It is difficult for people to know what is true about cancer because there are many rumors and myths about this disease. In this article we discuss the answers to some common questions people have about cancer. If you want to learn more about how cancer originates and spreads, read our document What is cancer? If you have any questions that have not been discussed in this article, call one of our cancer information specialists at 1-800-227-2345.
How common is cancer?
About a third of all people in the United States will suffer from cancer at some time in their lives. If you want to know how many men and women have the 10 most common types of cancer, see Cancer Prevalence: How Many People Have Cancer? (available in English).
The risk of suffering from most types of cancer can be reduced by changes in the person's lifestyle, for example, staying away from tobacco, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, limiting sun exposure time, exercising and have a healthy diet.
In addition, screening tests can be done for some types of cancer so that they can be found as soon as possible (as long as it is small and before it spreads). In general, the earlier cancer is detected and treatment is started, the greater the chances of living for many years.
Who can get cancer?
Each year more than 1.5 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed. Anyone can get cancer at any age, although the risk increases as we get older. Approximately nine out of ten cases of cancer are diagnosed in people 50 years of age or older. Cancer can occur in all ethnic and racial groups, although the incidence rate varies from one group to another.
How many people who are currently alive have ever had cancer?
Today, more than 15 million people in the United States have suffered from some type of cancer and are still alive. Some of these people no longer have cancer, while others still suffer from the disease.
In past years, most people who had cancer did not live long, but this is no longer the case. Each year, more and more people survive cancer. This is especially the case for children with cancer and those whose cancers were found early, before they spread.
Survival rates are different for people with different types of cancer. Some types of cancer grow very slowly. Some respond to treatment very well. Others develop and spread more quickly, being more difficult to treat. If you know someone with cancer, remember that what happens to that person can be very different from what happens to another with cancer.
Things that people do
Some cancers are caused by people's habits or things to which they expose themselves. For example, tobacco use can cause cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, kidney and bladder, and of many other organs. Of course, not all people who smoke will suffer from cancer, but smoking does increase the risk significantly. In addition, it increases the probability of suffering from heart and blood vessel diseases.
Likewise, spending a lot of time in the sun without protection can cause skin cancer. Melanoma is a very serious form of skin cancer that is associated with ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds.
Other things to which people are exposed
Radiation can cause cancer. For example, people exposed to a radiation leak (also known as radioactive fallout) have a higher risk of cancer than those who were not exposed. Sometimes radiation treatment for one type of cancer can cause another cancer that arises many years later. It is for this reason that doctors and dentists use the lowest possible dose of radiation on radiographs and image capture (much smaller than the dose used for cancer treatment).
In addition, certain chemicals have been associated with cancer. Exposure to these chemicals or working with them can increase a person's risk of cancer. Call us to learn more about carcinogens (substances that cause cancer) that may be near you, or read the “Other Carcinogens” section of our website.
No one knows the exact cause of most cancer cases. We know that certain changes in our cells cause cancer to originate, but we still don't know exactly how all this happens. Scientists are studying this problem and learning more about the many steps that occur for cancers to form and grow. Read the section What causes cancer? on our website to learn more about what has been linked to this disease.
If you are interested in taking steps to help reduce your risk of cancer, read the section "Can cancer be prevented?"
Can injuries cause cancer?
There are people who think that injuries can cause cancer, but this is a common myth. The reality is that falls, bruises, bone fractures or other injuries have not been associated with cancer. It could be that sometimes a person consults with his doctor for something that he considers to be an injury and the cancer is discovered at that time, but the injury did not cause the cancer, the cancer already existed. It also happens that sometimes a person will remember an injury that happened a long time ago in the place where cancer was detected.
Rarely, burn scars may be the site where cancer develops many years after the burn has healed. Most of the time skin cancer is the type of cancer that begins in a burn scar.
Can stress cause cancer?
