It is a disease in which cells divide rapidly, causing them to form abnormal tissues called neoplasms.
These abnormal growths, also known as tumors, can form anywhere in the body. While some may be benign, many of them are malignant, which is the leading cause of cancer. Therefore, all types of cancer are called malignant neoplastic diseases.
The malignant growths are of particular concern because they grow consistently and spread to other parts of the body.
These neoplasms can destroy the healthy tissue around them and grow slowly or rapidly without adhering to the standard mechanisms of cell growth. Through vascular growth, they can metastasize or establish new tumors in other body parts.
Some malignancies develop from benign tumors. Therefore, all tumors must be treated or at least controlled, even if they are benign.
Causes of malignancy
Although the neoplastic etiology is a study in progress, certain risk factors are known that can lead to the development of malignant neoplastic disease. These include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Obesity or being overweight.
- Immune system disorders.
- There are certain oncogenic viruses, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B.
- Chemical toxins.
- Excessive radiation exposure.
- Excessive exposure to UV rays.
Radiation and ultraviolet rays can induce pyrimidine dimers in DNA and, therefore, can cause skin cancers. On the other hand, other factors can trigger specific genetic mutations, which in turn can cause tissues to proliferate or multiply rapidly.
Malignant neoplasms can grow in various body parts, causing localized diseases in a particular organ. For example, a patient may be diagnosed with a malignant neoplasm of the breast, also known as breast cancer.
The first signs of a malignant neoplastic disease include the following:
- Night sweats.
- Short of breath.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Neoplastic lesions.
- Abnormal lumps under the skin
The symptoms that a person with a malignancy experience usually depend on where the tumor is located.
If a person has neoplastic breast disease, they may experience abnormal breast discharges, breast pain, and other chest-related symptoms and the symptoms identified above.
Similarly, if a person has a skin neoplasm, they may experience skin lesions, sores, skin ulcers, and abnormal red spots on the skin.
On the other hand, a person diagnosed with a malignant neoplasm of the colon may experience abdominal pain, bloody stools, and sudden changes in stool consistency.
Some neoplastic diseases can also be asymptomatic, in which patients do not experience any noticeable symptoms during the early stages of the disease. In such cases, symptoms are only noticed when the disease is already in advanced stages.
Such malignant neoplastic diseases are more dangerous since, in most cases, early detection of abnormal neoplasms increases a person’s chances of recovery and survival.
Malignant neoplasm diagnosis
As part of the diagnosis of neoplastic disease, patients who have abnormal growths or lumps anywhere on the body may undergo a diagnostic procedure called a biopsy.
A small sample of the neoplasm is taken from the body and placed under microscopic examination to analyze its cellular component during a biopsy. This is the most effective way to determine if a tumor is cancerous.
Other tests may also be used to support the diagnosis. These may include:
- Computed axial tomography.
- Magnetic resonance.
- PET (positron emission tomography) this test can determine the tumor’s location, size, and extent.
Patients diagnosed with neoplasm or cancer should be placed under the care of a cancer specialist, also known as an oncologist. An oncologist typically leads an entire team of physicians and consultants involved in the patient’s overall treatment plan.
This treatment plan may involve or focus on various procedures, including:
Chemotherapy can be used to cure cancer or control the growth of neoplasms. It is very effective in preventing the further spread of the disease and slowing the growth of malignant tumors.
Chemotherapy can also be used to destroy the true neoplasm or cancer cells so that they can no longer grow back. By reducing or destroying cancerous growths, this procedure can also alleviate symptoms of the disease. However, chemotherapy is not without risks.
The procedure is associated with a high risk of complications due to its tendency to affect even healthy tissues. The more healthy tissues are affected, the more side effects the patient may experience during treatment.
There are many ways to do chemotherapy. Anticancer drugs can be given orally, intravenously, or injected into the body.
The most radical delivery methods include intrathecal (injected into the space between the brain and spinal cord), topical (applied to the skin), intraperitoneal (injected into the peritoneal cavity in the abdomen), and intraarterial (injected directly into the artery) leading to neoplasia.
The specific method used will depend on the location of the tumor.
The goal of surgery is to remove all or as much of the neoplasm as possible. In most cases and whenever possible, surgeons remove the entire tumor and a margin of healthy tissue around it.
However, if the tumor cannot be removed entirely, the surgeon tries to remove as much of it as possible. In some cases, such as breast cancer, the entire breast can also be removed.
Patients who undergo surgical removal of a malignancy still need to undergo additional treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy is currently one of the most common treatments for neoplastic malignancies.
The procedure delivers high-energy radioactive waves, such as X-rays, gamma rays, or proton/electron beams, to neoplastic growths to damage their DNA composition and ultimately destroy them. This procedure is also called irradiation or radiation therapy.
Using various technologies, radiation therapy can be performed using many different techniques to improve its precision and minimize the destruction of healthy cells. Thus, you can minimize complications and side effects long been associated with cancer treatment.