Drinking alcohol increases the risk of a deadly type of cancer
In most cases of cancer, the exact cause is unknown. This is because multiple factors – genetic, environmental and behavioral – often come together at the same time, making you susceptible to disease. However, there are things you can do to reduce your risk, and experts warn that participating in a popular activity could put you at risk for a particularly deadly form of cancer. Read on to find out what factor can increase your risk of getting this dangerous type of cancer and what symptoms can tell you you have a problem.
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When a doctor diagnoses cancer, its type is determined by the origin of the cancer. For example, if the cancer starts in the breast and spreads to the liver before diagnosis, the patient will be diagnosed with breast cancer, not liver cancer.
This is partly because cancer cells have unique characteristics based on the tissue from which they originate. In other words, cancer that started in the breast will look different under the microscope than cancer cells that started in the liver.
Sometimes, at the time of diagnosis, the cancer has already spread and its primary origin is unknown. When this happens, it is called cancer of unknown primary (CUP), also called carcinoma of unknown primary or occult primary tumour. In many cases, the origin of the cancer is never found, making it exceptionally difficult to plan a successful treatment. The good news is that this particular diagnosis is considered rare, affecting only 2% of cancer patients, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
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Since identifying the type of cancer is among the first steps in any cancer treatment plan, people with CUP often face a poor prognosis. “When first diagnosed, these cancers have already spread beyond the site where they started,” says the American Cancer Society (ACS). “This means that the types of treatments most likely to be successful, such as surgery or radiation therapy, are not likely to result in a cure in most cases.”
To make matters worse, CUP is often caused by “rapidly growing or rapidly spreading cancers,” the organization adds. The average survival time for patients with CUP is nine to 12 months after diagnosis.
However, as the ACS notes, “this can vary widely depending on many factors, including the type of cancer cell, where the cancer is, how far it has spread, the general health of the cancer. a person, the treatments received and the cancer’s response to the treatment.” They add that these numbers “can’t predict what will happen to any particular person,” so it’s important to speak with your doctor to discuss how these statistics may apply to you.
Cancer Research UK experts say there are several risk factors that can increase your chances of developing an unknown primary cancer. One of them is the consumption of alcohol, especially in excess. “There is evidence to suggest that alcohol consumption may increase the risk of CUP,” the organization states. “Reducing your alcohol intake has many benefits, including reducing your risk of cancer,” they insist, adding that the recommended limit is 14 units of alcohol per week. (A glass of wine is usually about two to three units of alcohol, while a cocktail can contain four or even more.)
Other risk factors for CUP include being over 75, smoking, and being overweight or obese.
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Cancer of unknown primary can have a wide range of symptoms because it can have a wide range of underlying causes. However, the Mayo Clinic notes that typically, cases of CUP may present with pain, a lump under the skin, changes in bowel habits, frequent urination, persistent cough, fever, night sweats, or unintentional weight loss.
Talk to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms, especially if their cause is unknown.
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