A lot of research has been done to see if there is any connection between personality, attitude, stress and cancer. There is no scientific evidence to show that a person's personality or perspective affects the risk of cancer.
There are many factors to analyze in the relationship between cancer and stress. It is known that stress affects the immune system, as well as many other factors can affect it. Despite many studies, the relationship between psychological stress and cancer has not been found.
What are the risk factors for cancer?
A risk factor is everything that is linked to your likelihood of suffering from a disease, such as cancer. Different types of cancer have different risk factors. For example, exposing the skin to the sun's intense rays is a risk factor for skin cancer, but it is not associated with colon cancer. Some risk factors can actually cause cancer, while others may simply be more common in people with cancer. For example, age alone does not cause cancer, although it is a risk factor.
However, risk factors do not indicate everything. Having a risk factor, or even many, does not mean that a person will suffer from cancer. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop the disease, while others who have cancer had no known risk factors. Even when a patient who has a risk factor is diagnosed with cancer, there is no way to prove that the risk factor was really what caused the cancer.
There are different types of risk factors. Some, such as the person's age or race, cannot be changed. Others are related to environmental carcinogens. In addition, there are risk factors related to personal actions, such as smoking. Some factors have more influence on the risk than others, and a person's risk of cancer may change over time due to factors such as aging or lifestyle.
Some of the main risk factors for cancer that can be controlled:
- Tobacco use
- Physical activity
- Alcohol consumption
- Sun exposure
- Environmental exposures, such as radon, lead and asbestos
- Exposure to infections, such as hepatitis, HPV and HIV.
In general, about 1 in 5 cancers diagnosed in the United States is related to body fat, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, or poor nutrition, and could be avoided.
Is cancer contagious?
In the past, people often stayed away from someone suffering from cancer, because they were afraid of “getting infected”. But cancer is not like the flu (flu) or a cold. You cannot get someone who already has it. You will not get cancer if you stay close or touch someone with cancer. Do not be afraid to visit someone with cancer, they need the support of their family and friends.
You can get more details in our document Is cancer contagious?.
Can we prevent cancer?
There is no sure way to prevent cancer, although you can take steps to help reduce your chances of getting it.
Many cancers could be prevented if people do not use tobacco.
Smoking causes damage to almost every organ in the human body and accounts for about 1 in 3 deaths from cancer in the United States. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes and oral tobacco products can cause cancer and should not be used. People who use tobacco should try to quit this habit. Studies clearly show that people who quit smoking have a lower risk of cancer than those who continue to smoke. When you quit smoking, you also reduce exposure to secondhand smoke for people around you.
It is best to never consume tobacco at all and stay away from secondhand smoke, which also causes cancer (even in non-smokers).
To learn more about this topic, read the "Stay away from tobacco" section.
Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
Some people believe that certain types of alcohol are safer than others. However, ethanol is the type of alcohol found in all alcoholic beverages, be it beer, wine or spirits (distilled spirits). In general, it is the amount of alcohol consumed over time, not the type of drink, which seems to be the most important factor in increasing the risk of cancer.
If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit your consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women. This can help limit your risk of cancer. You can get more information at Alcohol Use and Cancer.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays and sunlight
You can reduce your chances of getting skin cancer if:
- Avoid sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear a hat, shirt and dark glasses while in the sun.
- A broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 is applied.
- Does not use tanning beds or lamps.
Read the section on exposure to the sun and ultraviolet rays on our website to learn more about the link between exposure to ultraviolet rays and skin cancer and to learn how you and your loved ones can protect yourself from harm. that these rays cause the skin.
A recent study points out that a subtype of influenza that affects dogs could be highly contagious to humans.
A study conducted for 10 years reveals that a potentially dangerous virus for people could be transmitted by dogs. This is a variety of influenza (or influenza) whose characteristics were analyzed by the University of Korea, according to Phys.org.
