Cancer, malignant tumour

Cancer is an umbrella term for many malignant growths that can destroy healthy, well-functioning tissue.

Overview

Cancer is an umbrella term for many malignant growths that can destroy healthy, well-functioning tissue. Unfortunately, without treatment the disease often ends in death. The earlier a tumour is detected and treated, the better the chances for a complete recovery. Symptoms vary greatly, depending on the affected organ system.

This chapter gives an overview. For more detailed information, please consult the entries for the individual types of cancer.

Symptoms

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Degeneration of cells
    • Damage/change to DNA
    • The body normally eliminates the damaged cells, but if it doesn’t...
    • The defect is passed on and the cells continue to multiply unchecked
  • Genetic factors: family history of cancer
  • Hormones: sex hormones stimulate the growth of malignant tumours in the breast, ovaries or prostate
  • Certain oncogenic viruses (e.g. HPV, EBV, CMV, hepatitis B)
  • UV radiation, sunlight
  • Radiation exposure
  • Chronic infections and irritations (e.g. cigarettes or excessive consumption of alcohol )
  • Harmful chemicals (e.g. organic solvents, tar, heavy metals, asbestos)
Cell type
  • Carcinoma: originates in epithelial cells (that line the surfaces of the body)
  • Sarcoma: originates in the connective tissue or the specialised tissue of internal organs
    • Examples: osteosarcoma (bone tumour), liposarcoma (fatty tissue)

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Blood test
  • Imaging procedures
    • X-ray
    • Ultrasound
    • CT scan (computed tomography)
    • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Imaging of internal organs
    • Direct view of problem area
    • Removal of tissue samples (pathological analysis)
Possible therapies
  • Objectives:
    • Curative approach: the objective is to cure the disease
    • Palliative approach: the objective is to provide relief and improve the quality of life and the outcome
  • Methods:
    • Operation
    • Radiation therapy
    • Chemotherapy
    • Hormone or immune therapy

What can I do myself?

  • Stop smoking
  • Sun protection
  • Develop awareness of physical (warning) signs
  • Regular self-examination (in particular skin, breasts, testicles)
  • Inform doctor of personal risk factors
    • Frequent occurrence of specific tumours in close relatives
    • Smoking, chronic alcohol abuse
    • Professional exposure (chemicals, radiation, asbestos)

When to see a doctor?

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained fever over a longer period
  • Night sweats (pyjamas are wet with sweat)
  • Coughing blood
  • Blood in stools or urine
  • Palpable lumps or hardening
  • Early detection improves the chances of healing
    • If you suspect cancer, don’t postpone/avoid a consultation with a doctor
    • Regular preventive gynaecological examinations
    • Prostate examinations from age 50, from age 45 if at higher risk

Further information

Krebsliga Schweiz (Swiss Cancer League)
www.krebsliga.ch 

Selbsthilfe Schweiz (Self-Help Support Switzerland)
www.selbsthilfeschweiz.ch

Synonyms

cancer, malignant growth, malignant tumour, carcinoma, sarcoma, malignancy

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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