cigarettes sometime in your life. Maybe someone in your family smokes.
But you know how there is this smelly smoke that comes out of the mouth and off the cigarette when a person smokes? Well sometimes that smoke, which contain cancerous chemicals, can get into the lungs and damage them, eventually spreading to other parts of the body. Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer.
2. Unhealthy diet/ overweight: Have you ever not wanted to eat your vegetables but your parents forced you to? This because you need lots of vegetables as part of a healthy diet. An unhealthy diet includes too much fat, sugar or salt in your food which can cause different types of cancer.
3. Genetic makeup: If your family history has someone with cancer, there may be a chance that a cancer causing gene may be passed down. That means that there is a greater chance of the other people in your family to get cancer as well.
4. Lots of exposure to the sun: The ultra violet (UV) rays in sunlight can hit the skin and cause skin cells to change and become cancerous.
5. Viruses: These are harmful organisms that can mutate or change the cells so that they become cancerous
6. Radiation exposure: Being on or near a radioactive sight (an area which emits a damaging type of energy) can be harmful to the cells in your body.
1. Losing weight for no reason
2. Low constant fevers or one that keeps coming back
3. Constant feeling of tiredness
4. Constantly throwing up
5. Constantly coughing
6. Difficulty swallowing
7. Big changes in the size, shape or color of a mole or sore
8. A lump appearing and growing anywhere in your body (e.g. Breast)
9. Unusual bleeding (e.g. blood in pee)
10. Changes in bathroom habits (e.g. Going way more often than usual, diarrhea, blood in the pee, etc.)
As you may notice, it’s hard to tell when a person first has cancer because the symptoms are extremely similar to other less serious illnesses (e.g. Weight loss could be from stress, the fever could’ve been caught from a classmate or friend).
A person with cancer usually has more than 1 of the symptoms above. Doctors will check by doing medical tests such as x-rays and blood tests to see if its cancer. Then the doctor will be able to decide which treatment is best.