Until recently, dogs had been ignored as part of the flu research. However, it was learned that at the beginning of this century (when numerous cases of influenza began to be reported) there was a variety of viruses that reached dogs. This is known as 'H3N2', known for producing bird flu. However, at some point it could reach the bodies of our pets and mutate in the canine influenza virus (CIV).
By itself it does not worry much. The problem is the possibility that it is combined with another form of influenza that we have already known: В the AH1N1. As we well know, В the so-called "swine flu" В caused terror in 2009 as it became a pandemic of great proportions. So the study determined that within dogs these viruses can be combined and form a more dangerous one: the V CIVmv.
Indeed it was found in the study that certain dogs were susceptible to the virus. They ended up experiencing typical symptoms of respiratory diseases. Among these are the difficulty of breathing, cough, watery eyes, sneezing, lethargy and loss of appetite ВїThe worst part? В This new type could be highly contagious for humans.
We know that food is connected to certain types of cancer, although the exact reasons are not yet clear. The best information we have suggests a lower risk of cancer in people who:
- They eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (at least 2½ cups a day).
- They opt for whole grains, instead of refined cereals and sugars.
- They limit red meat (beef, pork and lamb).
- They limit processed meats (such as bacon, prepared meats and hot dogs).
- They consume food in amounts that help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- They limit alcohol consumption to one drink or less a day for women and two or less drinks a day for men.
We have a lot of information about how diet and physical activity can affect cancer risk. Call us or visit our website for more information.
The contagion in humans
Ferrets are usually tested to determine how much a virus can affect people. The reason is that its receptors of silica acid are very similar to ours. This causes that their response to a new virus is very similar to that given by human beings. Thus, Ferrets are the best candidates to assess how much risk a new variety of influenza produces.
Thus, the predictions were checked successfully: ferrets were infected by dogs with the virus. In addition, not only the aforementioned animals were susceptible, but also the cats. By exposing the latter to infected subjects, 100% were infected and 40% of them died.
This worries a lot, especially when people are in constant contact with dogs and cats. An attempt has been made to make a vaccine, but high levels of virus mutation have made this task difficult to complete.
For now, CIV has been identified in South Korea, China, Thailand and the United States. So far there have been no reports of infection in humans, but if so, it is warned that it could be recombined with different varieties of human influenza. The possibility of pandemics is not ruled out.
How to know if my dog has the flu
The good news is no. It is not possible to infect a human flu dog. Viruses that cause the flu and the cold in humans have no effect on our furry companions, but that does not mean that they cannot suffer from similar conditions.
In the case of animals, there are viral diseases such as influenza and canine para-influenza, which are highly contagious among dogs, just as the flu is among humans. However, just as we cannot spread the flu or a cold to our pet, they cannot spread these diseases to us.
To find out if your dog has the flu or a canine cold, you should pay attention to some common cold symptoms, something easy to find out because they are similar to those we suffer. Cough, nasal congestion, sneezing, lethargy, muscle pain, lack of appetite ... These are some of the symptoms that may appear and in which you will have to look.
What to do if my dog has a cold
It is important to know that, although a cold or a flu can be easily cured, in the case of dogs the influenza can be more virulent, so it is necessary to go to the veterinarian as soon as possible so that you can give adequate treatment. You should also keep in mind that the chances of infection are very high among dogs, so if you live with more than one it is advisable to keep them separate during the treatment.
In addition to the medications recommended by the veterinarian, there is some care you can give your dog to improve as soon as possible. For example, you should ensure that you stay well hydrated, and eat well. Add a premium quality moist food to your diet that will be easier for you to drink and also provide hydration. Of course, provide a suitable place to rest, warm and soft, and away from dust and allergens.
As you see, no you can spread your flu dog, but you can get a cold by other means, so you should exercise caution especially in winter so that it stays in perfect condition.
The cold, the rain, the storms are approaching ... And with them, conditions such as the cold or the flu from which our pets are not free either. But can I spread the flu to my dog?
