How Does Cancer Affect the Human Body? The Answer Involves Several Considerations

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About Cancer

How does cancer affect the human body? The answer to that question involves several considerations, including how cancer cells act in the body and the symptoms caused by cancer.

In the most basic terms, cancer is the name for a condition in which abnormal cells in the body become out of control in their division rate and normal tissue then becomes destroyed by them. Cancer can spread to other areas of the body.

The CDC reports that cancer claims over half a million American lives each year. It is second only to heart disease in death rate. Citing “U.S. Cancer Statistics: 2006 Incidence and Mortality”, the CDC goes on to state that approximately 1,500 people die from cancer each day in the United States (2006 statistics).


When cancer occurs, it can be accompanied by symptoms that indicate something is going wrong.

In general, these symptoms can include unexplained changes in weight, a cough that is persistent and fatigue. Other symptoms that may be present are a thickening or lump underneath the skin, difficulty in swallowing, mouth sores, loss of appetite, unexplained joint or muscle pain and indigestion following meals.

It should be noted that each different type of cancer may have its own unique set of symptoms. For example, colon cancer can create a feeling of fullness. Mouth cancer can cause symptoms such as tongue pain, teeth becoming loose and the inside of the mouth developing a red or white patch. Pancreatic cancer can cause jaundice, blood clots, depression and a pain in the upper abdominal region that can radiate to the back.


When cancer occurs, treatment generally follows. The treatment and the cancer can both affect the body of the patient. Some of the things a cancer patient may experience as the cancer progresses or as treatment is undertaken are:

  • Immune system problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Breathing Difficulties

Other problems that can occur are the cancer spreading or continuing to spread and cancer returning later. One other complication that is linked to an advanced stage of cancer is called cachexia. This condition involves the loss of lean tissues and muscle mass.


How does cancer affect the human body? Cancer itself can cause many symptoms and complications, and this can be compounded by treatment. Because cancer can be fatal, the problems caused during treatment can be viewed as ‘worth it’ for the potential end result of being cancer-free.


Cancer. Mayo Clinic Staff. May 8, 2010.

Cancer Statistics by Cancer Type. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What is the Best Way to Treat Cachexia in Someone Who Has Cancer. Dr. Timothy Moynihan.