Holding hands - cancer

Cancer – the basics

Cancer is abnormal cell growth.

The cancer cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs. Most areas of the body can be affected.

Cancer is the most common cause of death in Victoria.

What’s the difference between benign and malignant cancer?

You often hear people talking about cancer that is benign or malignant.

Benign cells grow abnormally but do not spread. These cells are not dangerous.

If the cells spread or are capable of spreading to other parts of the body, they are called malignant cancer. These are the dangerous ones.

What are the most common cancers?

There are hundreds of different types of cancer, each with its own methods of diagnosis and treatment. But the top 10 cancers in Australia are:

What are the symptoms of cancer?

Changes to your body’s normal processes or symptoms usually don’t mean you have cancer. But it’s important you see your Pascoe Vale doctor so they can assess and investigate.

Potential signs and symptoms of cancer include:

  • A lump in the neck, armpit or anywhere else in the body
  • Lumpiness or a thickened area in your breasts, any changes in the shape or colour of your breasts, unusual nipple discharge, a nipple that turns inwards (if it hasn’t always been that way) or any unusual pain
  • Sores or ulcers that don’t heal
  • Coughs or hoarseness that won’t go away or coughing up blood
  • Changes in toilet habits that last more than two weeks, blood in a bowel motion or urine
  • New moles or skin spots, or ones that have changed shape, size or colour, or that bleed
  • Unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
  • A feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
  • Pain in your abdomen (tummy) or your anus
  • Persistent bloating.

What causes cancer?

Often we don’t know why cancer happens. But there are some things that significantly increase your risk, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, a poor diet, not getting enough exercise and too much radiation from the sun.

Sometimes cancer runs in families. You can inherit genes that make you more likely to get it.

In other cases, cancer is associated with an infection. For example, cervical cancer is associated with some types of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

Being exposed to some chemicals and dust can also increase your risk.

How can you prevent cancer?

There are a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce your risk. For example, you can improve your diet, do more physical activity, and avoid staying in the sun all day.

Our team of healthcare practitioners can assist you with making these changes.

Government-sponsored programs (e.g. screening tests for bowel, cervical and breast cancer) and other screening tests, as recommended by your doctor, are also available.

Prevention is better than cure!

When should I see my doctor?

There is a much greater chance of successfully treating cancer if it’s detected early. If you notice any changes, contact us immediately.

 

Source: Cancer Australia, BetterHealth, Healthdirect

Note: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice. It does not replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs.