Cancer. You have heard of it. Someone in your family has most likely faced cancer. Unless you’ve been handed the diagnosis, cancer will remain something that happens to someone else. Yes, it is terrifying, but cancer is not a death sentence. Understanding the disease can go a long way in helping you beat it.
What is cancer and what causes it?
Cancer is a disease in which there is an abnormal growth of cells which sometimes spread to other parts of the body and eventually destroys tissue. Cells divide for growth – this is normal. However, a mutation causes the cells to grow uncontrollably. Mutation usually occurs from factors like smoking, radiation, chemicals (carcinogens), changes in diet/exercise, hormones, physical trauma, environmental changes, autoimmune diseases and even heredity.
What are the symptoms of cancer?
There are several forms of cancer, but what stumps families the most is the sudden onset of the disease. The symptoms vary widely from person to person. Sometimes they are non-existent.
3-year-old Preetham used to go to school and was extremely active until he got a fever and consequently lost a lot of weight. On visiting a hospital, Preetham was diagnosed with a large cancerous tumor in the liver which has been growing probably for all his life.
The symptoms were different in 1-year-old Baby Yaseen’s case. His parents saw he had a small blister near his eye and which turned out to be a sign of Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS), a rare form of cancer.
The most common forms of cancer include leukemia which manifests with seemingly harmless symptoms like fever, muscle ache, rashes or heat boils. “When Arfana got boils, we thought she was reacting to the heat. This summer was the worst. It got worse, so we took her to the doctor. We are fighting to save her from blood cancer and we did even see it coming.”
The random nature of these symptoms leaves patients and families unprepared to face the disease. As there is a sense of urgency to start treatment, most families need financial assistance. Crowdfunding is the most practical way to raise funds for yourself or your loved ones after being given a cancer diagnosis.
What are the types of cancer
Our body is made of different kinds of cells. They have different functions and depending on which cell gets affected, cancer is classified into 5 types.
Carcinoma – Cancer that begins in the skin or the tissues that line the internal organs like breast cancer, lung cancer and cervical cancer.
Sarcoma – Cancer that begins in connective or supportive tissues like bone, cartilage, muscle, blood vessels or fat like Ewing’s Sarcoma.
Leukemia – Cancer that starts in the bone marrow affecting the production of blood cells
Lymphoma and Myeloma – Cancer that first affects the immune system.
Brain and spinal cord cancer – Cancer that begins in the central nervous system like brain, medulla or spinal cord.
You also find cancer classified based on the affected organ like lung cancer, breast cancer or brain cancer.
Are all tumors cancer?
The word ‘tumor’ strikes just as much terror as the word ‘cancer’. However, not all tumors are cancerous. If you feel a lump on your body, your doctor will need to perform a biopsy. The biopsy will reveal if the cells are multiplying (malignant tumors), or are just old and damaged (benign tumors).
Benign tumors are non-cancerous. They do not spread and can be harmful only if they are pressing against a nerve, artery or brain matter.
A malignant tumor is a mass of cells that are cancerous like sarcomas and carcinomas. It can multiply uncontrollably and will spread to other parts of the body through your bloodstream and lymphatic system.
What are the various treatment methods for cancer
The prognosis varies depending on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. Commonly, for those with cancerous tumors, treatment includes surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Immune therapy is also a popular treatment option where the immune system is strengthened to help fight the cancer cells. On the other hand, several patients who have inoperable tumors require targeted therapy where the treatment targets cancer cells and modifies their ability to divide and spread.
Other treatment options include hormone treatment for those with breast and prostate cancer, stem cell transplant for cancer affecting the bone marrow, and precision medicine that uses genetic make-up of the patient to create a targeted treatment.
Any treatment option drains a patient emotionally, physically and financially over a long period of time. With cancer treatments ranging in cost from Rs. 2.5 lakh for six months up to Rs 32 lakh annually for extreme cases, families, and friends of the patient often go into debt to afford the required treatments. Crowdfunding is probably the quickest growing financing option for cancer patients today.
Through crowdfunding, the family of the patient can relieve some of the financial strain of cancer by asking for the generous and compassionate support of the community.
How to use crowdfunding for cancer treatment
Crowdfunding platforms like Milaap have become a popular option for families who are in immediate need of financial support especially when a loved one needs cancer treatment.
Baby Stela was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, an aggressive form of blood cancer when she was just 18 months old. The sudden onset of symptoms and the advanced stages hardly gave her parents any time to prepare. She got much love from friends and strangers across the world and her fundraiser exceeded its goal raising Rs. 1,523,950.
“We had no other alternative. Without your support, this journey would have been very difficult,” said Stela’s father, thanking the donors as he shared a happy update.