If you or someone in your environment has the flu or a simple cold or cold, you may worry about the possibility of your dog becoming infected, especially if it is a puppy and does not separate from your side. You can rest easy: although some diseases can be transmitted from humans to dogs and from dogs to humans, in principle neither the cold or the flu nor the flu are included in that group. That is to say, You can't spread the flu to your dog.
However, there are some viruses that can affect your dog's respiratory system, and cause symptoms similar to our colds or flu. The most common is the canine cough, which is also often called "kennel cough".
Kennel cough is not serious in healthy dogs, but it is contagious, so you should be careful if you have a dog that is already in poor health. Kennel cough can cause fever and discomfort (although not always), and is characterized by a dry and persistent cough that can lead to vomiting.
When a dog has a wetter nose than normal, is decayed and has a frequent cough, it is convenient to be seen by a veterinarian, especially if he also has a fever. Sometimes it passes in two or three days on its own, but these symptoms can also be caused by other more serious diseases that should be ruled out.
In any case, as always, we recommend investing in health by helping your dog to lead an active life, with the vaccination schedule and the recommended veterinary check-ups and a good quality diet that helps you naturally strengthen your system immunological
Vaccines that help reduce the risk of cancer
We now know that infections, mainly from viruses, cause some cancers. Human papillomavirus (HPV or HPV) is a virus that is clearly associated with cancer. This virus has been associated with cervical cancer, anal cancer, many genital cancers and even head and neck cancers. (Read HPV and Cancer for more details).
There are vaccines that help prevent HPV infections. However, most adults have already been infected with HPV, and vaccines have not been approved to help people who already have HPV. Young people who are not yet sexually active would have a lower risk of cancer in the future if they receive one of these vaccines before being exposed to the virus. The American Cancer Society recommends vaccines for girls and boys 11 and 12 years of age, although they can be given as early as 9 years. In addition, vaccines are recommended for women up to the age of 26, and for certain men who are at an increased risk of HPV infection. For more information, read HPV vaccines.
For early detection of cancer, while it is small and before it spreads, adults should undergo periodic tests called cancer screening. These tests help doctors find common cancers before they cause symptoms. For example, routine screening tests may discover cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, cervix, and skin in time. If cancer is found early, it can be treated more easily. In addition, survival is usually longer for those with early stage cancer. Talk to your doctor about which screening tests might be right for you.
You can learn more about the steps you can take to help find cancer early in Guidelines for the early detection of cancer of the American Cancer Society.
How is cancer diagnosed?
The signs and symptoms that a person presents are not enough to know if they have cancer. (For more information on this topic, read Signs and symptoms of cancer.) If your doctor suspects that you have cancer, you will need to have more tests, such as x-rays, blood tests, or a biopsy. In most cases, the only way to make sure if it is cancer is by biopsy.
To perform a biopsy, a fragment of the protuberance (tumor) or the abnormal area is removed and sent to a laboratory. There, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing diseases (a pathologist) looks at the cells with a microscope to determine if there are cancer cells. If there are cancer cells, the doctor tries to determine what type of cancer it is and how quickly it could grow.
Imaging studies can measure the size of cancer and can sometimes show if it has spread to adjacent tissues. Likewise, blood tests can provide doctors with information about their general health status, how well their organs are functioning and information about blood cancers.
How is cancer treated?
The three main types of cancer treatment are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A person with cancer may receive any or all of these treatments. When selecting a treatment plan, the most important factors are usually the type and stage (amount) of the cancer. Other factors to consider include general health status, possible side effects of treatment, and the chances of curing cancer, controlling it for prolonging life, or relieving symptoms.
Surgery is often the first treatment used if cancer can be eliminated from the body. Sometimes only part of the cancer can be removed. Before or after surgery, radiation or chemotherapy can be used to reduce cancer.
For more information, refer to our information on cancer surgery.
Does surgery cause the spread of cancer?
