Cancer occurs in various different forms and can start from any organ or tissue in the body. While some are fatal, others are not so deadly. While medical science is unable to name any single reason for development of cancer, most of us are familiar that several toxic influences from outside, which are together called 'carcinogens', have the aptitude to result in the development of anomalous cells. For instance, tobacco smoke is one such reason that leads to the development of lung cancer. Similarly, exposing oneself to sunlight for prolonged periods may encourage skin cancer. In addition, there are a number of cancer forms that are induced by flawed functioning of specific genes that one inherits from his/ her parents. Cancer is quite widespread among the elderly people.
Even the immune system malfunction may result in augmented vulnerability to different types of infections as well as developing certain forms of cancer. This kind of flawed functioning of the immune system may occur owing to infection by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), which is responsible for AIDS. In certain conditions, the immune system's functioning may be decreased intentionally with a view to cure a health disorder. On the other hand, the functioning of the immune system may be diminished owing to any unfortunate consequence or side effect of therapy with any essential medication.
In a number of instances, even the immune system may possibly set off an improper onslaught on the tissues of the body, resulting in something that is collectively called an autoimmune disorder. This type of frequent disorders includes lupus erythematosus (also called inflammatory skin problems); rheumatoid arthritis; inflamed blood vessels and a number of types of hypothyroidism. It is our immune system that often refuses to accept any alien body into our system. It rejects organ transplants, for instance, heart, liver and kidney; and this is the reason why it may be necessary to turn off the immune system partially by means of using particular medicament.
Generally, the cells in our body develop as well as divide in an orderly or prearranged manner. The old or damaged cells are continuously restored by fresh and healthy cells. However, at times, a solitary cell may get loose from the mechanism that controls or standardizes cell division. The break-away cell may multiply at a rate that is often difficult to manage. Usually this type of unwarranted growth results in the development of tumors that may be of two types - benign (a harmless lump) or malignant (carcinogenic).
Tumors that are categorized as benign have a slow growth and they are confined to a specific area of the body. Benign tumors are only harmful when they create some kind of pressure on the tissues surrounding the area. On the other hand, malignant tumors have a tendency to extend to other different body parts and this happens when the initial tumor attacks the adjoining tissues. It may also occur when carcinogenic cells snap off from the malignant tumor and travel to other body parts, where they begin to grow afresh. This type of secondary growths of cells from any malignant tumor is called metastases. Usually, carcinogenic cells are not able to carry out their normal functions, and these result in more and more damaged functioning by the organ or the particular area where these cells are growing.
In fact, there are several dissimilar causes that may influence cells to become cancerous. In many cases, it may not be a single factor, but a cluster of different factors that can persuade carcinogenic transformations in the cells, especially the failure of the immune system, genetic background as well as excessive exposure to carcinogens (substances responsible for causing cancer) in an individual. Tobacco smoke, powerful sunlight (especially for fair-complexioned individuals), specific chemicals, nutritional aspects, radiation, and viruses are some of the carcinogens that have been identified.
Cancer treatment is an extremely complex process and it is subject to the form of cancer, the state to which it has developed, as well as the health condition and desires of the patient. There are a number of approaches to treat cancer and they may be used independently or together with others. Some of the most common methods adopted to treat cancer include removing the cancer by means of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy (this process involves using anti-cancer drugs).
At times, the anticancer medicaments that eliminate carcinogenic cells are also called cytotoxic medicaments. They are classified into quite a few groups depending on their chemical components and their main method of action. Among them, antimetabolites, alkylating agents and cytotoxic antibiotics are the most commonly employed classes. Besides these medications, physicians also use sex hormones as well as associated substances for treating a number of cancer forms.
It may be noted that every one of the cytotoxic anticancer drugs eliminate the carcinogenic cells by thwarting their growth or division. In fact, there are a number of steps in the growth and division of all cells. Majority of the anticancer drugs only work on a particular stage. During the course of cancer therapy, the patient may be given a number of medications in succession with a view to kill the anomalous cells at every stage of their development.
Hormone therapies also form a part of the holistic cancer treatment and they function by combating the results of hormones that promote cancerous growths. For instance, the female sex hormone called estrogen stimulates a number of breast cancers. Hence, it is possible to restrict breast cancer from spreading by using certain medications like tamoxifen, which works to neutralize the actions of estrogen. Using elevated dosages of specific hormones also helps to combat additional cancers that are sensitive to hormones. It has been found that a progesterone (a hormone related to male sex) called medroxyprogesterone is often effective in restricting endometrial cancer from spreading.
