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Acute Disease

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Chronic Disease Paper

In late fall 1991, my family gathered for Thanksgiving at my grandparent's house as always. There was nothing special or memorable about that Thanksgiving except for the innocuous mention from my grandmother that she had a dull pain in her leg that seemed to be getting worse. While everyone simply brushed off the comments as a slow sign of aging, her comments were much more than that as this would be the last Thanksgiving we would spend with her. Shortly after that Thanksgiving, she was diagnosed with an aggressive and malignant form of lung cancer that had spread throughout her body and into her legs. The following August she was gone, and at the young age of 56, cancer had gone from that disease you hear about on the news, to a very real killer that had taken my grandmother.

The clinical definition of cancer is "An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize" (, 2006). Cancer is not one disease, but rather a group of more than 100 different and distinctive diseases. It can involve any tissue of the body and have many different forms in each body area. Most cancers are named for the type of cell or organ in which it starts. For instance, breast cancer or colon cancer refer to malignancies that began in the breast and colon respectively.

According to the National Cancer Institute, a total of 1,372,910 new cancer cases and 570,280 deaths were reported in the United States in 2005. The incidence and mortality rates of various types of cancer can be seen in the graph below. As available treatment options and innovations in technology continue to occur, recent trends toward decreasing mortality rates will provide hope for all those diagnosed with this deadly disease.

Cancer Type Estimated New Cases Estimated Deaths

Bladder Cancer 61,420 13,060

Breast Cancer (Male included) 212,920 - 1,720 40,970 - 460

Colon and Rectal (combined) 148,610 55,170

Endometrial Cancer (Uterine) 41,200 7,350

Kidney Cancer (renal cell) 31,890 10,530

Leukemia (all) 35,070 22,280

Lung Cancer (including bronchus) 174,470 162,460

Melanoma 62,170 7,910

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma 58,870 18,840

Pancreatic Cancer 33,370 32,300

Prostate Cancer 234,460 27,350

Skin Cancer (non-melanoma) >1,000,000 Not Available

Thyroid Cancer 30,180 1,500

SOURCE: National Cancer Institute

What is not depicted in the graph are the statistics that point to sharp decline in these cases over the last twelve years. Specifically, according to the National Cancer Institute, "death rates from all cancers combined declined 1.5 percent per year from 1993 to 2005 in men, compared to a 0.8 percent decline in women from 1992 to 2005" (NCI, 2005). Moreover, the Institute points to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. In this case, statistics illustrate that "death rates decreased for 12 of the top 15 cancers in men, and nine of the top 15 cancers in women"(2005). These advances can be attributed to several factors including breakthroughs in healthcare and pharmaceutical drugs, a more thorough understating of cancer the disease and its effects on the human body, and finally a greater degree of education on the effects of carcinogens like tobacco on the human body.

Risk factors for cancer are numerous. Aside from the previously mentioned carcinogens such as asbestos and tobacco, other risk factors like food, genetics, environment, and exposure to radiation have also been linked to cancer. While specific details as to how cancer is formed and metastasizes through the body are still widely unknown, research is ongoing to identify these factors and educate people on how to avoid risks for developing cancer.

Cancer often has no specific symptoms, so understanding and limiting risk factors and regular medical physicals with proactive cancer screening is vital. That said, understanding which symptoms might point to cancer can mean the difference between early detection and treatment options, to a diagnosis that was too late. According to the National Cancer Institute, early detection leads to exponentially higher cure, and lower mortality rates (2005). While symptoms will vary based upon the specific type of cancer the individual has, common symptoms generally are persistent or bloody cough, blood in stool, change in bowel habits, blood in urine, unexplained anemia, lumps or discharges in affected areas, changes to mole shape or color, unexpected weight loss, night sweats, fever, headaches, bloating, or even indigestion (e-medicine, 2005). While all forms of cancer are different and present different symptoms, understanding and looking for the previously mentioned symptoms could lead to a much higher chance of success and cure.

There are many different types of cancers, with many different causes, only some of which are understood. The development of cancer is the result of complex processes in which diet and exercise can sometimes play a part. While it is unlikely that any one food will cause or prevent cancer, it is theorized that general eating habits, over a long period of time, can have a greater effect than any one food



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