What is cancer?

Our bodies are made up of tiny building blocks called cells. These cells grow, divide and die in an orderly process. Sometimes something causes a disruption in this orderly process and the cells start to grow in an abnormal way, and out of control, in a certain part of the body. This is the start of cancer. Cancer can be a growth or tumor or even form in the blood or bones of the body.

Can anybody develop cancer?

Cancer can form in anyone at any age, but the risk of most cancers increases as we get older. Almost 90% of cancers are diagnosed in people aged 50 and older. Cancer can develop in men and women, people of all racial and ethnic groups and from all walks of life. Cancer does not discriminate!

What causes cancer?

The exact cause of cancer remains a mystery, but we know of two types of factors that contribute to the development of cancer. One is a predisposition to develop cancer - such as a strong family history of cancer. The other is exposure to certain triggers such as smoking cigarettes or using tobacco, excess UV light exposure, drinking too much alcohol and exposure to certain chemicals.

Is cancer contagious ?

Cancer is not contagious. It isn't like the flu or a cold. A healthy person cannot “catch” cancer from someone who has it. You won't get cancer through close contact like touching or kissing, sharing meals, or breathing the same air as someone with cancer. Don't be afraid to visit someone with cancer. They need the support of their family and friends.

How is cancer treated?

The 3 main types of cancer treatment are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. In some cases, only one type of treatment is needed, and some cases need a combination of treatments. The type of treatment needed depends on factors like the type and stage of the cancer, and a person's age and overall health status. Certain types of cancer need specialised treatments like targeted therapy or stem cell transplants.

What are the general signs and symptoms of cancer?

Unexplained weight loss, fever, extreme tiredness, persistent pain and unusual skin changes can all be warning signs of cancer. Having any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have cancer as other conditions may give you the same symptoms, but rather visit your doctor or clinic to have them investigated properly. Early detection of cancer is key to successful treatment.

Will I lose my hair during treatment?

Certain chemotherapy regimens will cause a patient's hair to fall out, but radiotherapy treatments won't unless the patient's head is being treated. We have wigs available in the chemo room if needed. You may lose body hair in the area of treatment. Hair loss can occur during or after treatment and is temporary - the hair will start to grow back after treatment is completed.

Is radiation therapy safe?

Radiation used in medical treatments is carefully measured and given in controlled doses. The aim is to treat all the tissue that contains cancer cells, while minimising any damage to surrounding normal tissue.

Can I continue working while receiving treatment?

This will depend on the type and duration of treatment you receive. Most people continue working as normal, others may only be able to work part time or not at all. Your Oncologist will discuss how your treatment may affect you during your consultation and our Social Worker will help you make any arrangements that may be needed regarding time off work.

Why do the Chemotherapy Nurses wear protective clothing?

Patients are exposed to therapeutic doses of chemotherapy for a limited time, but the nurses administering the chemo are indirectly exposed all day, every day that they are working in a chemo unit. Some chemo drugs can be very harmful to healthy people, therefore our nurses must protect themselves by wearing protective clothing when they come into contact with chemo drugs.


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