Surgery does not cause the spread of cancer. However, there are some important situations in which this may occur. Doctors who have a lot of experience in treating cancer through surgery are very careful to avoid these situations.
A common myth about cancer is that the disease will spread if it is exposed to the air during surgery. Some people may believe in this myth because they often feel worse after the operation. However, it is normal for a person to feel this way while recovering from any surgery. Another reason to believe in this myth is because the doctor during surgery may find more cancer than expected when imaging studies were done. This is possible, but it is not due to surgery (the cancer was already there), it simply did not appear in the studies that were performed before the operation.
Doctors use chemotherapy drugs or "chemo" to fight cancer cells. Usually medications are given by mouth as a pill or intravenously (IV or in a vein). Medications travel throughout the body through the bloodstream, and can reach cancer cells that have spread from the tumor.
To learn more about this topic, read the information on chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses high-energy rays (such as x-rays) to remove or shrink cancer cells. Radiation can come from outside the body (external radiation) or from radioactive materials placed in the tumor (internal radiation or implant). External radiation treatment is very similar to having an x-ray.
For more details, read our radiation therapy information.
In clinical studies, people voluntarily participate in the investigation of new medications or treatments. In cancer treatment, clinical studies can be used to learn if a new treatment works better than the treatments used today. For example, clinical studies are used to find out whether adding a new medication to the standard treatment makes it work better. In studies like this, some patients receive the conventional medication (s) (which are the best available at the time) and the new one to be tested, while other patients receive the conventional medication.
Clinical studies are a way to receive the most advanced cancer treatments. Contact us and talk to your cancer care team to learn more about clinical trials and to find out if there is a clinical trial that is right for you.
How do doctors decide how to treat cancer?
Doctors consider each patient as an individual with personal preferences, and then issue recommendations based on factors such as their own personal experience, current research, the goal of treatment (cure or control), and current cancer treatment guidelines.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) It is an alliance of the leading cancer centers worldwide that provides cancer treatment guidelines. The panels of experts of these centers analyze the research evidence and combine that analysis with their own knowledge and experience to offer the best treatment options available for each cancer, and generally for each stage and characteristic of a particular person's cancer.
These results are published in the NCCN Guidelines for Clinical Practice in Oncology, which provide a standard for medical care in the field of oncology. The guidelines or guides cover cancer treatment, cancer screening, risk assessment and reduction and supportive care. These guides are updated on a regular basis.
The NCCN guidelines help patients and caregivers of cancer patients make the best decisions about cancer treatment. These guides are not infallible, and do not apply in each case. However, they offer a roadmap for decision making that is sometimes difficult and increasingly complicated.
NCCN guidelines for patient treatment are available at www.nccn.com, a website dedicated to patients, caregivers and their families.
What are the side effects of cancer treatment?
Each type of cancer treatment causes different side effects. It is difficult to predict what side effects a person might have, even when people receive the same treatment, they can have different side effects. Some side effects can be severe and others lighter. It is true that some people experience a difficult stage during their treatment, but many others cope with their treatment quite well. In addition, most of the side effects of treatment can be treated.
Chemotherapy side effects
Short-term side effects of chemotherapy (often treatable), may include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss and mouth ulcers. Because chemotherapy can damage bone marrow hematopoietic cells, patients may have low blood cell counts. This may cause:
- Increased risk of infections (due to shortage of white blood cells).
- Bleeding or bruising after minor cuts or minor injuries (due to decreased platelets).
- Anemia (because of a low red blood cell count), which can cause tiredness, shortness of breath, pale skin, among other symptoms.
(To learn more about blood counts and what they mean, read Your lab tests).
Cancer care teams work closely with patients to control the side effects of chemotherapy. Most of the side effects of chemotherapy disappear at the end of treatment. For example, hair that fell during treatment usually grows back when treatment ends.