It is likely that in the initial stages of treatment with cytotoxic anticancer drugs the negative effects of these medications will be more compared to the benefits offered by them. Vomiting and queasiness, in addition to diarrhea are the most common adverse effects of using cytotoxic anticancer medicaments. Your physician may possibly prescribe any anti-emetic medication to reduce the side effects like vomiting and nausea caused by these anticancer medicaments. Several anticancer drugs result in hair loss, as they affect the actions of hair follicle cells. Nevertheless, normally the hair begins to grow again when the patient has completed chemotherapy. Several anticancer medicines that are used independently may also cause additional side effects that are monitored and usually treated by the physician.
Generally, anti-cancer medicaments are given in utmost dosages endurable by the patient with a view to eliminate maximum carcinogenic cells at the earliest possible time. The purpose of giving maximum dosage is also to diminish the chances of the spread of the disease to other body parts.
The benefits of using the anticancer drugs on the ailment may possibly not be evident for many weeks. It may be noted that the undesirable consequences of undergoing intensive chemotherapy for cancer in combination with the absence of instant reaction of the patient to the therapy may often result in depression among the patients receiving this medicines. In such cases, counselling by experts may prove to be helpful.
Every one of the cytotoxic anticancer drugs also obstructs the actions of non-carcinogenic or the healthy cells and this is the reason why they frequently result in severe side effects when a patient is undergoing treatment for a prolonged period of time. It has often been found that these anticancer drugs especially have a negative effect on the cells that produce blood inside the bone marrow. This may cause a reduction in the red blood cell (erythrocytes), white blood cell (leucocytes), in addition to the platelets (particles contained by blood that work to form blood clots) count. Reduced number of leucocytes may cause an enhanced vulnerability to infection. In a number of cases, anticancer therapy may also cause anaemic symptoms (such as debility and exhaustion) and an enhanced hazard of anomalous or too much bleeding. Moreover, it may also take more time to heal wounds and people who are sensitive may possibly develop gout owing to enhanced uric acid discharge by the body. In fact, discharge of uric acid is a negative side effect caused by destruction of the cells.
As a result of such problems, usually chemotherapy for cancer is administered in hospitals, where it is possible to effectively monitor the side effects of the treatment. Generally, the patients are given many brief courses of medications during the entire treatment process, allowing enough time to the bone marrow to recuperate during the interim period. In addition, the patients are required to undertake blood tests on a regular basis when they are receiving anticancer chemotherapy. If required, the patients are also given antibiotics, blood transfusions or additional types of treatment with a view to beat the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. Wherever it may seem relevant, the patients are also given advice on contraceptive use in the early stage of treatment, as majority of the anticancer drugs may harm the fetus.
Dedicated cells as well as proteins present in the blood and body tissues that comprise the immune system protect our body against bacterial and viral attacks. Leucocytes or the white blood cells either directly eliminate the microorganisms that infect our body or make a particular type of protein called antibodies to obliterate these microorganisms. In fact, the mechanisms mentioned here are actually responsible for getting rid of anomalous or diseased cells which might otherwise proliferate and grow to become a cancer. In specific conditions, it becomes necessary to inhibit the actions of the immune system by using certain medications. These conditions are known as autoimmune disorders wherein the immune system invades the healthy cells in the tissues. In fact, autoimmune disorders may possibly have an adverse effect on any particular organ, for instance, the thyroid gland in the case of Hashimoto's disease or the kidneys in the instance of Goodpasture's syndrome. In addition, the disorders may also result in extensive harm, like in the case of systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis.
It may also be necessary to decrease the activities of the immune system after an organ transplant - the period when the defences (immunity) of the body would otherwise assault as well as refuse to accept the tissue that has been transplanted.
Immunosuppresants are actually various types of medicines and they include corticosteroids, anticancer drugs, and cyclosporine. The medications that work to suppress the activities of the immune system basically lessen the efficacy of the immune system by means of inhibiting lymphocyte production or by changing their actions.