Radiation Side Effects
Radiation treatment is similar to taking x-rays, and does not cause pain. The most common side effects are skin irritation in the treated area and fatigue. Dicho cansancio es una sensación de agotamiento extremo y poca energía que no se alivia con descanso. A menudo perdura por muchas semanas después de finalizar el tratamiento. Otros efectos secundarios también podrían presentarse, dependiendo de la parte del cuerpo que está siendo tratada.
¿Es el tratamiento peor que el cáncer en sí?
Esta es una creencia que puede ser perjudicial para muchas personas cuando influye en la decisión de si deben o no recibir tratamiento para el cáncer. Al creer que el tratamiento es peor que el cáncer, puede que las personas no reciban los tratamientos que les pueden salvar sus vidas.
La persona que está considerando rehusarse a recibir tratamiento contra el cáncer porque teme padecer efectos secundarios o debido a otras inquietudes debe hablar con el médico para entender claramente los resultados probables tanto de recibir el tratamiento como de no recibirlo antes de tomar la decisión.
Si se le permite al cáncer progresar sin tratamiento, los síntomas se empeoran y se acumulan nuevos síntomas con el paso del tiempo. Los síntomas son distintos dependiendo del tipo de cáncer y a dónde se propaga. Posteriormente en el transcurso de la enfermedad, cuando síntomas más graves comiencen a surgir, puede que el tratamiento curativo no sea una opción. El cáncer causa la muerte cuando invade a órganos vitales (como los intestinos, los pulmones, el cerebro, el hígado, y los riñones), e interfiere con las funciones del cuerpo que son necesarias para vivir. El cáncer que no es tratado por lo general causa la muerte.
En contraste, el tratamiento contra el cáncer a menudo salva vidas, especialmente cuando el cáncer se detecta y trata temprano. Incluso en los casos cuando no puede curar el cáncer, el tratamiento a menudo puede ayudar a las personas a vivir por más tiempo. Además, la atención médica siempre puede ser usada para ayudar a la persona a sentirse mejor al controlar o reducir el dolor y otros síntomas (cuidado paliativo). Es importante que una persona conozca el objetivo de cada curso del tratamiento, y que tome decisiones basadas en información a través de toda la experiencia relacionada con el cáncer.
Hay momentos cuando toda persona que recibe tratamiento contra el cáncer pone en duda su compromiso con las dificultades que surgen con el tratamiento y sus efectos secundarios. Algunas veces se desaniman debido a la incertidumbre del tratamiento y piensan si realmente vale la pena. Esto es normal. Puede que sea útil saber que los médicos siempre están aprendiendo mejores maneras de colaborar con los pacientes para controlar los efectos secundarios. Y recuerde que cada año surgen avances en los tratamientos contra el cáncer.
¿Qué es la remisión?
Algunas personas consideran que la remisión significa que se ha curado el cáncer, pero éste no es siempre el caso. La remisión es un periodo de tiempo en el que el cáncer está respondiendo al tratamiento o está controlado.
En un estado de remisión completa, todos los signos y síntomas del cáncer desaparecen y no es posible detectar células cancerosas mediante alguna de las pruebas disponibles.
También es posible que un paciente presente un estado de remisión parcial, el cual implica que el cáncer se ha reducido, pero no ha desaparecido por completo.
Las remisiones pueden durar desde varias semanas hasta muchos años. Las remisiones completas pueden continuar por años y con el tiempo puede que se considere que la persona con cáncer se curó. Si el cáncer regresa (recurre), podría ocurrir otra remisión con tratamiento adicional.
¿Se puede curar el cáncer?
Muchos cánceres pueden ser curados, aunque no todos y no siempre.
La curación significa que el tratamiento ha hecho que el cáncer desaparezca, y no hay posibilidad que regrese. Es poco común que un médico pueda asegurar que el cáncer nunca regresará. En la mayoría de los casos, saber esto toma tiempo, y cuanto más tiempo esté una persona libre de cáncer, mejor la probabilidad de que el cáncer no regresará.