Once immunosuppressants are administered for treating any autoimmune disorder, these medications lessen the symptoms' acuteness and in several occasions they work to temporarily stop the disease for advancing. Nevertheless, even the use of immunosuppressants do not help in reinstating damages caused to major tissues, for instance, the harm caused to your joints in the case of rheumatoid arthritis.
It has been found that often the use of corticosteroids helps to bring about a general sense of comfort and health, but when they are used in elevated doses that produce an immunosuppressant impact, corticosteroids are also likely to cause undesirable effects. When anticancer drugs are recommended in the form of immunosuppresants and administered in small dosages they just cause minor side effects, such as vomiting and queasiness. Such mild side effects may be treated by prescribing anti-emetic medications. Some cancer patients may even experience hair loss following use of an immunosuppressant, but normally the growth of hair begins again when the patient stops taking the medication. On the other hand, use of cyclosporine is likely to result in enhanced hair growth on the face, gum distension and itchiness in the hands.
Each of the medications mentioned above has the potential to cause side effects that are potentially severe. As immunosuppressants work to reduce the activity of the immune system, they may harm the ability of the body to combat the infecting bacteria, viruses as well as other pathogens and, hence, augment the chances of developing severe infections. As the activity of the lymphocytes is also vital for putting off the proliferation of anomalous cells, use of immunosuppressants may also enhance the chances of developing particular cancer forms. Anticancer drugs have a major downside and that is besides their impact on lymphocyte production, these medications also inhibit additional blood cells from growing as well as dividing within the bone marrow. Diminished red blood cell (erythrocyte) production has the potential to result in anemia. You ought to know that suppressing blood platelet production may also have an adverse effect on the clotting of blood.
As cyclosporine acts further specifically compared to any anticancer drug or corticosteroids, its use results in lesser number of severe or worrying side effects. Nevertheless, the use of cyclosporine may harm the kidneys and when it is used in extremely elevated doses, cyclosporine may possibly also have an adverse effect on the brain resulting in seizures or hallucinations. In addition, cyclosporine also has a propensity to increase blood pressure and the patient may require an additional medicine to neutralize this outcome of cyclosporine. An individual suffers from immune deficiency when his/ her immune system, which generally guards our body against invading microorganisms as well as cancer development, stops working.
When the immune system of the body does not develop in the normal manner, it may result in immune deficiency right from one's birth. In some instances, immune deficiency is also likely to happen while one is undergoing treatment with any particular medication (for instance, anticancer medicines or corticosteroids). In addition, this condition may also occur owing to an infection or cancer.
Human immune-deficiency virus (better known as HIV) is responsible for the health condition called AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). This virus invades specific cells types, especially the leucocytes (white blood cells) that are called T-helper lymphocytes. Generally, the T-helper lymphocytes trigger other cells that comprise the immune system to make antibodies to combat bacteria. Since the virus that causes AIDS eliminates the T-helper lymphocytes, our body cannot combat AIDS virus or other infections that may ensue.
One usually does not develop AIDS immediately after being infected by HIV, but it occurs after some time has lapsed. Moreover, all people, who may be infected by HIV or be diagnosed as HIV positive, will not necessary have AIDS at a later stage. A number of ailments that affect people with AIDS include tuberculosis (TB), herpes simplex infections, candidiasis (also called 'thrush'), lymphomas, dementia, cryptococcal meningitis, penumocystis carinii pneumonia ( also referred to as 'PCP'), and Kaposi's sarcoma (an exceptional type of cancer of the skin).
In fact, all disorders that are related to immune deficiency very commonly result in grave infections and various types of antiviral and antifungal medications as well as antibiotics are prescribed to treat them. It has been found that the use of pentamidine, an antiprotozoal medication, is effective in treating penumocystis carinni pneumonia (PCP).
Anticancer medicaments are not always used to treat Kaposi's sarcoma or other different cancer forms, because it increases the risks of slowing down the immune system's activities. As an alternative, physicians may recommend radiation therapy to treat such conditions.
When an individual has developed severe infections related to AIDS, physicians are likely to prescribe antiviral medicines like didanosine, zidovudine (AZT) or zalcitabine. Although these medications do not help to cure the condition, they may possibly extend the life expectancy of the patient. In fact, even people who have tested HIV positive may be treated to put off developing the above mentioned conditions, particularly tuberculosis and PCP.